I frowned and twisted to see the back of my head in the mirror, tongue sticking out the corner of my mouth in concentration as I gathered my wild reddish-blond curls and began twisting them into a knot.
Tap tap tap. “Skywynne, dear? May I come in?” My mother swung my door open and waltzed into the room before I could even open my mouth to answer. “Are you almost ready?”
“Yes, Mother.” I eyed her reflection in my mirror. She was wearing a ridiculously large, frilly green dress and so much shimmering gold jewelry that I felt sure that I’d get a headache if I looked at her for too long. Her bright red hair was piled high on top of her head, making her seem almost a foot taller than she actually was. “I just need to do my hair and makeup.”
“Well don’t be too long,” she said as she stepped behind me and lightly swatted my hands away so that she could run her fingers through my hair. “The guests are waiting for your grand entrance.”
Says the woman who needs to change dresses to take a walk in the garden . “I can do it myself, you know,” I told her, fighting to keep my annoyance from creeping into my voice.
“Nonsense, it’s what mothers are for.” She forcefully twisted my hair back, and I bit my lip to keep from grimacing. “Besides, I want you to look absolutely stunning when you get the Royal Magic Wand.”
Good luck with that, I thought. It wasn’t as if I was ugly or anything, but… well… let’s just say that if being Queen didn’t work out I probably wasn’t going to get a job as a model. That had never bothered me too much though - unlike my mother, I believed that there were far more important things in life than being beautiful. Like magic, for instance.
“There… perfect.” I let out a deep breath as Mother finally released her death grip on my head. I gingerly touched the very complex looking high bun, wondering how on Mewni I was going to go about taking it out after the ceremony.
“Now, do you need help with your makeup too?” She eyed the brushes and powders laid out on my vanity.
“No thank you,” I said quickly. “I’ll do it.”
“Alright, then.” She gave me an unusually gentle smile before turning and striding back out the door. “I’ll see you in a few minutes, darling. Don’t forget to outline your cheekmarks!”
“Yes, Mother,” I sighed. I turned back to the mirror as the sound of her high heels hitting the polished wooden floor faded.
I suppose I should be thankful that my marks are so simple, I mused as I grabbed the little pink pen that my mother insisted was very different from the ones we used to write letters and began tracing my rosy pink hourglasses. Her treble clefs must be a nightmare to outline.
“Eh, Lyric’s had years of practice, I doubt she has any trouble anymore.” I jumped and spun around to face the source of the voice, a tiny blue man with a white beard who was sitting cross-legged in mid-air. “Though I agree that it seems an awful lot of hassle when no one can tell the difference anyways.”
“Glossaryck!” I exclaimed. “I didn’t hear you come in.” Wait, did he just read my mind?
“Yup.” Glossaryck floated over to the vanity and sat down, then began picking his nose. “So how ya doing? Ready to get your wand?”
“Am I ever!” I grinned as I finished outlining my cheekmarks. “I can’t wait to try magic. Maybe I’ll learn how to go back in time - that’d be incredible.” I paused as I sat down the blush and began applying mascara. “I’m almost more excited about the book, though. I mean… I know a lot of the past queens were… well…”
“Like your mother?” suggested Glossaryck.
“I was going to say ‘not very interested in helping their kingdom.’” I paused again to apply a small amount of lip balm. “ … But that works too. Anyways, I am looking forward to reading about, like, Queen Etheria, or Urania, or Polaria… a lot of the earlier queens, I guess. Oh, and Aurora - I’ve always wondered why she’d do something so horrible to her own daughter.”
Glossaryck grinned. “That’s what I like about you, Skywynne - always eager to learn. You would make a great student.”
“Thank you - wait, don’t you mean will ?” It was Glossaryck’s job to help the princesses of Mewni learn how to use magic. He’d taught every single Queen since Cosmica the Reclaimer, so of course I assumed he would be teaching me as well.
“Eh, whatever.” He shrugged as rose up off of the vanity. “Well, see you around, Princess. Good luck!” He was gone before I could respond.
Weirdo. A fond smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I was going to enjoy learning from him.
Truth be told, I should have gotten the wand and book three years prior, when I turned fourteen, but Mother just hadn’t seemed to want to give them up. Whenever I asked her about it, she would just say, “Be patient, dear, you’ll have it soon enough.”
“Why not now?” I would ask.
“Because I said so,” she would answer, and that would be that. If I continued to push the issue, she would threaten to delay my wand passing even more because of my “talking back.” I knew that she was probably just saying that to scare me into shutting up, but still I never risked agitating her further.
What had bothered me most was that I could never figure out why she didn’t want to give me the wand and book. As far as I knew she hardly ever used her wand anymore, and I doubted that she’d ever so much as opened the Book of Spells. It really seemed as though she just didn’t want me to have them.
But that doesn’t matter now, I reminded myself, taking a deep breath to soothe the vexation that formed whenever I focused on that particular topic for too long. I’m getting my wand tonight! I should be happy.
