Chronicles of the Shadow Princess I - Truth and Lies: Part Four
A young, dazzling shadow Lupess struggled in vain against the grip of the Grarrl Shadow Thief’s supporters. An enormous, plump Darigan Grarrl teetered on the golden and silver throne that was barely big enough to bear him. His large, crooked teeth were bared in a sneer. He laughed evilly, the sound ringing in the throne room.
“The Great Grarrl Shadow Thief sits in the stolen throne and looks smugly at the Dawn the Night Spy lying helpless on the floor before him surrounded by his many wretched followers.
“She is worn out from fighting against his hundreds of evil henchman. Holding her firmly by the arms are four of his most trusted grunts, one of which holds her trusty dual silver daggers. She is too exhausted to continue fighting and merely gives the evil Shadow Thief a glare. He laughs again. His grunts join in.
“‘Did you really think you could save the entire kingdom, silly girl?’ He sneers. ‘You are nothing but a mere girl who just was lucky enough to manage to slip past my guards. And now you are depleted. Alone. All alone. Your attempts were in vain. You could not defeat me. And now you are alone.’
“‘I am not alone, you fool,’ she spits contemptuously. ‘You have failed to find out my secret weapon more trusted by me than even my daggers. SHADE!’
“A tremor breaks out and the doors behind them burst open. An immense black Gallion, twice the size of the Grarrl Thief, stands in the doorframe. The grunts holding Dawn let go and scramble away as the young spy’s loyal pet charges at the evil Thief-”
“Dawn?” A voice cut in as Tallera the Faerie Gelert poked her head into Dawn’s room. She spotted the tiny Shadow Lupe sitting among plushies and a Darigan Grarrl Plushie sitting in a makeshift throne that truly was her yellow pillow. Two sticks that had been painted silver lay in the lap of a Green Kacheek Plushie. Shade, her new Gallion she had gotten a few months ago at her sixth birthday, was chewing on the tail of the Grarrl Plushie.
“Honey,” Tallera said, looking on the verge of tears. “Honey, I have bad news. I... Your mother... Your mother disappeared on a ship today. It... it got caught in a storm. Honey... There weren’t any survivors. Your mother is... gone.”
Dawn stared at Tallera, her mouth open, sapphire-blue eyes beginning to fill with tears. She was squeezing tight a Blue Techo Plushie and sniffed.
“No,” she said slowly. “You’re lying, Tally. Momma’s not gone! She’s coming home tomorrow!”
“No, honey,” Tally said miserably. “Momma’s not going to be coming home tomorrow. She’s not coming home.”
“No,” Dawn shouted, making Shade jump. She began to cry. “You’re wrong. Stop lying, Tally!”
“Oh, child,” Tally cried, pulling the now-sobbing shadow Lupe into a hug. They wept together.
The silence spiraled after Dawn heard what her father said. She stared at him, thinking she had misheard.
“Your mother is alive,” he repeated, looking agitated. Before Dawn knew it she was on her feet.
“What is this? Some sort of sick joke?”
“No, Daughter Dawn,” he said wearily. He seemed to know she’d react this way.
“Why are you joking about this, Father? Today,” she shouted, glaring at him in disbelief.
“I have already told you that I am not joking, Dawn,” he said.
“Well, then you’re lying to me! I am in no mood for playing games, Father,” she said, her voice increasing in volume.
“I am not joking, lying, or playing games, dear one.”
“You told me that she was dead,” she said, realizing something.
“Dawn,” he started pleadingly. “Let me-”
“You told me she was DEAD! You lied to me! You put me through misery about her death for nine years! How could you? You have no idea how much I’ve been forced through, and YOU LIED TO ME!”
“Please let me explain-”
“NO! YOU’VE HAD NINE YEARS TO EXPLAIN TO ME THAT MY MOTHER WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM US AND WAS NEVER GOING TO RETURN! HOW COULD YOU? HOW COULD YOU LIE TO ME ABOUT MY MOTHER’S DEATH?”
“Dawn, no one regrets more than I that you could not learn the truth,” her father said, eyes glistening. “I never wanted to lie to you. But you were too young for the truth. You wouldn’t have understood.”
“NO, WHAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND IS THAT MY FATHER LIED TO ME FOR NINE YEARS!”
“I recognize and understand your anger. You have every right to be furious with me,” he said meekly. “But let me explain to you why you had to live through that torment. Please, Dawn. Give me a chance to explain. Please. Sit.”
Panting, Dawn glared at him for several minutes before returning to her seat. She crossed her arms, still breathing heavily.
“Now,” he said, gathering his thoughts. “You will learn the truth to your mother’s... absence.”
“I want to know everything. Including,” she said, her eyes fiery, “why you lied.”
“I will tell you. But I ask of you. Please be patient. I must strive to remember all the details.
“All right. First off, your mother was a very prosperous Lupess. She was adored by many for her kindness. She refused to be the stereotypical royal. She never liked being prissy or stuck-up. It wasn’t her nature. She always put others before herself.
“I loved that about her. She never acted like anyone other than herself. She never put on makeup, or wore enormous dresses. She always saw inner beauty of everyone.
“But,” he said sadly, “when you were about three years old, we learned that there were those that were after her. They wanted us Everards out of power.”
