Chronicles of the Shadow Princess I - Truth and Lies: Part Three
The tiny shadow Lupe looked round, abandoning her knight figurine and the giant Skeith plushie he was battling. She searched for the source of her mother’s voice.
“Dawn? I need to show you something.”
Her mother opened the door to Dawn’s bedroom. She looked very excited. Dawn dropped the Skeith plushie and rushed over to her mother, giving her a big hug.
“What is it, Mommy?”
“Honey,” Aura said with a smile. “Look outside, dear.”
Dawn, puzzled, ran to the window and peeked outside. Her vision was obscured by great, fat snowflakes continuously falling from the clouded skies. It was snowing heavily. She squealed in delight.
“Come on, Dawn. Let’s go outside and see the beautiful snow better,” her mother said, taking her by the hand.
Dawn’s heart skipped a beat as she followed Lady at the fastest gait possible without breaking into a run. The Peophin was remarkably swift for having a large tail instead of hind feet. Had her father had an accident? Had his illness taken a turn for the worse?
“What’s happening, Lady?” Dawn gasped through a stitch in her side as they dashed down the stairway. Shade clung around Dawn’s neck for dear life.
“I can’t say,” Lady responded. “Evra just told me to hurry and get you. She said your father needed to see you as fast as possible.”
They took the final hallway at a flat-out run. They slowed only when they came to her father’s chamber and they paused to catch their breath. Once they had stopped panting, Dawn knocked.
The red Ixi doctor glanced outside at the shadow Lupe and the starry Uni. She gazed particularly hard at Lady. The Peophin nodded, and hurried away, back towards the servants’ quarters. Obviously, she wasn’t wanted in the conversation.
“Come in, Dawn. His highness has needed to speak privately,” Evra said, slightly grave, yet confused.
“Exactly what I was wondering, Miss,” the Ixi said, her puzzlement more pronounced. “He told me it was urgent, so I asked the first person to come by to go and fetch you. I shall wait outside while you speak with him.”
Evra pulled the door open and trod out into the corridor behind Dawn while Dawn entered her father’s room. The door closed silently behind her and she looked across the room at King Frederic. He was coughing hard, and Dawn noticed a slight wheeze in his voice that hadn’t been there when she had visited him last. She waited patiently for her father to contain his hacking cough. He looked up and smiled wearily at his daughter. He seemed very calm for someone who needed to send such an urgent message.
“Daughter Dawn,” he rasped. “Come sit down. I wish to talk with you.”
Dawn obliged, sitting in the wooden chair that was normally occupied by Evra.
“Is there something wrong, Father?”
“No, no, no,” he said casually. “I just wanted a chat with my good daughter.”
Dawn couldn’t help but feel slightly annoyed by this. “Nova told me that you had an urgent message. You worried me to no end and all you wanted to do was talk?”
“My apologies, dear,” he said sadly. “I wanted to hurry and see you. Usually, at this time of day, the servants are all busy. I really needed to talk with you.”
“Father,” she said, irate, “I thought you had gotten hurt or something!”
“Again, I present my apologies,” he said, looking concerned, but not because he had worried her. “Come now.”
Dawn settled down a bit, though she was still scowling.
“Now, I’m sure you know what today is,” he said gravely. “The anniversary of your dear mother’s disappearance on that wretched ship.”
Dawn’s mouth clenched at these words, feeling a push at the back of her throat.
“Why do you need to speak to me about that?” she asked, sounding slightly rude. She shifted uneasily in her seat. She did not really want to speak to the king about the day her mother died.
“My daughter,” he said gently. “There is no one on the face of Neopia who misses Aura as much as I do. I know the hardships you’ve been going through, especially since you are in adolescence. But you must know that you and I share the same burden. I strive to be a good leader to my kingdom, but I do so with a heavy heart and an ailing body. It is harder to do every year. And it is especially hard on this day. You know so little about it. Now, I heard something about Karalee-”
“She wanted to have a ball today,” Dawn blurted out. “She wanted to have a ball on the anniversary of Mother’s death.”
“Really?” Frederic asked. “Well, she most likely didn’t know of the significance of the date.”
