Angelia Sanford–formerly Angelia Bucchannan in my Pretty Soldier Midnight Moon days–was borne out of a wager with myself to see how many characters I could create with the base name “Angel.” No I am kidding, really. But I did make five of them in quick succession (the Wolfe triplets Angela, Angelica, and Angelique, and their little sister Evangelina aka Lina).
Each character’s value is precious; Angelia, in her current form, is one-fourth of the Novenine and the Crown Princess of the Kingdom of Asteria (my own made-up country of course–and sounds much better than Novena). Her beauty belies her strength and agility; bluntly, I wanted to capture Angelia roughing someone up. Though, her skirmishes are going to seem like tea parties next to anything Danie or Samantha gets into (which will be proven soon, no worries!).
Not to mention, even though I am wary of romance at the moment, I do rather enjoy the entrance of the Duke of Elwen. In my little movie Lee Pace would play him. Perfect fit, don’t you think?
Music: “Ah” by Superfly, “Idiot” by Lisa Marie Presley, “Anytime” by Crystal Kay, and “All I Need to Know” by Emma Bunton
Sunday, September 28, 1980
Generally, when a woman is due to give birth, there is a certain protocol; bags are gathered, family members and friends are called to make the pilgrimage to witness the coming of life. For the twenty-four-year-old Crown Princess of Asteria, the expectations were quite different. Preparations were made on a grander scale. The family tree branched out over geographical boundaries; therefore mass phone calls were made at varying degrees of an hour. The King of Asteria, softened by the impending grandfatherhood, spoke on the front lawn of the Palace Heulwen before departing for the medical center, revealing that his eldest daughter and successor was currently in transit to the hospital.
Everyone held their breath for the safe delivery of the firstborn of the heir.
Well, almost everyone.
The labor was difficult for Princess Katharine; fears that she would perish or her daughters would dominated her moods. The Prince Consort made great effort to console his young, terrified wife as the same feelings coursed through him as well. He figured that the only one who could give her any reassurance had not been born yet.
So he prayed that she would come soon.
She emerged from the womb that she had shared with her sister for thirty-six weeks, deep blue eyes gaping and hungrily taking in the sight of the delivery room. Katharine was uplifted with relief at the first hurdle being surpassed. The newborn barely made a peep until startled by the crash of thunder from an autumn storm outside. The irregularity was noted and was discussed, that is, until her companion made her entrance into this new world as soundlessly as her older sister had. The events were regarded with rapt interest by two new parents as the rest of the world waited for the Grand Reveal of Princesses Angelia Madeline and Aurora Magdalene.
The knobby-kneed, tawny-haired little girl who was to run the land had begun to understand certain things by the time she was five.
The first: she possessed power. Not just the mere ability of a gifted child to coerce others into doing what she desired, but something deeper—and grander. This thrilled her a bit because she always imagined that she could impose her own laws (mandatory ice cream for children was at the forefront of her legislation) and place her mark on the world.
“Sister,” Aurora would say to this whenever Angelia mentioned it, “I believe mandatory ice cream would be bad. Mommy says it would make everyone plump.”
And to that, Angelia would shrug and say, “But it’s made of milk and proteins, Mags. It simply can’t be all that bad can it? It’s sorta good for you.”
“But Annie…” And that was usually all Aurora would be able to get in edgewise.
Second: because of that power, she was not loved by all. When she was smaller, her parents had sheltered her from the brunt of it. They still did—however, there were moments when resentment leaked through the bonds of family.
One moment was particularly momentous in her history: the entire family had gathered at the Palace Heulwen with a sense of urgency. When the little ones had asked, the adults assured them all was fine, not to worry. Around them, in print, on television and radio, the country—the world—speculated about the impending death of King Galen IV and its aftermath.
Crown Princess Katharine had already begun assuming her father’s duties gradually as she became of age and it was determined that she was going to be his successor. Dissent came from Galen’s younger children, namely his son Francis. Because Clare, Francis’s mother, was the current Queen Consort, he felt he should follow his father to the throne. It was his birthright as the eldest son. However, since Anne, Katharine’s late mother, had died giving birth and still married to Galen, Katharine, by law, was the next sovereign.
