Not everyone got to see their doom approaching, Natalia thought.
The princess and current successor to the Remilio crown was currently located on the palace balcony attached to her room, where she was trying to relax and enjoy the morning sunlight. On most days she felt a great sense of peace standing there, sweeping her gaze out over the city. The way that the capital's residents scurried back and forth like ants as they went about their daily business felt like a constant reminder that life goes on, and that little would stand in the way of progress.
Today, however, was an entirely different story. Her attention was turned not to the city down below, but further outwards - beyond the large stone walls that marked the city limits. To the furthest reaches of her vision, just before the horizon, where a growing black smudge marred the otherwise perfect landscape. A black smudge that detonated the presence of a hostile army, and reminded Natalia of the looming destruction that awaited she and the rest of her people. An enemy force that had ignored numerous requests for peace treaties, made widows of thousands of Remilio women, and swallowed up her brother.
Once upon a time, Natalia had wished to be down there, with the townspeople. To run amongst them as a dirty street urchin, in a place where nobody would recognise her. To play with the other children, with no concerns beyond making sure she was home in time for supper. She still wished to be amongst them now, though for entirely different reasons.
I should be down there, helping the people prepare. Tending to the injured, or helping the city guard prepare for the attack. Not stuck up here like a caged animal, waiting to be slaughtered
Gripping the railing so tightly that her knuckles turned white, the crown princess would linger for a few moments longer, before a sharp knock would distract her. She would finally tear herself away from the dreadful sight before her eyes, half-turning away from the balcony and back towards the interior of her room. She was just in time to see the door creak open, and watch her handmaiden slip inside.
The girl would give a respectful curtsey at the mention of her name, dipping her head in tandem, as etiquette demanded. She had changed much in the short time that she had been working for Natalia – transforming from a shy girl who was barely able to speak in the presence of others into a grown woman, highly capable, and trusted enough to carry the princess’ messages. Despite the fact that Natalia was several years her elder, the two of them had become friends as close as the social barrier between them would allow. She did seem slightly on edge, but such was commonplace these days – everyone was worried, given the current state of the war.
“Good morning, lady Natalia. I come bearing a message from the king. He wishes to speak to you before he holds council this morning” she said, speaking clearly as she straightened up. For her part, Natalia simply nodded in agreement – it was a common enough request, and otherwise unsurprising, given the current state of the city’s affairs.
“Very well. Come, do my hair and help me dress, and we shall go see him immediately” she would answer rather simply, moving across to seat herself before her dressing table. Celia was quick to comply, and quickly set about her task. Natalia was quick to strike up a conversation, asking after the girl’s aspiring partner in an attempt to distract her from her worries. It was a common topic as of late, and her efforts seemed to be rewarded with some superficial level of success.
It was only after she was presentable that Natalia would set out in search of her father. At this time of day he was probably waiting either in the chambers where he met with his advisors, or the throne room itself. Regardless, if he wished to see her, then the sooner the better.