“But she was so snobby about it, Father,” Dawn exclaimed. “She said that I needed to get over it! She doesn’t care at all that Mother died today!”
“Dawn,” he said weakly. “Please-”
“No, Father! I can’t stand her. She thinks she is above everyone here. She acts so superior to everyone, as if rules the kingdom! I know she picked today on purpose, just to make me feel horrible.”
“Dawn,” Frederic, said sternly, and she stopped, looking guilty. She knew her father wasn’t exactly fond of Karalee, but she was still family, and she was related to Aura.
In fact, that was the main reason that her father had invited the royal Usul to live at the castle. That, and he said that Dawn needed a young pet in the royal bloodline to play with her instead of the daughter of the head chef, Lady, and the daughter of the seamstress, Nova. But since their interests varied so radically, they rarely played much together. While Dawn had always been interested in playing things about being a brave spy who rescued the kingdom that had been taken over by the evil Great Grarrl Shadow Thief, Karalee had always been interested in playing beauty parlor, dressing up Berra, her horrid pink Kadoatie, or pretending she was a queen leading her royal subjects- who had been mostly comprised of plushies and dolls... and Dawn. They just didn’t work as playmates. Also came in the fact that Dawn had been six and Karalee had been nine.
“I’m sorry, Father,” Dawn said softly. “I was out of line for speaking about Karalee like that. But sometimes, it does seem like she goes out of her way to make it difficult for people.”
“Absurd,” the king said with a small chuckle. “She does that because she knows you aren’t fond of her. She probably feels uncomfortable here. What with her father gone at such an early age. Died suddenly just before the young lady was born. And her mother who left with her two sisters. Went off, leaving the child in the care of her brother. Poor creature she was. Grief had consumed her. The child probably reminded her too much of her lost husband. Then young Karalee’s uncle died mysteriously just a few months after your mother.... Well, that’s why I took her in. The poor child had nowhere else to go. The only thing she had left of her past life were letters sent from a childhood friend nicknamed Lance, as she told me.”
“Really?” Dawn asked, shocked. She had never known that much about her cousin. But, it truly seemed that she had a worse past than her own. No wonder she had told Dawn to get over her mother’s death. She acted perfectly fine, and Karalee had lost more family members than she had. But, she had never known her parents properly. Dawn had loved her mother so much, so it was more painful to have lost her. She paused. “Who’s Lance?”
“I don’t know his true name. He sounds a little older than Karalee, and he usually sends a letter every couple of months,” Frederic said. He cleared his throat. “I believe he is her only true friend.”
Dawn felt a pang of guilt. She had never truly been kind to Karalee, but still, the Usul treated her dreadfully. It was hard to like her.
He continued, “Anyway, that is the reason why I had brought her here to live in the castle. She needed to stay with family, not just some maids who hardly knew her.”
“They would have known her better than we did,” Dawn pointed out.
“Yes, but I didn’t want her to live without knowing anybody from her family. And the only family she had that was reachable was us.”
“Anyways, she was so confused and shy when she came to us. She was afraid. The loss of her uncle seemed to be a blow to her. It seemed as though he had become a replacement father. She cried and kept holding that Kadoatie of hers. Apparently, it had been a gift from her uncle, and she said that it reminded her of him. I don’t recall what he looked like. I think he was a Gelert of some kind. Funny how a pink Kadoatie reminds her of a Gelert.”
“Well,” Dawn said slowly. “Shade reminds me of Mother.”
Shade had been her gift from Aura on her sixth birthday, just a couple months before her father told her the horrible news.
“Ah. Yes. That. Well, that brings us back onto the subject I was trying to talk about,” he said, shifting uneasily in his bed. He looked very uncomfortable, as if he had been avoiding it for the whole conversation. “About your mother. I need to tell you the truth about something.”
“The truth?” Dawn asked, confused. “What?”
Frederic sighed and shifted again. He looked very upset.
“Your.... mother... How do I say this? It is very hard to bring up. I know that you will be very unhappy with me, Dawn. But you need to know. You need to know.”
“Know what?” Dawn asked, getting impatient.
Her father looked pained as he searched for the words to say. Minutes passed. He closed his eyes and sighed once more.
“Your mother is alive.”
To be continued...