Design for Queen Elizabeth's coronation gown. Image from nga.gov.au
I know it's silly, but I was secretly hoping something exciting would happen to me yesterday. You see, as a little girl, I invented an elaborate fantasy of a parallel world in which I was royal--and yesterday, i.e., the summer solstice two weeks before my 21st birthday, was the day I had set aside for my coronation. And a small part of me would still like to believe in my parallel world, which I called "Rabildia," derived from the word "ruby" (my birthstone). What's more, it would still be nice to believe in the persona I invented for myself.
Queen Marissa Guinevere was brave and strong and good at archery and had a beautiful gray horse and a pet owl named Mistwing. What's more, she was also extremely skilled at performing magic. And she was gorgeous (I spent a significant amount of time designing gowns for her to wear), but proudly independent, and would take no guff from anyone.
I suppose all this is fairly typical. I was an only child, I read too much, I was under-challenged in school, I had an unacknowledged loneliness and anger inside me... of course I'd escape into a fantasy world. Only later have I realized just how much of a coping mechanism Rabildia was. There is a suite of stories in which Princess Marissa is locked up in a tower for several years during her adolescence, due to a misinterpretation of an ancient prophecy. I wasn't merely copying old stories like "Rapunzel." I was making a metaphor about the alienation I felt during my own adolescence.
But at age 18 or so, Princess Marissa is freed from the tower, she attends the Rabildian College of Mantic Arts, and when she is 20, her father dies and she must be crowned Queen. Since many fantasy books ascribe great importance to the summer solstice, I made it a key date in my mythos as well. It's the Rabildian national holiday--the anniversary of a day when the forces of light overcame the forces of darkness and united the country. And Marissa chooses it for her coronation.
When I was 12 I seriously planned to write a novel about Rabildia, and managed about 60 pages of disconnected stories. Here is the coronation scene, with some present-day comments in italics.
Marissa was not quite twenty-one when her father died and she became ruler. Her mother had died some years before, so she had little help in setting out on the journey of ruling and righting a kingdom. (When I was 12, I loved phrases that sounded grandiose even if they don't make sense. Like "ruling and righting"--when Marissa inherits the kingdom, she doesn't really need to "right" it; her father was a good leader.)Well, nothing exciting happened yesterday--no crowns or ermine or magically self-propagating rubies--and while I feel ready, I guess, to get a job and enter the "real world," I certainly can't imagine feeling ready to rule a country. But then, the point of Queen Marissa is that she's an idealized version of me, stronger and more capable. And I guess that's why I still want to believe she's out there, somewhere, sitting newly-crowned on her throne.
On his deathbed, the king said to Marissa, “I know you can rule Rabildia well...”
Between her tears, Marissa said “Thank you, Daddy...this really means a lot to me...knowing you believe in me...”
“...but your destiny is not here!” finished the king as emphatically as his weak voice could speak.
The tears suddenly stopped flowing from Marissa's face. This was so shocking: she would be the queen. And how could a queen’s destiny not be in her land? After a little consideration, Marissa thought she figured out what her father meant. It was actually pretty obvious. All her life, she’d been groomed for finding a husband, and that destiny her dying father talked about would be where her husband lived. She’d marry some old king, join Rabildia to his lands, and stay in his country.
While Marissa was contemplating, her father had died. (Reflecting my level of self-obsession, I'm writing about a character, based on myself, who is so self-involved she isn't even paying attention at the moment of her own father's death! By the way, the king's deathbed prophecy was meant to foreshadow a later development in the story, which is that Queen Marissa travels to our world and meets me, the girl from the Portland suburbs--so her destiny lies elsewhere.)
The coronation took place on Midsummer’s Day, the most important day in all the land. Midsummer Day is the longest day of the year when the folk celebrate the sun, the anniversary of the unification of Rabildia, and the halfway-point of the Rabildian year (which begins on what we’d call December 21, the shortest day of the year). Incidentally, Midsummer’s Day that year was a fortnight before Marissa would be twenty-one. Many people thought she should be coronated on her birthday, as twenty-one is the customary coming-of-age, but she convinced them that Midsummer held so much more significance for the people of the land. (I now know that "coronated" is not a word. And I love that although this is supposed to take place on a totally different PLANET, the length of a year and the date of the solstice is the same as it is on Earth.)
Marissa's coronation dress was another sore point. All the old dukes wanted her to wear red silk in honor of Rabildia, but red is not the best color for a blonde. Finally, they settled on a purple silk with green silk trimmings and many rubies. She thought it was lovely. (See what I mean about being obsessed with my character's clothing? My tastes in coronation dresses have changed now, though. Maybe I'm unduly influenced by Queen Elizabeth's dress above, but I'd want a heavy ivory satin richly embroidered with gold threads and rubies. Purple is regal, yes, but the dress I designed looked too much like a ball gown, not ceremonial enough.)
With trembling hand and the appearance of a deer (noble but with an ever-present sad fear) Marissa walked up the throne room of the forest castle. The ermine robe of state trailed long behind her, but still she was cold. Her guts hurt and she had a sinking feeling that something bad would happen. Her magic gave her a strong front and stiff upper lip, but inside she was falling apart. She wanted to throw off the robe, race to the throne, and get it all over with. But she had to be-–etiquette demanded it--dignified. (Boo hoo, it's so hard to be Queen!)
The crown was placed on her head, and the worst part was over, or so she thought. Marissa was queen.
As she took the gold scepter into her hands, the ruby at the top kindled and emitted a spark, which drifted down the aisle, fell to the center of the room, and became a miniature version of the scepter’s ruby. In unison, the crowd gasped.
Some few superstitious folk fled, while the older people shook their heads. "Marissa is so young, poor girl, she doesn’t even know she’s possessed by a Nemwi’hymat,” they whispered, but loud enough for the worried new queen to hear. Yet the wisest person in the throne room did not shake his head: Vatewté, Marissa's second father. From his honored seat, he turned back down the aisle. Many assumed he would flee as well. His footsteps echoed from the marble floors and Gothic ceiling. (Explanations: A Nemwi'hymat is a kind of demon, and Vatewté is a wise old wizard who tutored Marissa--she loves him more than she loved her real father.)
As he reached the little ruby, Vatewté stopped, picked it up-–again the crowd gasped-–strolled leisurely to the throne, and presented it to Marissa.
“It’s not to worry,” he whispered in her ear. “Those fools out there don’t know it, but nothing bad can spark the ruby on a scepter that has only been touched by good hands. I want you to take the little stone it produced, and wear it as a charm, because it came from the scepter and will forever link you with it, and the magic of Rabildia.”
From the inside of the royal robe, Marissa ripped a silken thread, tied a sturdy knot, and hung the little jewel around her neck, where it fit in the hollow of her throat. Soon, everyone admired her new necklace and forgot about the gem’s “curse.”