Chronicles of the Shadow Princess I - Truth and Lies: Part One
The sun shone bright and the skies were clear but for a couple big fluffy clouds. It was a nice warm day and the green grass was cool to the feet. The flowers of the castle garden were in bloom and they were in every color imaginable. Tall pine trees gave the warm summer air a fresh scent, mixed in with the sweet aroma of the flowers.
A tiny, young shadow Lupe, only four years old, ran through the grass, looking back and forth. Her yellow eyes were full of enthusiasm and excitement.
“I’m gonna find you, Momma,” she called, looking behind one of the twisting topiaries.
A tall, thin, elegant silver Lupess in a beautiful, yet simple, long purple gown was hiding, crouched behind a large Red Holly Bush. She held a paw over her mouth to keep her from giggling as the little shadow Lupe ran closer to her hiding spot. The tiny Lupe stopped in front of the holly bush and smiled. She jumped behind the bush and landed in front of the silver Lupe.
“Aha! I found you, Momma,” she cried with glee. She started laughing and the tall Lupess began to laugh, too.
They had fun for hours, just running to and fro in the immense castle garden. As the sun began to sink, the both of them were lying in the grass, looking at the sky. They pointed out the shapes of clouds to each other.
“Lookit that one,” the little shadow Lupe yelled excitedly, pointing at the cottony puff in the pinkish orange sky. “It looks like a Gallion!”
“Yes it does,” her mother said, smiling. She knew the little shadow Lupe’s favorite petpet was a Gallion. “And that one looks like a Ukali.”
“Momma, why doesn’t Dad come out to play a lot?”
“Because your Dad had a lot to do in the castle, sweetie. And he’s not feeling too well,” her mother replied with a sigh. She got to her feet. The little Lupe followed, knowing it was time to go back inside.
“I hope that we can always play, Momma. It’s so much fun. Especially when it’s in the snow,” the little Lupe said as they headed back to the castle doors. Winter was both she and her mother’s favorite season.
“It sure is. You look just like a princess during the winter, Dawn.”
Dawn smiled and clasped her mother’s paw as they left the garden.
Eleven Years Later...
The sun rose bright and early on the crisp fall morning. A layer of frost covered the grass and the wilted flowers. A few snowflakes whizzed through the air in a flurry, but none touched the ground. The slight breeze swept away each flake seconds before it landed.
The castle was silent. It was early morning, as the sun had just risen, but one of its inhabitants was already awake. In fact, she had been awake for hours. A shadow Lupess was sitting on a balcony overlooking the castle grounds. She had been standing there ever since she awoke at three. The cold didn’t bother her much, as her thick black fur kept her warm. Over her was a midnight blue cloak with a purple fringe and a hood. She often wore it, unless she attended a special dinner. But there hadn’t been any special dinners for months. Around her neck was a silver necklace with a sapphire hanging from the center.
The cold around her was hardly anything compared to the icy loneliness that guarded her heart. There was little fun left in her life, and her once dazzling eyes were filled with a crushed hope. She watched the lightly clouded sky become gradually lighter and sighed, finally moving. The sight of snow was beautiful, but it saddened her to no end. She wished her mother were here. But the wish had no chance.
Her father told her many years ago, when she was only six, that her mother, Aura, had died on a ship crossing one of Neopia’s oceans. Snow had been her mother’s favorite weather, and the first time it had snowed since her mother’s death, she had not been glad. She had cried.
A single teardrop slid from one vibrant blue eye and she wiped it away. After the funeral her father had set up for her mother, she had never cried again, and refused to do so now. She had to remain strong. Crying was for the weak, and weak was one thing she was not.
With another sigh, she turned and returned to her warm room. Her bed was neat and made. She did not leave any mess for the castle maids to clean up. That was another thing about her. She was not dependent. A small, dark creature crept up to her, but it was only her black Gallion, Shade. She bent down and scratched him behind the horns. His orange eyes brightened and he climbed up to her shoulder and hid behind her hood, his favorite place to sit. She gave a small smile to him and exited her room.