The young children of the Sanford issue generally played together, but verbal jabs occasionally soured the dates. Francis had bestowed the honor of the bitterness he felt toward his older sister to his son Patrick, who was a year older and at least twenty pounds heavier than the twins. Bennett, the twins’ little brother, hated playing with him because he was rough and generally vulgar.
While the adults kept vigil around Galen’s deathbed, the Palace nanny kept watch over the Sanford-Randolph twins, their little brother, and their cousin. Since the quartet had been playing quietly, the nanny momentarily shifted her attention to what was going on with the adults.
“I wanna see Grandfather,” Bennett whined, three-year-old expectations flattened by the current state of things. He absently kicked at a toy—one that had happened to belong to Francis when he was little.
“Oi, that’s mine you little—” Patrick stood, towering over the small boy. Aurora, who had been reading Agatha Christie, looked up sharply. Angelia vaulted off of the couch and stood guard to her little brother. The plaid jumper in which her mother had fastidiously dressed her had not hampered her in the slightest.
“Don’t you dare lay a hand on my little brother or you’ll regret it,” Angelia warned.
Patrick narrowed his eyes at her. “You can’t order me around.”
“That was not an order,” Angelia shot back. “It was a warning.”
“What could you do?” He shoved at her shoulder. She glowered but did not reciprocate. Aurora had stopped her cold with that look that said, Don’t Annie! You could get into trouble! Again! Damned that she was so predictable to her twin. “You’re just a skirt.”
“Annie’s not just a skirt!” Bennett piped up. “She’s a princess!”
“Quite right,” Angelia affirmed with a nod. “And someday this skirt’s gonna be your queen.”
Patrick stuck his tongue out at his cousin. “Whoever said you would be Queen?” he demanded petulantly. “Girls shouldn’t be allowed to run the country.”
If Angelia had known the term, she would have called herself a feminist. However, she found fault with her cousin at this moment simply because he was being a prick. Her young, supple mind understood that perfectly.
Brows furrowed in fury, Angelia gave the bigger kid a hard shove. He stumbled backwards and fell onto his ample behind. A lamp with a beaded fringe shivered slightly.
As he yelped, Angelia snapped, “My mommy is going to be queen! That is what Grandfather said. What he says goes. And if he heard you…”
Patrick, emboldened by his own fury, climbed to his feet and launched a rather sizable decorative rock at his little cousin. Aurora gasped and Bennett’s little face fell as he struggled with the urge to hurtle himself forward into the fray.
“Annie!” Aurora cried.
It was a moment in time that seemed to be slowed down for dramatic effect. Even as an adult, Angelia still didn’t know how she had managed it.
Blue eyes narrowed, Angelia caught the rock barehanded and launched it right back at Patrick like a seasoned baseball player. Its jagged edges left a rather painful indentation on Patrick’s broad forehead, and for a split second, surprise reigned until the pain took over.
Time zipped by, and suddenly they were no longer alone. Her mother stood at the door, tearstained and mortified at the scene before her. Angelia scented the shift in the air like one could smell smoke downwind from a burning house. She whirled as the other adults filtered into the parlor at the sound of Patrick’s mewling. Francis’s wife Jane went for her crying son, shrieking hysterically. Francis himself entered to assess the scene, then threw down the gauntlet at his older sister.
It was war with flowers flying.
As his parents carried Patrick away, Angelia went to her mother, sick with reprehension. Trembling, weak with this predicament on top of the death of her father, she shook her head at her eldest and went back into the Palace. Nigel watched Angelia’s little face scrunch, feature by feature. His heart cracked for them both.
“Papa,” Angelia began, tears starting to fill her eyes.
“It’s all right, sweet,” Nigel murmured, pulling her close. It was a little lie they could both cling to in the chaos that was rushing forth.
Because of her responsibilities, Angelia was often admonished about her growing insolence. The little girl who had deftly defended herself the day that her grandfather had passed had morphed into a young woman with a polished exterior—her mother’s doing. She had made superficial alliances with daughters of allies—also her mother’s doing. It was her father who reminded her that duty to the crown surpassed any base emotion or urge that came over her. It was her father she thought of disappointing more often than she did her mother.
In the twelve years that Katharine had been Queen, Angelia’s awareness had grown exponentially. She had also begun to chafe against her mother’s rule as a teenager did, amplified by the fact that her evolution was in view of the entire world.
