1 Glimmer + Bella 4Ever
“Glimmer!” Princess Bella yelled before she burst into giggles. The princess’s unicorn picked up the brush from Bella’s hand and held it in her mouth. The shimmery white unicorn shook her head, sending her purple-tinted mane flying. It was like she was teasing Bella. “Are you excited because it’s Saturday and I have all weekend to spend with you?” Bella asked.
“She’s sneaky,” said Ben, a boy only a few years older than Bella. Glimmer reached out her muzzle, offering Ben the brush. He took the brush, grinning. Ben had arrived a couple of days after Bella had
been Paired with Glimmer. He was the nephew of Frederick, the stable manager, and he had come from the neighboring kingdom of Foris as an apprentice of his uncle. It was up to him to teach Bella about unicorn care and riding. More important, he had been assigned to help Bella and Glimmer prepare for their upcoming Crystal Kingdom debut.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Crystal Kingdom, the land ruled by Bella’s parents, King Phillip and Queen Katherine. The air smelled like honeysuckle and roses. Ben had secured Glimmer to a post just outside the royal stables with a shimmering rainbow-colored rope that was also used to help lead her around. Bees and butterflies flitted through the air, looking like confetti. A few of the bees flashed neon yellow, almost like a flashlight being turned on and off. That meant the bees had sensed pollen in the air and were headed toward a sweet-smelling flower.
The butterflies in Crystal Kingdom were more beautiful than any others in the neighboring kingdoms. Crystal butterflies had wings lined with teensy sparkles that flashed and glittered like diamonds in the sunlight.
“Thank you for showing me how to keep Glimmer clean, Ben,” Bella said, lifting her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. She eyed Glimmer—her very own unicorn—who had been a gift on her eighth birthday. A gift per royal tradition, of course. The unicorn’s coat was super shiny, and her mane and tail were silky after Ben had helped Bella comb them.
“No problem, Princess Bella,” Ben said.
“Ben, please,” Bella said. “Just call me Bella.”
“Okay, Prin—I mean, Bella.” Ben smiled at her.
“Do you like taking care of the unicorns?” Bella asked Ben.
Most people did not have a unicorn. It was law
in Crystal Kingdom and the surrounding kingdoms that the best unicorns were saved for the royal stables. Other unicorns ran free, and it was against the law for a commoner to capture one.
Ben laughed, looking at Bella. “I love it,” he said. “Uncle Frederick has taught me so much already. I don’t know much about the royal customs, but I do know about unicorns.”
“Did you know someone royal in Foris?” Bella asked.
“My father worked in the royal stables at Foris Castle,” Ben explained. “He had been training me so I could work in the stables someday too. But he broke his arm a few weeks ago working with a royal unicorn.”
Bella’s long brown hair swirled around her shoulders as she whipped her head around to look at Ben.
“Ouch! I’m so sorry! Is your dad going to be okay?” she asked.
Ben nodded. “He’ll be back in the stables in a couple of months, but he didn’t want me to lose any time. Uncle Frederick has been training and caring for unicorns even longer than my dad, so I’ll be living with him until my apprenticeship is done.”
Bella climbed the white fence and looked out over Crystal Castle’s grounds. She loved watching unicorns frolicking in the lush pastures. But when Bella thought about the unicorns, it reminded her of her upcoming debut with Glimmer. It was going to be here so fast—this coming Wednesday morning! It was especially exciting because it was a holiday and there would be no school.
It was royal tradition that within the first month of a prince or princess being Paired with a unicorn, the pair presented themselves to the kingdom. Bella’s parents had told her that the people of Crystal Kingdom were eager to see the princess
and her unicorn. Bella couldn’t wait to introduce Glimmer to the townspeople!
Bella shifted her gaze back to Glimmer as Ben climbed the fence to sit next to her. She’d only been Paired with Glimmer a week ago, but she loved her unicorn more than anything in the entire Crystal Kingdom (well, except her parents!). Definitely more than all of the people in the other three sky islands. Bella had learned in geography class that sky islands were pieces of land that floated high in the clouds. The only way to reach another sky island was to cast a spell to create a rainbow or moonbeam to walk over as a bridge between two islands.
“I can’t believe I got so lucky,” Bella said. Glimmer pointed her cute ears in Bella’s direction. “My eighth birthday was so scary!”
“How do eighth birthdays work for princes and princesses?” Ben asked.
“Well, every royal is born with an aura,” Bella explained. “It’s this kind of light that shows when a royal turns eight and when they are crowned king or queen. It can be any color of the rainbow.” She paused, frowning. “Except for red.”
“So red auras don’t exist?” Ben asked.
“Actually, they do. But if someone’s born with a red aura, it’s a very, very bad sign. Have you heard of Queen Fire?”