Closing the door, she turned and nearly collided with a starry Uni who was carrying a basket of fresh sheets. She dropped them accidentally, surprised to see the Lupess awake.
“Begging your pardon, Princess- I mean... Miss Dawn,” the Uni apologized, picking up the sheets she had dropped. “Wasn’t expecting you to be up so early in the morn. Are you feeling well? You’re not sick, are you?”
“Allow me,” Dawn said, kneeling down to help the Uni gather the clean sheets again. “And yes, Nova, I’m fine. I was just... thinking and... watching the snow flurry.”
Dawn’s jaw grew tight at the end of her sentence. Nova noticed, and her worried expression became softer and more sympathetic as she understood.
“Ah, I see, Miss. I’m sorry,” she said as the last of the sheets were placed back in the basket.
“There’s no reason to be, Nova. Don’t apologize,” Dawn said in a monotone voice, handing the starry Uni the basket of sheets.
“Of course, Miss,” she said, accepting the basket and curtsying, before walking again down the hall.
Dawn continued in the opposite direction and came to a long staircase leading down to the dining room and the kitchens. Instead of going through the door to the dining room, she entered the kitchen instead. Even though the kitchen was huge, few cooks were actually up and at work at the early time. A purple Peophin was one of the few. She was working next to a blue Hissi.
“Hello, Lady. Derek,” she said to the both of them.
“Oh, hello, Dawn,” Lady, the purple Peophin replied. She was one of Dawn’s closest friends at the castle, and didn’t bother with all the polite ‘Miss’ nonsense.
“Good day, Miss Dawn,” Derek, the Hissi, said with a tad more courtesy.
No one objected as Shade poked his head out from behind Dawn’s hood and crawled onto a table towards a plate of sausages. According to everyone at the castle, he was as important as his owner. He nibbled on the end of a sausage. Finding it to his liking, he pulled it off the plate and devoured it. He licked his lips appreciatively.
“I heard that his Highness was already up, requesting something to eat,” Derek said, mentioning a touchy subject. He began to tip some bacon into a pan. “Rather unusual of him, since his Highness has been so tired lately.”
Dawn grabbed a sausage omelette from a stack and tore a hunk off of it. She tended to use less etiquette when she wasn’t around her father. The thought of her father made her suddenly sadder, wearier, and grumpier all at once. She moodily chewed her food with a little more vigor than necessary and grabbed Shade, pulling him away from the stack of breakfast meats. He sulked, but once again took his place behind her hood.
“I’d better go visit Father, now that you mention him,” Dawn replied in the same monotone voice she had used with Nova. She waved her paws as Derek made to gather dishes and cutlery, trying to stop him. “Don’t worry. I’ll give him his breakfast,” she said as Derek returned to his spot by the stove.
She placed pancakes, toast, and sausage –which Shade eyed from his hiding place in her hood- on plates, and set them on a tray with a glass of orange juice. She waved goodbye to Lady and Derek as she left the kitchen with the food in hand. She trudged down the hallway as if she were going to a funeral instead of visiting her father. Once, she nearly tripped over her cousin’s snooty, stuck-up pink Kadoatie, Berra. Berra yowled loudly and hissed. It seemed to despise Dawn. It ran off in the direction of her cousin’s room. Her cousin was a female royal Usul named Karalee.
She wasn’t so great in Dawn’s opinion, and she was so dramatically unlike the shadow Lupess. She was prissy and cared deeply about her looks and reputation. She was kind to her, but superficial and a tad overemotional. She was okay, but she was the kind who could really get on you nerves. She was three years older than Dawn, but she often didn’t act her age.
She passed the empty throne room. The glorious golden and silver chair that sat in there still gleamed, though serving no other purpose than to be looked at. She continued on and came to the end of the corridor, approaching a large door made of mahogany. She awkwardly held the tray with one paw and rapped on the door with the other. In a few moments, she heard hurried footsteps behind the door. It creaked open, and a red Ixi peered out.
