Chronicles of the Shadow Princess I - Truth and Lies: Part Two
“Momma, you look so pretty,” exclaimed the young shadow Lupe. She smiled adoringly at her mother, who was looking at herself in a large, antique mirror. The silver Lupess named Aura smiled at her daughter and picked at her sleeve.
“Thank you, Dawn,” Aura replied. She was wearing a gorgeous dress. It was so beautiful and unique in its own simple way. It was purple with red trimmings and silver buttons.
“Why are you getting so dressed up, Momma?”
“Because there is going to be a dinner party tonight, my dear,” Aura replied. She ran a comb made of a seashell through her hair. She took a small section of it on the right side of her head and made a thin braid. She left the rest of her shiny hair flow around her shoulders.
“Ooooh! Do I get to dress up, too?”
“Of course,” Aura said with a chuckle. She rubbed her daughter’s head and they went to Dawn’s room. The four-year-old happily opened the door of her closet.
“Hmmm,” Aura said. She pulled out a petite dark blue dress that looked much like her own. It had flecks of white on it. “How about this one, sweetie?”
“I like that one lots,” Dawn replied, eyes shimmering.
Within a minute, they had the dress on and Dawn’s hair had the exact same kind of braid in her hair as her mother’s. They didn’t put any makeup on either of themselves.
“We look beautiful without trying to pretend to look like someone else,” her mother said wisely.
A knock on the door. Aura went to open it and let in an elderly Faerie Gelert. The Gelert was one of Aura’s maids and best friends.
“Why, hello, Tallera,” Aura said, giving her a quick hug. Tallera wore glasses and her wings had lost their old glow, but she was the kindest maid in the castle.
“Tally,” Dawn exclaimed, running up to the Gelert and jumping into her arms. Tallera took care of her a lot and thought of Dawn as her own granddaughter.
“Hello, little one,” Tallera chortled. She glanced between the shadow Lupe and the silver Lupess. “My, my, my. You and your mother are quite the twosome. You look so much alike.”
The tiny shadow Lupe grinned widely.
Dawn jerked her head upwards. She was in the castle library, absorbed in a book about Meridell’s war with Darigan over his magical orb. She had found it very interesting and exciting. She looked around and found Bailey, a young blue Acara who usually found talking to anyone of royalty extremely uncomfortable. When she looked at him, he went red.
“Erm... Sorry to bother you, Princess. Er, I mean... Miss... Dawn,” he said, losing his train of thought. “I... uh... I mean... Karalee –Miss Karalee... No! Lady Karalee has asked to see you in... in her room.”
Dawn looked slightly surprised. Karalee, her slightly stuck-up Royal Usul cousin, rarely wanted to speak to Dawn. Why would she call her so suddenly?
“Thanks, Bailey,” she said. He went red again by being called by his first name.
Dawn left Bailey and the library, still holding her book, and headed down the corridor towards her cousin’s room. She finally faced the door and knocked on it. A few moments later, the door was opened by a magnificent Royal Usul.
“Dawn! How pleasant. Come in,” she said, sounding falsely surprised even though she herself had requested her cousin to see her. “So that servant boy gave you the message?”
“His name is Bailey, Karalee,” Dawn said, entering her cousin’s room. It was all decorated in pink. Berra, her pink Kadoatie, was snoozing on its own fluffy frilly pillow. Frankly, it disgusted Dawn. Shade hissed quietly beneath Dawn’s hood.
“Oh, Dawn. Why do you act like the servants are equal to you? One of your status should not get to know her servants so well,” Karalee said carelessly.
“You called me for a reason, did you?”
“Hmmm? Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes,” the Usul said, getting sidetracked. “I needed your opinion on something, dear. Oh... What’s that you’ve got?”
Dawn looked at the book about Meridell’s war and handed it to Karalee. Karalee looked bored of it the instant it touched her paws. She dropped it onto the floor, as if it were something disgusting.
“Dawn, why would you read a book such as that? Books about wars and battles are for rogues, dear. You are a princess, not a rogue,” Karalee said, slightly exasperated as Dawn retrieved the book from the floor. “Now, I think it has gotten too boring around here. Much too boring. I say we plan a big ball. A party. We’d invite dozens of royals from Neopia and have a grand feast. Oh, we’d have all the servants working for weeks just to get ready. I was thinking of having it on the fifteenth...”
“No,” was all Dawn said. She didn’t like the idea at all. Especially because of the day it would be.
“What? But... But, Dawn...” her cousin said, turning to brush her violet hair. “It is such a grand idea and...”
“No,” she said, more firmly.
“Because it’s a stupid idea,” Dawn snapped, her temper beginning to get the better of her.
“Why are you so against the idea of fun? Seriously, Dawn,” Karalee said, looking back at her, half pouting, half irate.
“Having my friends work for days on end to prepare for some snooty party full of snobby nobodies is not my idea of fun, Karalee,” Dawn said coldly.
“Fancy that,” Karalee said with a laugh, setting her brush back on the lurid pink vanity. “You consider your inferior servants your friends? Dear, you need to get your priorities as a princess straight!”
