Princess, Daughter, Flutist
As Lord Evander wove through the corridors of the Hall of Heroes, he couldn’t help glancing out a window he passed. It was a sunny day for the kingdom of Altador, but a cool breeze blowing in kept things from getting too hot. All in all, it was a good day to get out and enjoy nature.
However, this was no time to enjoy nature.
The Council was having a very important meeting, so important that even the blue Kougra had to be there. Sure, he was Jerdana’s favorite – and only – nephew, but he didn’t understand why they had requested his presence. Then, just as the meeting was about to begin, they realized that there was still someone missing, and Evander was the one tasked to find her.
Knowing Princess Arianne, she was most probably enjoying nature, meeting or no meeting. Though she showed great potential as the heir to the throne and was clever in more ways than one, she just had to get her priorities straight. Even her younger sister Dorianne sometimes had to give her a push in the right direction.
Evander finally turned one last corner and burst through the gates that took him to the spacious back garden. As his eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight streaming down on everything – which included the Kougra – he scanned the surroundings, and in no time at all he had located the elusive white Lupe.
Arianne sat underneath a shady tree and slowly raised something long and brown to her lips. Holding it sideways, she blew, and a serene, dulcet melody filled Evander’s ears. He paused just in front of the gates, swaying in tune with the music. Even from a distance, he could see how the princess’s fingers moved almost effortlessly across the flute, and how the breeze toyed with her long blond hair ever so slightly.
As much as he wanted to call out to her and tell her about the meeting, another part of him wanted her to finish her piece first.
It was something new to him, unlike the story of Princess Arianne’s flute.
* * *
The white Lupe had always been naturally curious, even as a child.
One day, after declaring to no one in particular that she was bored despite all the toys she had, Arianne decided to go on an adventure that took her to her parents’ bedroom. She rummaged through their drawers and walked into their closets in the hopes of finding something interesting. Her search was fruitful; she managed to unearth something from the bottommost drawer.
She recognized it as a flute; a very old, worn one that had played many melodies. The wear and tear was at its worst on one end, where the mouthpiece was located. But what interested Arianne the most were the curlicues and roses painstakingly painted on the body of the flute. Though the colors were fading fast, it was still easy to imagine what the designs must have looked like, and they were still beautiful in an antique way. The Lupe traced them with her fingers, and brushed her paws on her skirt. The flute had been in the drawer for a long, long time, perhaps way before she was born...
The little princess dropped the flute at the sound of her mother’s voice, even if it didn’t sound angry at all.
“Ari, what are you doing here?” The skunk Lupe scratched her head and adjusted her tiara. But at the sight of the flute on the floor, she sighed and slowly smiled as she bent down to pick it up.
“I was bored,” was Ari’s simple alibi. “I played with all my toys already. Is that yours?”
“Yes, and I would like to know where you found it after you tell me what you were doing here. It’s not that we’re not allowing you in our room, but...” The older Lupe sighed again, taking in the opened drawers and closets. Nothing was strewn on the floor, but some clothes and other things were in quite a state of disarray after the princess rummaged through them. “Next time, if you want to look for something, ask me or your father first, all right?”
Her daughter nodded. “Yes, Mama, and I found your flute in that drawer over there.” After pointing to it, she added, “I didn’t know you played the flute.”
“I used to, but sometimes when you grow up, you need to make time for more important things, so I ended up putting it away for a long time. But maybe you’d like to learn how to play it?”
At last, something new! Princess Arianne had harp lessons, but she had never held a flute in her life.
“Oh, yes, Mama, please teach me!”
* * *
Dorothea was a princess of Brightvale. Being the youngest among nine siblings, she never stood a chance to inherit the throne. However she did manage to become queen of Altador. The skunk Lupe traveled there a few times and then met King Altador, forging a strong relationship that would lead to her becoming his queen. Rumors even spread about her being the thirteenth member of the Council of Twelve, the one who would prefer to shy away from all the publicity.
And one of Queen Dorothea’s hobbies was playing the flute, which she had almost forgotten thanks to her work helping govern the kingdom of Altador.
Now, Princess Arianne clutched the flute in both paws and raised one end to her mouth as her sister Dorianne sat on the grass, clapping eagerly. “Do it, do it, do it!” the little shadow Lupe crowed.
Dorothea laughed, patting her younger daughter on the head. “No, no, Ari can’t do it that way.” She reached out and gently corrected the way the white Lupe held the flute. “You blow into the side – into that part called the mouthpiece.”
Arianne did as she was told, and Dorianne giggled with delight, even though the tone was a little shrill because Ari had blown a bit too hard.