“Oh. Miss Dawn. It’s you. Come in,” the Ixi said, opening the door wider.
“Hello, Evra,” Dawn said wearily. Evra was the doctor who used to live close by. But after the past two years, she had come to live at the castle. “How is he?”
“Today’s a good day,” Evra replied with a small smile. “He’s acting how he typically does. Oh, but please don’t tell your father I said that.”
She moved out of the way so that Dawn could come in. It was a very large room with a bed to match its vastness. But for a room so big and full of warmth, it was lonely. Behind the bed was a large portrait of a stately looking shadow Lupe with a silver sword drawn at his side. A tiny golden plaque was beneath it. It read: His Excellency, King Lawrence Everard II. He had been Dawn’s grandfather.
Nodding off in the huge bed was a brown Lupe. He wasn’t all that old at all, but he had some grey flecks in his chocolate colored fur, and wrinkles around his eyes and mouth seemed to age him so that he seemed ancient. She slowly approached him with the tray of food. He jerked awake when he heard the tray hit the table. He spotted his daughter and looked surprised.
“Daughter Dawn,” he said with a yawn. “You don’t usually come down here to bring me my breakfast. Are all the servants busy? Don’t worry. I’ll tell them off for bothering you with such petty tasks.”
“Father,” Dawn replied, slightly irate. “None of the servants asked me. I told them I’d bring down your breakfast. Am I not allowed to do things myself?”
Her father just shook his head with a sigh, as if she amused him in some way.
“Little Dawn, you’re a princess. Why must you act as though you’re a maid?”
“What? I can’t be independent? I don’t like others babying me, Father,” Dawn replied, putting the tray of breakfast on her father’s lap. Her father just chuckled, still shaking his head.
“You’re different, Dawn. I tell you.”
A tap came from the door. Evra hurried to it, checked to see who it was and opened it. Nova came in, holding her considerably emptier basket of sheets and blankets. She curtsied, more to Dawn’s father than the shadow Lupess. Dawn had insisted for the maids and servants to not do it to her.
“King Frederic,” she said after curtsying, coming up to his bed and noticing Dawn. “Begging your pardon if I have interrupted, sir. Here is the fine down quilt you requested, sir.”
She whipped out a soft, luxurious purple quilt filled with the down from the castle’s Gobblers. She threw it across the bed.
“Ah, yes,” Frederic Everard said with the same ordering voice he used with the maids and servants. “Thank you. Thank you, Miss Nellie.”
“Nova,” Dawn corrected. But her father didn’t seem to hear her.
“Now, please clean the rug in the throne room if you will, Natalie,” he told the starry Uni, who had gone red. She curtsied and moved towards the door again.
“Yes, sir. Of course, your Highness. If you’ll excuse me, then.”
She closed the door behind her.
“Ah. Now where were we before Nara had come in?”
“Nova, Father,” Dawn said with a sigh. “Her name is Nova.”
“Eh? What’s the difference? She knew I was addressing her,” he said, looking confused.
“And that’s another thing, Father,” Dawn said. “You haven’t sat in your throne for about eighteen months now. Why do you constantly ask for them to polish the gold or clean the rug, if you’re staying in bed?”
“Dignity, daughter,” Frederic said, surveying Dawn as if he was seeing her for the first time. “I haven’t forgotten how to be a king. Why should I let it grow full of dust? Though you... You seem to have forgotten how to be a princess.”
“I’m not the kind of princess you think I am, Father. I don’t like to be so stiff or ordering. I don’t like being fancy and prissy. I like being myself, Father,” Dawn said, slightly exasperated.
Frederic looked at her with a twinkle in his eye she had forgotten he had, though he looked sad as well. But he just chuckled.
“Daughter, you remind me so much of...” he trailed off, picking up a piece of toast and buttering it.
Dawn closed the door behind her quietly, leaving her father to eat his breakfast under the watch of Evra. She wondered what her father was going to say. Who did she remind him of? Somehow, she had an idea.
To be continued...