The entire castle is in full swing, preparing for Colton’s ceremony. Enthusiastic faces pass me in the hallways; kids recite in trance passages from A History of Royal Namings; adults prepare their talents for the booths and activities that follow outside after the ceremony. It’s a joyous occasion, a Royal Naming. Something the entire community comes together for. And with Colton’s being the 500th, there’s a lot to celebrate.
Yet, part of me can’t help but feel a slight strain to it all. It’s subtle, and maybe only I pick up on it, but it seems that just behind the smiles and laughter are people nervously awaiting an event that could end badly. And if they celebrate enough and are joyful enough, Colton will receive an outstanding Naming; when in fact, no one, not Colton, not even dad, has any control over what it will be.
I should know that more than anyone here.
And like a switch, the memory of my Naming ignites in my brain; fills my chest with a twisted, nausea-inducing flair. Four years ago. At just thirteen. Mom and dad prepping the staff over the ceremony. Prepping me on how to act, what to say. It’d been years since the last Royal Naming. Exactly thirty years ago, when my father read off, “People’s Ruler” to a roaring audience in the Great Hall.
I was a basket case the day of my Naming, sick to my stomach as what felt like the entire kingdom was watching. Watching the Reader take the pen, let it move on its own across a slip of parchment. Watching me, as I held the slip in hand, waiting for the definition to reveal itself. I stared hard at the ink forming words across the parchment, hoping I could manipulate the black swirls with my eyes, and force them into a purposeful meaning. It felt heavy, the parchment. With my future at stake. My happiness too. So many before me were given powerful, royal names. Sarah. Victoria. Alicia. I saw the hope in my father’s eyes. Those eyes that chain me to a never ending pursuit to please him. When the ink dried, I took a deep breath and spoke.