“My priorities are straight! And keep out of my life, Karalee,” Dawn snarled. She got up and left, ignoring the offended look on her cousin’s face and Berra’s hateful yowl.
“No way is Karalee going to celebrate on the day of my mother’s funeral,” she whispered to herself, seething. Shade crooned, nuzzling her cheek.
Dawn found herself outside sitting alone in the garden. She was relaxing –more or less- on a marble bench. Lying open in her paws once again was the book on the war between Meridell and Darigan. She was on the second half now. She was currently reading the chapter about the rise of Lord Kass. She kept reading the same line over and over again but wasn’t absorbing it at all. Her mind was buzzing.
Flakes continued to fall; they had been falling since early morning, but barely an inch had accumulated on the grass. Shade’s nose twitched as a snowflake landed on it. He pawed at his snout and cuddled closer to Dawn’s neck. He didn’t have much fur, so he became colder more easily than his owner. The shadow Lupe absent-mindedly rubbed her Gallion on the head to calm him.
She sighed as she tried once again to read and get her mind off of things. But, once again, the try was fruitless. She reluctantly closed the book and looked at the ground, hugging her midnight blue cloak closer to her, more out of security than being cold.
Her ears twitched as she heard muffled footsteps coming closer and a shadow fell over her. She didn’t even look up.
“You really shouldn’t be out here, Miss Dawn,” came Nova’s voice. “You may catch cold.”
“I’m fine, Nova,” Dawn lied, continuing to watch the ground.
“You’re troubled, Miss. If you pardon my asking, what is it?”
Again, “Nothing, Nova. You can go inside. I’m fine.”
“Your father, his Highness, is worried about you. He wishes for me to bring you inside and have you sit in front of a fire. He is concerned,” the maid insisted gently.
“He does not.”
“Don’t say that, Miss. He truly cares about you. And he told me to give you a message.”
For the first time, Dawn looked up at the starry Uni.
“He told me to tell you that he knows how you feel. And... And that he misses her too,” Nova said, looking away. Dawn felt tears biting at the corners of her eyes. She held them back. She got up and smiled sadly.
“Thanks, Nova. Thanks,” she said. The two of them headed back to the castle.
“His Majesty is so sad lately, Miss. It seems to be making his malady worse. He is young, Miss, but since he worries so much, he loses sleep. It makes him feel so much older,” Nova said fretfully, putting a hoof on Dawn’s shoulder.
Dawn knocked on the brown door gently.
The door creaked open, and the old, friendly face of the elderly Faerie Gelert peered at her.
“Oh, it’s you, Dawn. Come in, child,” she said kindly, opening the door. The weathered, yet bright wings on her back fluttered slightly. Dawn gave her a brief hug before entering. She strode over to the bed. A green patchwork quilt handmade by Tallera was laid over it. Dawn sat down and looked up at the old Gelert.
“Child, something ails you. What is it, dear?”
“It’s everything, Tally,” Dawn confessed. Her old nanny was the only one she could be totally honest with. “Father is so ill, we’re both losing sleep, and... and Mother...”
“Oh, say no more, child,” Tallera said sadly as she sat down into a rocking chair. “I miss your mother, too. She was such a lively person. So full of life and energy. She was always positive and looked on the brighter side. This castle seems so lifeless without her. Especially since it’s drawing near her favorite season.”
“I wish she were here to see the snow. I’ve never been happy about snow since she...”
“Now, now,” the Gelert said. “Your mother was the portrait of happiness. She wouldn’t want you to feel bad, child. She’d want you to be happy. She was so good at making you smile even when you were sad.
“My, my! I remember when you were running with Lady, when the two of you were little ‘uns. You tripped over a stone in the garden and scraped your knee. Ah, well, your mother came running when she heard you sniffle. And then she would take you and pretend to be a doctor. She would have you stick out your tongue, do reflexes, and all of that. By the time she was done, the two of you were laughing so hard you forgot about the pain.”
The Gelert was reminiscing fondly, a gleam in her aged eyes.
It was the fifteenth. Karalee sulkily cancelled her plans for a ball on that day. Dawn had persisted rather loudly that she would not accept any sort of celebrations on the anniversary of her mother’s death.
“Dear, you have to get over it. I mean, it happened nine years ago. You have to get on with your life,” Karalee had said bluntly, with a touch of exasperation before promising her younger cousin she would not make plans for any sort of party.
Dawn was miserable. Though it was satisfying to yell at someone who deserved it, it hadn’t improved her mood much at all for the past few days. She had abandoned the book about Meridell and now took to staring wistfully at the garden below from the balcony of her room. She knew she was being stupid. She knew she was wasting her life on hopeless wishes and dreams, but nothing could distract her from the dreadful day and what it represented.
“Dawn! Oh, Dawn,” came a voice, accompanied by frantic rapping on her bedroom door. “Dawn! An urgent message! Hurry!”
Dawn hurried over to the door and opened it. Lady stood there panting, looking frenzied.
“Oh, Dawn! Your father, his Highness! Come quick!”
To be continued...