Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic…
The halls of Castle Cullen echoed with a single grandfather clock’s ceaseless count of time’s slow passage. The turquoise walls of the elegant home of the Cullen family were lined with portraits of kings long passed. They followed each other in order, almost as a timeline of their ancestral history, all the way to the very last painting of a man in regal blue and violet garb. His hair was white and wispy—though his piercing blue eyes seemed to convey strength and youth. His expression was much the same as every other king line up in that grand hall, an emotionless stare towards whatever happened to be looking up at them. Below him, a rusted brass plate read “King Arthur Cullen, The Wise: 1106 AB - ” with an empty space following immediately afterwards.
Tap, tap, tap, tap...
The clock was now joined by another rhythmic sound, the footsteps of a young lady who walked down the scarlet carpeting with a large grin on her face. She did not return the stares of her father, and his father before him, and so on and so forth. Rather, she looked ahead towards a single painting in the corner, set away from the other portraits. It depicted a youthful woman with dark brown hair, sitting in a chair while wearing a sky blue dress. Upon her head, rested the same crown that the young lady approaching her now wore. She held her chin up high in the immortalized frame that depicted her, as though she scoffed at the long row of kings down the hallway. Below her, a polished silver plate read “Queen Marie Cullen, Wife to King Arthur Cullen” and nothing more. This was just fine to the woman who now gazed upon the late queen, since marking a date onto the plates only signified for how long one ruled. In her mind, at least, her mother would rule forever.
Tic. Tic. Tic. Tic...
The thoughts of the young princess were interrupted by a second set of ticking noises, approaching her from an open door down the hall. What appeared to be a man, dressed in a black suit and stove pipe hat approached her and bowed low to the floor. He regained his posture with an emotionless face of porcelain glass. Just below his chin, where his neck would meet his head, his glass skin opened up to allow his head to move and reveal the spinning clockwork and gears that gave him life. A voice came from within the man.
“My Lady Henrietta,” He spoke with a voice that reminded her of a record player, “Your presence is requested outside. Your father would like you by his side during the ceremony.”
The princess nodded her head in response to the clockwork man, which caused a bit of chestnut hair to fall onto her forehead. She realized the bun she had tied her hair into was coming undone, and she made attempts to fix it while she addressed the man who simply stood there. She always found it bothersome that such people could not leave if they were anything less than shooed away.
“Thank you,” Henrietta paused to glance at the embroidering on his jacket to find the name he was designated, “Charlie. You may go back to your duties.”
The machine named Charlie bowed respectfully once more and turned back to the oak door he had left open down the hall to resume his daily tasks. Henrietta breathed a sigh once he had left. She recognized that today’s ceremony was quite exciting for most people of Syllina, but it couldn’t be more boring to herself. She didn’t care for the accomplishments of the inventor that they were now knighting in honor of his recent creation, which she could hardly recall the name of. But her father had seemed awfully optimistic about the man’s future in their kingdom, so there was no persuading him to let her simply abstain.
King Arthur Cullen, The Wise. She thought to herself with an amused chuckle. If only they saw the side of her father that she had when she was young. The silly man who imitated an ape for his child in his best attempt to make her laugh. Besides, she could hardly see what was so wise about making a big show for a man who already knew exactly how talented he was. This would only add fuel to the fire of his ego, she was sure. But for now, she had a duty to perform. It wouldn’t be the wise choice to get the king in a bad mood.
As she walked down the hallway that lead towards the outside of the castle, she glanced over to a nearby window, where a lonely tower loomed over the town that surrounded Castle Cullen. It seemed to lean to one side, like it was always on the verge of falling flat over. But it was what was inside that was even more curious than its outward appearance. Most never bothered the one who toiled inside, day and night, but the princess was not like most other people. She lifted the front of her pearl colored dress and descended the stairs that lead to the outside, so that she may pay an old friend a visit.