The queen chuckled. “Well, that’s a start. Now try covering all the holes with your fingers... yes, that’s right; then blow again.”
“Okay,” said the older princess, and once again the flute sounded, the pitch barely changing. Dori grinned, dissolved into laughter and fell over backward, staring up at the sky.
“Do it again! Do it again!” she said eagerly, sitting up. But before Ari could comply with her sibling’s wishes, Dorothea shook her head.
“Try blowing it more gently,” she suggested.
Air whooshed into the flute once more, and this time the pitch produced sounded better, but it was still a bit off.
“There, you’re getting it...”
“Really?” asked the white Lupe excitedly, trying the same note and checking the holes to make sure they were all covered.
“Yes, that’s the right note!” exclaimed Dorothea. “That’s how hard you should blow. Remember not to blow too hard, all right?”
Arianne nodded vigorously as she handed the flute back to her mother. “All right... now we want to hear you play a real song, Mama!”
“But... I haven't played for a long, long time...”
“Play for us, Mama!” Dori chimed in, jumping to her feet and nearly falling over again. “I’ll dance for you! Ari can sing the words for you too!”
The white Lupe rolled her eyes. “I’m not a good singer. But I can be a good listener!”
In the end, her daughters got to her, and Queen Dorothea delicately wiped the flute’s mouthpiece with her handkerchief before lifting it to her lips. She closed her eyes briefly, took a deep breath, and began her melody.
The shadow Lupe never got to dance; for one thing, it was a slow, ethereal tune, and she was too enthralled to do anything else besides sway in time with the music that flowed from the old flute. Arianne sighed, leaning against the tree she sat underneath and closing her eyes. In her imagination, she could see the three of them – no, four of them, including her father – in a field of flowers underneath the bright sun, accompanied by a cool breeze, laughing and smiling and playing in a world where nothing could go wrong.
* * *
But years later, something would go terribly, terribly wrong.
As Ari and Dori’s childhood friend, Evander knew all too well what had happened years later. When the Darkest Faerie struck, Queen Dorothea decided to fight back despite knowing that her extensive knowledge of magic might not be enough.
She left one day and never returned.
Almost everyone assumed she was dead, but others, like her family, believed that it was possible for her to still be alive, and that one day, she would return. Many more years had passed, and now Arianne and Dorianne were young princesses ready to take the reins when King Altador grew old and abdicated the throne.
And as for the flute, Altador had offered to have it remade into something more beautiful, but his daughters insisted on keeping it that way – with its faded paint and its worn mouthpiece. They no longer played it; they had their own flutes now, and simply kept the old one as a remembrance of the mother they once had, and would, hopefully, someday have again.
The melody stopped, and the Kougra finally walked toward the white Lupe under the tree, who held her flute – a longer, stronger version of her mother’s, and painted almost exactly the same way – and gazed skyward with intense longing in her amber eyes.
When he was close enough to hear, she said sadly, “Mama left today to try and fight the Sleeper, remember? I know it has been years, but sometimes it feels like only yesterday. I wrote a new song for her, but it isn’t really new. It’s more of a variation of the very first piece she ever played for us.”
Lord Evander remembered; he remembered it all too well. The queen was someone to be sorely missed. He knew that Dorianne felt the same way, but she choose to express it differently; the blue Kougra had seen it in Dori’s eyes when she had arrived at the meeting, talking to no one but her father and looking extremely downcast. But at least she managed to show up.
“It’s beautiful,” he said, crouching down before her and offering his paw. Arianne took it, and they stood up together. “I think she would have – I mean, I think she will like it. What are the words to it?”
The princess thought for a moment. “Oh... actually, it’s not exactly a song. There aren’t any words to it. I tried to write something down, but I couldn’t.”
“That’s all right,” said Evander, giving her a warm smile. “Music doesn’t always have to have words.”
“And sometimes, you just can’t find any words for it,” Arianne agreed. “Mama told me that once, when I was trying to write my first song when I had nothing to do. I guess I forgot about that...”
Her voice trailed away, lost in the passing breeze. The two of them were silent in the shade, Evander’s paw still in Arianne’s. It felt like an eternity and a half when Jerdana’s nephew finally broke the quietude.
“Um... I came out here to call you. The Council is having a meeting and your father and sister are already there too. But...”
“I know. Mama would have wanted me to go. She would tell me off if I missed one of those meetings, no matter how boring they are, and no matter how much I’d rather stay here,” said the Lupe, returning his smile as they started walking back to the gates. “And, you’re squeezing my paw too tight.”
Evander quickly let go. He felt his face burn as he apologized.
“Oh, I’m so sorry...”