I stepped back and took one last glance at the mirror. My makeup was subtle enough that I didn’t look like a clown but noticeable enough to please my mother, and thankfully I hadn’t gotten any powder on my new blue dress. I was ready.
Tonight, everything changes.
The crowd erupted into cheers and applause as I carefully stepped down the stairs leading to the ballroom, holding my skirt up so as not to trip on it. I should’ve brought ear plugs, I thought, resisting the urge to clap my hands to the sides of my head to block out the noise. I was glad the people approved of me, but I really wished I could just take the wand without all this spectacle.
The dimly lit ballroom was completely packed with people - visiting royalty, nobility, and mewman peasants alike all stood shoulder to shoulder. A thin strip of red carpet was rolled out across the middle of the ballroom, leading straight from where I was standing to a raised platform where my mother and father stood, along with the five members of the Magic High Commission. I could see that Mother was holding the wand, which rather ironically took the form of a broom in her hands. I can’t wait to see what it will look like for me.
I took a deep breath, moved my shoulders back, and started walking towards Mother as quickly as I could without looking as though I was rushing to get this over with. People crowded either side of the red carpet I walked on, many yelling my name and other things that I couldn’t make out. I stared straight ahead of me and concentrated on my breathing, hoping I looked far more poised and regal than I felt.
Raaagh! I let out a yelp and nearly jumped out of my skin at the sudden loud rasping noise, then looked up to see several large, scaly creatures flying overhead. Fire from their mouths illuminated the ballroom.
Oh right. The dragons. Mother had mentioned some weeks ago that there would be trained dragons at the wand passing ceremony. I hadn’t been too keen on the idea, seeing as our castle was made mostly of wood, but Mother assured me that these dragons were perfectly well behaved. I suppose she was right about that, I grudgingly admitted to myself. Still, when I’m Queen, performing dragons are going to be the first thing to go.
I kept walking, glancing at the people around me to see if they’d noticed my slip up. Much to my relief, most of them now seemed far more interested in the dragons than in what I was doing, but one particularly handsome young man with clear green eyes met my gaze and grinned. I felt my face grow hot and quickly looked away.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity but was probably about thirty seconds, I reached the platform where my parents stood. Father was gazing straight past me, probably searching for Lady Juliet in the crowd, but Mother and the Magic High Commission were all staring at me as if they were sizing me up. Even Omnitraxus Prime, who usually just communicated through a small glass ball that the other members of the Commission took turns wheeling around, had shown up in person, his great starry blue mass towering over everyone around him. I swallowed and looked away from him to meet my mother’s gaze.
“Princess Skywynne Lavender Butterfly.” The room immediately fell silent as she began to speak. That was one thing I truly admired about my mother - her ability to get people to shut up. “We have-”
RAAAAAGHH!! This time, nearly everyone in the room jumped at the dragon’s roar. I whirled around to see that two of the beasts appeared to be engaged in mortal combat above the center of the ballroom. Most of the guests were rapidly scrambling away from that area, though a person whom I assumed to be the dragons’ trainer was standing right under them, ineffectually shouting “No! Bad girl, Jewel! Off! Down! Heel!”
Yep. Definitely outlawing the dragons.
There was a flash of light and a cacophony of screams, and I realized that a large part of the left wall of the ballroom was engulfed in flames. Crap!
“Put it out, put it out! Quickly!” Mother shrieked, at the same time that Hekapoo, the demoness-like Master of Dimensional Transit, shouted, “Everyone get out of the castle! Now !”
The guests apparently liked Hekapoo’s idea better, and many people were already crowding the main exit. The flames were spreading rapidly and three more dragons appeared to be joining in the fight.
“HEY!” I shouted, beginning to rush back towards where I came in. “GO THROUGH THE OTHER DOOR! THE OTHER DOOR! THROUGH THE CASTLE!”
I could hear Mother’s voice join mine, and together we managed to usher many of the guests through the other door and direct them to the nearest exit. I quickly surveyed what was left of the ballroom - all of the remaining guests were hurrying out one of the doors. No one appeared to be trapped in the flames. Satisfied, I allowed myself to follow the last of the stragglers out the door, down the hall, and out the other door into the cool night air. I noticed my Mother wasn’t among them. She must have already gone.
Once we were a safe distance away from the castle, I looked back to see if our knights had managed to control the fire. My heart sank; a huge portion of the castle was completely engulfed in flames which continued to spread, and no knights appeared to even be trying to stop the fire. I guess they just ran away with everybody else.
“Skywynne!” My mother seemed to appear out of nowhere to pull me into a tight hug. For once I returned the embrace with equal fervor. “Oh, Skywynne, thank goodness, I thought you were right behind me but then I looked and you were gone, and-”
“It’s okay, Mother, I’m okay,” I said into her shoulder. “I was just making sure everyone got out of the ballroom.”
“Well that’s very thoughtful of you, dear, but you should really leave that sort of thing to the knights. It’s their job, you know.” She pulled back to look into my eyes. “Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry this happened on your special day. The owner of the dragons said that they wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“Well, they are dragons, Mother, I don’t think they can really help it,” I commented, though I doubted she’d pay it any mind.