Aurora and Nigel often acted as bystanders when the two women quarreled. Bennett usually escaped to find trouble of his own. To anyone watching, it was the equivalent to two snarling bulls brawling. Those two were too alike, and neither wanted to admit it.
However, in this stage of Angelia’s life, Katharine had all of the cards, made all of the rules. Angelia found herself consigned to events and roles that made her skin crawl.
“I don’t want to go to this bloody shindig!” Angelia cried on a particular night, tossing a red silk dress aside. “It’s just a breeding ground for sycophants and rubberneckers. I’d have more fun getting oral surgery with no anesthesia with a rusty butter knife.”
Aurora picked up the dress and put it properly away. “Well, Annie…you could just think of it as target practice.”
Eyebrows cocked, Angelia whirled. “Target practice?” She smirked. “Mags, you evil girl, you. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Aurora chuckled. “I didn’t mean it in that way.”
“Blast. I was considering packing a pellet gun in my evening bag.” With an evil smile, she went for the closet. “I may still do it. Mother has me going to this thing with Harold Gray.”
Aurora choked on bile. “Excuse me—I’m sorry, Annie…did you say…Harold Gray?” She shuddered—and with good cause. Harold Gray was Asteria’s answer to Billy Zane’s character in Titanic. All Angelia wanted to do was hit him in the face. All anyone wanted to do was punch him in the face.
“Bennett’s idea,” Angelia muttered, eyes dark. Aurora winced. She only imagined what Angelia had in store for retaliation. “You know, they’re all like that at this age.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“That’s because you spend most of your time buried in books.”
Aurora threw at pillow at her twin. “There are all kinds of characters in books, you know. Where do you think authors get them? Thin air?”
Angelia caught the pillow. “Hey, who could tell with all those rampant imaginations?”
The duo laughed, not aware of what was in store for the evening.
Much to Angelia’s chagrin, Katharine was overjoyed in Harold’s presence. In front of her, he was charming, demure, and respectful. Nigel, being a typical father, distrusted Harold immediately. However, he was astute enough to sense his nefariousness when Katharine didn’t.
He had tried to voice his concerns. Katharine chattered them away.
Unfortunately, this time Her Majesty had made an egregious error.
During the event, Angelia had tried to escape from Harold. He had found liquor and was up to nothing but debauchery. She would have gleaned some satisfaction from preserving some evidence of this and proving her mother wrong, but she was too disgusted.
She walked outside to get some fresh air. Harold was attentive enough to follow. Bollocks.
She tried to keep her voice even as she spoke. “Harold, I think you need to go home. You are embarrassing yourself. You obviously have had too much to drink.”
Harold snorted. “Angie, you are far too uptight.”
Angelia inwardly bristled at Angie. She fought a full-body shudder. “No, I am not. I am the future Queen of Asteria, and it would hardly do for me to start stumbling around here like you and slurring my words.”
Harold leered at her. “You royal girls are all the same. All breeding and stiff upper lip.” His leer deepened with the weight of experience. “That is, until someone gets you out of your knickers.”
“I assure you, you will not have the honor, sir,” Angelia said, well, stiffly.
“I don’t know about that,” Harold shot back and reached for her crotch.
Angelia’s eyes went wide. “You cheeky bastard!” She twisted deftly out of his grasp. When he made another drunken pass at her, she firmed her mouth—and punched him in his with all of her power. He went flying backwards and landed with a thud. As he groaned with confusion and pain, she shook out her throbbing hand. Damn he’s got a hard head.
Aw bloody hell, was all Angelia could think. If this part got back to her mother, she would never hear the end of it. At least before she had been free of reproach. Now? She whirled around, a dozen excuses and rebuttals on her lips.
They all withered when she rested her gaze upon the person who had spoken.
He was tall, slightly taller than convention. His brown hair was slicked back elegantly, and he was quietly debonair in his tuxedo with the white jacket that his mother insisted that he wear. True concern emanated from every pore. This was not your run-of-the-mill looky-loo. He was in a different league altogether.
“I…” Angelia began, unsure.
He made a minuscule step forward. “I heard you…were having difficulty with your…date.”
“Using the term date for that steaming pile of horse excrement would be an insult,” Angelia remarked. Pissed all over again, she kicked Harold in the crotch. She was pleased at the whimper that came from him and turned on a smile to her attempted rescuer. She didn’t realize the effect she was having on him; it was like she had socked him one, too. She squared her slim shoulders. “But no worries here. I’ve resolved the matter.”