Ben nodded quickly. “My uncle warned me about her. He told me never to enter the Dark Forest and explained that Queen Fire was, like, your family’s enemy.”
“Actually, Queen Fire,” Bella said, taking a big gulp of air, “is my aunt. She is the first royal in history to be born with a red aura.” She squeezed her eyes half-shut, peeking at Ben through her lashes. I hope I didn’t scare him by telling him a crazy evil queen is related to me, Bella worried.
“Whoa,” Ben said. “I didn’t know Queen Fire was related to you. My uncle didn’t tell me that part. That must have been scary for you when you waited for your aura to appear.”
“It was!” Bella agreed. “My mom’s is green and my dad’s is yellow. Once I learned about my aunt, I got scared that my aura might be red.”
Ben laughed, his brown eyes twinkling. “I haven’t known you that long, but there’s no way your aura ever could have been red.”
“Thanks, Ben,” Bella said. “Only my best friends, Clara and Ivy, know Queen Fire is related to me. I hope you don’t want to stop teaching me now that you know.”
Ben reached out a hand to stroke Glimmer’s forehead. “No way. No evil queen relative is going to scare me off from helping you with Glimmer.” He grinned, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You’ve got a lot to learn, Princess.”
Bella laughed. “Oh, really? Well, I’m glad you’re sticking around then.”
“Let’s take Glimmer for a walk, and you can tell me more about being a royal,” Ben said.
Bella nodded, and Ben untied Glimmer, handing the soft rope to Bella.
The three set off down a familiar path that wound through the castle grounds and circled one of the castle’s many lakes.
“My aura appeared during the Pairing Ceremony on the night of my birthday,” Bella explained.
“A Pairing Ceremony is where you’re matched to your unicorn, right?” Ben asked as he walked beside Bella.
“Yes. I got this strange tingly feeling, and a purple fog surrounded me. It was my aura. Your uncle Frederick asked me to walk in front of unicorns that he had picked for me.”
“He told me a little about that part,” Ben said.
“Each royal unicorn glowed, showing its aura, and you had to keep going until you found one that matched you, right?”
“That’s right,” Bella said. She, Ben, and Glimmer continued walking through the cropped grass toward the lake. “I was getting so scared that none of the unicorns would turn purple. Then I stepped in front of Glimmer, and it was so magical. She changed from white to purple in seconds!” “That is so cool! I can’t wait until I’m old enough to help during a Pairing Ceremony.” Ben got a faraway look in his eyes, as if he was picturing himself in Frederick’s place.
“I felt this instant bond with Glimmer,” Bella said. She reached up a hand and patted the unicorn’s neck as they walked. “I’d been dreaming about my eighth birthday my entire life, and Glimmer has made me so happy.”
Glimmer snorted and bobbed her head.
“I think she’s happy too,” Ben said.
Bella, Ben, and Glimmer reached the lake. A spell had been cast on the deep water so it was clear enough that the bottom of the lake was visible. Bella and Ben led Glimmer to the lake’s edge and halted her. Glimmer watched Ben and Bella peer into the water, then turned her own gaze to the lake water.
“Ooh, look!” Bella said. “See those spiky blue fish?” A school of electric-blue fish covered in spikes swam near the water’s edge.
“Yeah! Look over there,” Ben said, pointing. “There’s a huge dog fish at the bottom of the lake.”
Bella’s eyes followed Ben’s finger. It took a moment before she spotted the dog fish. The white fish had dozens of black spots and barely moved as it crawled along the lake’s bottom. It had floppy ears that covered its gills, and instead of a fish mouth it had a dog’s snout. Dog fish were important to
lake life—they ate all the dirty algae and helped keep the water clean. Dog fish reminded Bella of vacuum cleaners.
Glimmer pulled on the rainbow line, stretching her neck toward the lake. Ben nodded his okay, and Bella let Glimmer lower her head and take a few sips of water.
“Want to try taking Glimmer for a ride tomorrow?” Ben asked.
“Really? Do you think I’m ready?” Bella asked. She clasped her hands together and tried very hard not to jump up and down.
“Definitely!” Ben said. “I think you guys are ready.”
“Yaaay!” Bella cheered. Glimmer lifted her head from the lake, and water dripped off her chin whiskers. Giggling, Bella hugged her neck. “Silly girl. We get to go riding tomorrow! Our very first ride together.”
“My friends Clara and Ivy are coming over tomorrow,” Bella said to Ben. “They’ll be so excited to see me ride Glimmer for the first time.”
The trio stayed by the lake for a few more moments before starting the walk back to the royal stables. For the rest of the day, all Bella could think about was riding. It felt like her birthday all over again!