I sighed. I guess I’ll have to wait even longer for the wand and the… book…
Oh crud, the book! It was still inside the castle! And Glossaryck was magically bound to it - if the book burned, he would surely die.
“Mother, Mother! The book! Glossaryck! They’re still, you have to-” I waved a hand wildly towards the burning castle.
“Slow down , Skywynne, for goodness’ sake, you aren’t making any sense.” Mother grabbed my arm, her long nails digging into my flesh. “What about Glossaryck?”
“He’s in the Book of Spells! And the book is still in the castle!” Mother’s eyes widened, and her grip on my arm loosened. “Please, you have to try to save it! Please!” I begged.
Without a word, Mother turned around, picked her broom-wand up off the ground (Had that been sitting there this whole time?) and sat down on the handle. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” she told me, and before I could even so much as say ‘Thank you,’ the broom was speeding off towards the castle.
Wow, she took that very seriously, I thought, impressed. Perhaps it had been unfair of me to assume the worst of her… then again, it wasn’t as though that assumption was completely unfounded. Usually, whenever I suggested she do anything difficult that didn’t directly serve her image, she just brushed me off.
Minutes passed, and I began to grow anxious. Where is she? The castle was almost entirely aflame now, and I couldn’t see any sign of my mother. Could she not find the book? Is she trapped in there? Should I send in someone after her? Did I just get my mother killed?!
“Ah, Skywynne, there you are.” I jumped as a warm hand settled on my shoulder, then turned to see a well-muscled man with pale blond hair.
“Oh, Father.” I glanced behind him and sure enough, I spotted Lady Juliet’s slim figure lurking in the crowd just a few paces away. I decided not to comment - there were far more pressing things on my mind at the moment.
Father glanced around me. “Where’s your mother?”
I pointed towards the castle. “She went back to get the Book of Spells.”
“What? By herself?!” My heart sped up a little at his shocked tone. Oh this is bad.
“Yes, we should probably…” I trailed off when I noticed a small object flying away from the castle. That has to be her, right?
“What?” Father asked. I pointed towards the object - no, the person, I was certain it was a person now - flying towards us. Relief swept over me like a cool breeze. Yes, that’s definitely her.
Mother crashed to the ground a few feet in front of us, much in contrast to her usual graceful landings. Father and I rushed to her side.
“Lyric!” Father cried. “Are you alright?” I knelt down next to her. Her face and hands were covered in ashes and her dress was charred, but she didn’t seem hurt. Her arms were wrapped tightly around what appeared to be a very old book. She really did it!
“Yes, Connor, I’m quite alright.” She pushed herself into a sitting position and tried ineffectually to dust off her gown. “And look, Skywynne!” She smiled proudly and held out the book.
“Oh, Mother…” I murmured as I gently took it from her outstretched hands and brushed the soot off of the cover. “Thank you so…” My heart suddenly dropped into my stomach as I read the title. “The… Great Book of Fashion?”
“Yes!” Mother beamed. “I just barely managed to save it for you. Now, when it comes time for you to set the fashion for your reign, you’ll have the insight of Queen Celeste herself to guide you!”
No. No! No no no nononononono! “But… what about the Book of Spells?!”
“Oh.” My mother shrugged. “Well, by the time I had recovered the Book of Fashion, it was too dangerous to look for that one as well. But never mind, I’m sure you can make up your own spells.”
“Mother!” I cried. “That book had the wisdom of every Queen!” Okay, so that wasn’t quite true, but it did have far more than just drawings of dresses and suits. “Glossaryck LIVED in there! How could you prioritize THIS-” I waved the stupid Book of Fashion at her “-over all that?!”
Mother scowled. “I don’t appreciate your tone, young lady. I told you, I didn’t have enough time to get them both. And I’m sure Glossaryck will be fine.”
“NO HE WON’T!” I screamed, nearly hysterical. “His life is BOUND to that book! And if you didn’t have time, then you should have left this junk!” I tossed the Book of Fashion to the ground as hard as I could given that I was already kneeling.
“I will NOT be spoken to like that, Skywynne!” Mother stood up abruptly. “If those spells mean so much to you, then why don’t you go get them YOURSELF!” She stormed off before I could reply. I looked to my father for help, but he was already gone. Of course.
Hot tears pricked the corners of my eyes. That feckless, shallow, irresponsible- I managed to push that particular thought out of my head before I could finish it. I looked helplessly up at the castle - there was no way anyone could get in and save the book and Glossaryck now.
Glossaryck. I let out a strangled sob. You WOULD make a great student. The little bastard had known this would happen, hadn’t he? And yet he did nothing to stop it. Grief and anger poured out of me in the form of a flood of tears and uncontrollable sobs.
And it was there, kneeling in front of a burning castle with a useless book of trends lying next to me, that I made the vow that would shape nearly every action I ever took from then on. I would be a better Queen than my mother… no, I would be a better Queen than any that had come before me. I would push the very limits of what magic could do, I would write a new book of spells, and I would make Mewni greater than it had ever been before.