There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 110,063,438 Issue: 169 | 10th day of Celebrating, Y6
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Princess of Erodaire IV: Part One


by christinetran

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The snow fell mercilessly upon the roofs of the Erodaire kingdom. It piled in heaps against walls and trunks and buried all life under it's cold hand. Trees stood tall and bare, like soldiers isolated from the warmth of homes and fires. They stretched their branches across the sky, desperately trying to shield Neopia from the falling snow, but their attempts were in vain.

     "Home sweet home..." I, a Maraquan Draik, whispered as I trudged through the thickening snow. My entire body was numb with cold, and my hands were clasped frozenly upon the edges of my pitch, black cloak. Tired and beaten from my journey, the sight of the Erodaire Castle before my eyes was a blessing.

     The towers loomed upwards, their windows staring into the depths of Neopia's gray sky. All was white and cold and bleak.

     I walked slowly through the snow, for my legs felt as if they were molded to the ground. The snow seemed to cling upon my bare feet as I lifted them to take each step. Despite the harsh weather conditions, I tried my best to walk gracefully by holding my head high and pulling my shoulders back...not a flake of snow was upon my body. I continued to walk on, eyes glued upon the tower that stood upon the Northern part of the Erodaire Castle.

     "The Northern Tower...where Sir Barick lies..." I muttered to myself and gradually approached the castle walls.

     It's been two weeks since I first started on my journey from the Summer Castle. During my trip, I became a witness to the changes in the atmosphere. I was present when the sky turned gold to white, and I saw the first snowflake of winter fall upon Neopia's soil. I had walked through forests where it rained golden brown leaves, and my bare feet felt the ground turn to ice.

     It was a lonely trip, and it was hard. Each step wavered my determination, for I feared coming home. I feared seeing my father...I did not want to see him under the ruling hand of the cruel Vevina...and I did not want to confront Sir Barick. I have read his journals... I have seen his secret thoughts and life. Our meeting would be an awkward one.

     A flake of snow fell upon my shoulder and I brushed it off before resuming my journey. Every thing felt like a burden to me now...whether it be my hateful emotions or a drop of rain...my shoulders sagged from the weight of it all. Yet...I still held my head high...I was proud of myself, and I forced myself to believe that I wasn't all that bad. I don't know whether this is vanity or self-confidence, but whatever it is, I'm positive that I inherited it from my mother.

     I missed her so much, and I could barely grasp the image of her Faerie-like face. She was a jewel of a Draik...the only one who could ever place a smile upon the King's face. I sighed, and a gust of wind echoed past, whispering in my ears while biting my exposed skin. I pulled the cloak tighter about my body and continued to walk on. The walls of the Erodaire Castle grew taller as I came closer. I took a deep breath with each step, for I was filled with fatigue. A Draik can only walk so far without became exhausted, for Draiks were made to fly...but I cannot fly. Maraquan Draiks do not have wings. Casting my eyes downward, I stopped before the gate of the Erodaire Castle's wall.

     I gently touched the frost covered gate and shivers ran down my spine when I felt its cold steel bite my pale hands. Quickly, I withdrew them. Pulling the cloak tighter about my shoulders, I morosely fell upon the snowy ground. Another gust of wind flew by, and this time, it cackled at my misfortune.

     During these times, I usually think of Rune... the fallen Nimmo I had met in the halls of the Summer Castle. I could feel him before me, behind me, and near me...but yet I couldn't see him. I was scared of him...I was scared of his ghostly presence, for I knew that I shouldn't be able to communicate with him. But I didn't want him to leave me, for he knew my mother, and he loved her like a daughter. I wanted to keep him close to me... my mother trusted him, so I shall trust him.

     But like a fool, like all fools, you ditched them because you were afraid... Rune's words had stayed with me ever since I first encountered him. Now, like the many times before, they echoed in my ears and filled me with both hope and false hope. He had always been wise, and he clearly made it known that he wanted to help me. But his wisdom could not help me now...I buried my face in my hands, but I refused to weep. Slowly, my body dropped upon the frozen ground and I pulled the cloak even tighter about my body. My eyes felt heavy, and small wisps of fog started to slide in through their corners.

     I wanted to give up... I needed to give up.

     **********

     My eyes flittered open and instantly became blinded by a bright, golden light. I sat up instantly and gazed around, but everything I saw was blurry. I had to rub my eyes slowly before I was finally able to make out the white, woollen blanket that covered me. I was lying upon a bamboo bed and nearly drowning in a pile of pillows, blankets, and plushies. At the other end of the room, opposite the bed, was a large, fireplace with an intricately designed wooden mantle. Cream rugs littered the floor in layers, and a large window had matching silk curtains. The doorway that stood nearby the window was ajar, and my eyes fell upon the elderly Pink Draik who stood before it. Her eyes were gray with age, but light clung to it's edges and gave her face a natural glow. She was wearing a sun hat despite the snowy weather, and she carried a basket of greens in her hands.

     "You're awake, I see," she said with a warm smile. I simply nodded.

     "My fire has given your cheeks some color," she chuckled slightly and placed the basket of greens on the floor. She took off her sun hat and leisurely tossed it onto the fireplace's mantle before she walked towards me. "Hello, dear, my name's Aera," she said in a motherly voice as she placed her warm hand onto my forehead. "Yup," Aera said with a nod, "you're back to normal."

     "How did you find me?" I asked softly.

     Aera smiled at this question and seated herself upon the edge of my bed. With careful fingers, she picked up a gray, round plushie from the bed. "Tillie-Toc led me to you," she cooed gently as she stroked the plushie with her finger. "And Tillie-Toc's a good rock. Yes you are, Tillie-Toc, yes you are!" Aera continued to stroke the plushie, and she giggled slightly.

     My brows creased in confusion as I listened to Aera talk to the lifeless plushie...or at least, I thought it to be lifeless.

     "Is that...is that your...Pet Rock?" I asked uneasily.

     Aera nodded and continued to stroke Tillie-Toc adoringly. "He's been my friend since forever. Found him many years ago...well, I didn't find him. He found me." Aera continued to stroke Tillie-Toc lovingly.

     "Oh, okay then," I said uncertainly as I eased myself carefully off the bed. I felt my legs tingle the moment they touched the floor, but I stood up anyhow. "Thanks for saving me from the cold," I said. "But I have to go now..."

     Aera's eyes flashed in surprise at this response and her hand laid beseechingly upon my shoulder. "Dearess, you just cannot go out into the cold like this. You'll freeze," she whispered quickly. "No, no; not under my watch. You'll stay here and leave tomorrow noon when the sun graces the lovely sky."

     "But I have to go. I'm on an errand," I said hastily and tried to remove her hand. "I'm sorry."

     "Oh, really?" Aera said carelessly as she stared at me in defiance. Her tone of voice clearly indicated that her demand will not be shaken. "An errand to where?"

     My words faltered, and I eyed Aera suspiciously before I answered. Despite her warmth and motherly actions, I still knew that I mustn't be too quick in trusting strangers.

     "To the Castle of Erodaire..." I replied and carefully watched Aera's features for any odd reaction.

     "Oh, then you must stay then, dear, stay!" Aera cried, ignorant of my watchful nature. She placed her hand upon my shoulder once more and beckoned me to sit upon the bed. "Stay then, dearess."

     "What? I cannot. I have to go, Aera."

     "But that's nonsense, for you have already reached your destination!"

     "Pardon?"

     Aera laughed at my skeptical response. "Darling, you already are in Erodaire's Castle...or at least, you are within it's castle walls."

To be continued...

 
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