He chuckled nervously at Harold curled up in pain. “So it appears.” Then he frowned. “But your dress…”
“I’m sorry?” She realized what he meant, and looked down. In the struggle, Harold had ripped the right strap of her dress, and a dangerous amount of precious skin was exposed. As she gasped, her mysterious counterpart worked off his tuxedo jacket and offered it. Perplexed at the gesture, she hesitated before taking it. Deciding it was not perilous, she slipped it on.
“Who are you?” she inquired.
“I am the Duke of Elwen, Duncan Bernard Ainsley.” He bowed before her. “At your service, Your Highness.”
She was startled at his manners, and covered herself to preserve her propriety. “I am forever in your debt, Your Grace.”
“You owe me nothing,” Duncan assured her, and led her toward the lights and away from the waiting, prying eyes.
Angelia felt that she became a woman the moment she began not to fear anything.
During the years that had passed between that annoying moment at Hartsborough Prep with Harold Gray and the present, she had learned a great deal about herself, her history, and her destiny. She was not merely a princess, and she would not merely be a princess either. Princesses were meant to exist in fairytales where everything was given to them. She had to learn to grapple and felt herself expert at it. Cinderella probably could not say the same, that humble dame.
She had looked Death in its eyes. There was nothing more terrifying than that. Anything that came after was elementary.
Even her first official Parliament appearance.
“Fear,” Nigel said to her prior, “does nothing but limit the things you can do.”
Angelia turned from the grand window in her father’s study. He tried not to be staggered by the sight of her looking regal beyond her years. The robe suited her. “But isn’t fear useful in some aspect, Father? Fear can control, can coerce.” Her lips curved in an ironic smile. “Fear can even repel when it’s handy.”
Nigel gave a small, considering nod. “Perhaps, my dear. Your mother would certainly agree with that tactic on some level and it should not be ignored. But which would you cherish more? A leader you feared and reviled or a leader you could truly count upon?”
Angelia frowned thoughtfully. Nigel continued. “Yes, fear can be useful against an adversary. But on those with which we should work?—no. It breeds mistrust and mutiny, Annie.” He rose, towering over her, but not by much in those heels she wore. “Charm them. Regard them with the respect they deserve.” Something flickered in Angelia’s eyes—indignation, if knew his eldest. “But at the end of the day, the biggest weapon you have is your authority. By the law of the land and the blood of our ancestors coursing through your veins, you have it. Use it.”
As his words fortified her, John Larson, the head of Palace security, came into the study. He was a dark suit and a comm. piece in his ear. He was accompanied by Queen Katharine and Princess Aurora. Aurora wore a gray suit while padparadsha earrings glittered at her ears. Katharine was dressed in an identical robe as her daughter. When she saw her daughter, she lifted her chin, assessing, then nodded in approval.
“I think we are ready to depart,” Katharine announced.
“Very well, Your Majesty,” Larson demurred. “I will alert the rest of the detail.”
Katharine thanked him. She turned to her eldest daughter, her successor. Something like pride gleamed in her eyes. She placed a hand on Angelia’s shoulder.
“I know we may not always see eye-to-eye—”
“Huge understatement, Mother.” Angelia couldn’t help it. Nigel coughed to conceal a laugh.
“But I always want you to know,” Katharine continued, “that I am proud of you. And that if your grandfather were still alive, he would be very, very proud of you, too.”
Years of battling vanished momentarily. They were just mother and daughter, and Angelia felt love blooming in her heart. Fighting tears, she embraced her mother.
At that moment, Larson entered the room. He paused respectfully for the scene before him. Angelia and Katharine disentangled themselves and straightened their garb.
“The cars are here,” he announced.
“Thank you, Larson,” Nigel said.
The family left, departing with their full security detail. Nigel and Katharine took the first while the twins (Bennett was on a diplomatic trip to Russia) took the second one. The women sat in the backseat jittery with nerves.
Larson nodded, and spoke into his comm. piece. “The hummingbird is coming for the flower patch.” He paused for a moment, listening to the answering call. Then he looked over his shoulder at the blonde behind him. “Everything’s in place, Your Highness. Never to fear.”
Never to fear. Angelia grinned to herself when Larson faced forward. She? Scared?
Not in a million light years.