“Why?” Dawn asked brusquely.
“We didn’t quite know. We had learned from good sources that many were planning her kidnap. Your mother was very brave. She never worried about herself. Instead, she worried about you and me. I had started to become sickly about a month after the discovery. Your mother said I worked myself too hard, trying to find solutions to keep her safe and you unaware of the danger. So, we started simple and made things gradually increase in security, so no one would notice it- at least, not right away. We hired more guards, talked to them casually, and even had a spy help us out.”
“A real spy?”
Dawn had actually gotten interested. She had always pretended to be a daring spy when she was young, and their lifestyle always fascinated her.
“You think we’d hire a fake one, Daughter?”
Dawn somewhat blushed as her father chuckled, realizing the stupidity of her question.
“No, Father,” she said looking away. “I just never knew we had hired a spy before.”
“Yes. Spies or detectives are necessities for a kingdom. No matter how loved a king and his royal family are loved, there are bound to be some who are planning- or hoping for- their demise.
“Anyways, your mother and I knew we had kept the problem at bay, but a couple years later, something very unnerving happened. We were awoken abruptly in the middle of a spring night by the sentries, who claimed that when they were changing the guard, there had been, as usual, a brief few minutes when there was no sentry at the doors. When the next guard had gotten to his post, he had discovered the door was ajar. Alarmed, he had come straight to us, woke us, and alerted us of the chance of danger. Without waking anyone else, he retrieved the rest of the guards and combed the castle as a search.
“We discovered some open doors on the ground floor of the castle, as if the intruder had been searching for something. They found about seven doors opened. Each of the rooms were untouched, however. Once we knew the intruder had left, probably because of the sound of the sentry rushing through the castle, we convinced the guards that it had been some common thief, searching for jewels. They increased security, but took our word for it. We, however, knew that it had been a very near miss. That intruder had been searching for our room. For your mother. We knew that we had come to drastic measures.”
Frederic paused and sighed, looking far more aged than he was. He lowered his head and placed his face in his hands. It was a few minutes before he sighed again and resumed.
“For months, your mother and I discussed what to do. I knew she couldn’t stay here, because then she’d be in danger. So we started planning her secret escape. I tell you, she fought me nearly every step of the way. She never wanted to leave me. To leave you. It was the hardest decision for the both of us.
“So, we made plans for your mother to visit Mystery Island. We regularly traded with the exotic land, and it was well known that your mother had always wanted to see it. We planned to the finest detail and the smallest chance of any contingency. We were ready in the summer, but your mother refused to leave until well after your birthday. She wanted to see how much you and your Gallion would get along.
“Anyways, the chance sprang up late in the year. We made haste to prepare. Your mother left on a large ship full of goods from our kingdom. She made it safely to the Island, as planned. A week she spent there. Then she started the voyage home. As planned, halfway, a small rowboat met the ship. Your mother left a large amount of money with the captain, with orders to destroy the ship and make it look like a storm hit. The captain, being a Koi, did so after your mother left and took off to Maraqua.
“An old friend of ours rowed her back to shore, somewhere a bit above Meridell. They would part once outside Meri Acres Farm. Your mother told me that she’d seek refuge in the Ice Caves inside of Terror Mountain. She sent me one last letter once she safely got to her destination. It was disguised as a letter of sympathy from the Avenhalls. Of course, that was a name that she fabricated. I managed to convince everyone that the Avenhalls were relatives located in Happy Valley whom we hadn’t seen in years. By being vague and speaking about the “family”, she assured me that she was safe and that she hoped that I wouldn’t be consumed by grief.”
Frederic hesitated and rummaged in the pockets of his robe. After a moment, he revealed a yellowed piece of parchment that was worn, but obviously cared for. He handed it to Dawn. Hand shaking, she took it and began to read.
I have recently heard of your loss and send this letter with great sympathy. Know that I hope you are not too grieved. Aura would not want you to dwell upon the past. She would want you to continue living your life happily. Also send my regards to your precious daughter, Dawn. She must be going through a very difficult time without her mother. You must reach out to her, since she will need a friend at this point. Also, in the future, you should have a talk with her about her Mother’s passing.
I also hope your malady will clear. You have been ailed for a couple of years, and I know Aura’s departure from your life will make things harder, but you must fight the illness valiantly, for your kingdom depends upon you.
The family is doing well here in Happy Valley, although I have a touch of the cold. I wish we could visit you, but I am grieved to say that would be near impossible at this time. I am also sad to say that I will probably not be able to keep in touch with you after this. I cannot explain why at this point, but again, I remind you of your duties.
My best wishes to you and your family.
Signed, Yours Truly,
Dawn stared sadly at the nine-year-old letter from her mother. She then looked at her father, unable to speak. She finally realized how much strain her father had been under.
“Your mother helped me so much with this final letter,” Fredric said. “She helped me realize that I had to keep doing my duties as king. My entire kingdom depended on me. She told me that I couldn’t throw away my responsibilities for her. Although I longed to do it.”
“And we can’t go and find her?” Dawn whispered.
“No,” Frederic murmured, anguished. “It would bring attention to her. And I do not know how many enemies are still searching, despite the rumor that she’s dead..."
To be continued...