Sunday, April 14, 2019

By: Lime Green Giraffe Social Director, Emily D.  

I was supposed to be the princess. The hero. The blessing. But instead, for my entire life, I’d been the drag down. The reason my friends couldn’t do something. The reason, I was sitting in bed, all alone. You see, I am cursed. Not by an enemy of my father’s, but by Fate himself. I have cancer. Not only am I bald, I am that weak, pale, sickly figure seen in commercials. “Donate now,” they say. “Help the Princess,” they say. That’s me. I am Princess Sombra, the Princess of Gailia. 
When I was a mere child, my parents had a celebration, announcing the good news of my birth. Everyone from across the kingdom was invited, including the mysterious powers; Life, Death, Time, Fate, and Love. All five attended. As was custom, all party attendees must give the child a gift. First to go was Time. His deep voice echoed throughout the great hall. 
“I grant her the gift of time wisely spent. She will be a wise and hard worker.”  
Next was Life. “I give her the gift of a long life, where she can fulfill her greatest wishes and dreams.” Her voice was high and thin. It suited her frame well. 
After her came Love. “I grant her the gift of a long and passionate romance. May it serve you well.” She smiled down at me. Her features were nearly perfect. She could be a peaceful dove or a thunderous cloud within a moment. 
Death was the fourth in line. “I grant the child the gift of a quick death, where she dies quickly and painlessly.” His voice was gruff, but fond, as he announced his intention. His face was clean-shaven, and very pale, just like the rest of his body. His hair was like a raven’s ink black with the rainbow blotted out within. 
All eyes were on Fate, the last to give his gift to me, the child. He was the youngest of the Powers and young he was. He aged slowly, so his face would stay young and bountiful for quite a while. His hair was long and almost shaggy, but it was the color of freshly harvested grain. His eyes were odd. One was blue, the color of a clear lake, but the other was the color of warm honey, a very nice amber. “I grant her not a gift, but a curse,” he said at last, his young and strong face frowning. “She will be a frail and sickly child, but she will be strong when it matters.” Then he vanished. The crowd started murmuring, quiet at first but growing louder with the moment. My mother ran to my cradle and snatched me from its grasp. Of course, I only learned all this from the stories my maids tell each other when they think I’m not listening.  
“Lady Sombra, you have a visitor,” announced Alissabeth, one of my maids. 
“Yes, yes, send them in,” I told her, waving her to the door. To my surprise, the man who stepped in was Pask, the palace deputy. “Pask? Why do you come?” I asked him, curious. 
“Your Highness, your mother has been kidnapped.”  
“WHAT!” I exclaimed, burrowing under the covers.  
“I’m sorry Princess, but it’s true. You have to be brave, for the kingdom, for your family.” 
Pask, no! I’m not a hero! I have cancer!! I’ll probably be dead by the time I’m 17!” I exclaimed, still under the sheets. Alissabeth gasped. 
“Princess Sombra Hope Levesque! How dare you talk in such a manner!” She ripped the sheets from my head, grabbed my IV free wrist and led me to the hallway.  
“Where are we going?” I asked her, a bit worried now. 
“Nowhere,” she replied. “You and I are going to have a little chat. Now, what made you think it was okay to speak like that?” Before I could reply, a loud thud came from one of the hall windows. I bolted over and twisted the cap on the window to open it. On the windowsill below, was a Sparrow with a message tied upon its leg. I reached down and grasped the still body. Luckily, it was still breathing. I untied the message and then told Alissabeth to take the bird to my room. The moment she left, I quickly unwrapped the message.  
Princess Sombra, I hope this reaches you. You are desperately needed to visit the Mountain of Whispers and find the Staff of Legends. It is an artifact needed to defeat Jok. Hurry, and do this quickly, before time runs out.  
“Who is Jok?” I wondered out loud. Our kingdom hasn’t had any threats. Or, perhaps Jok is the one who kidnapped my mother. I called for Lidy, another one of my maids.  
Lidy, please request a visit with Papa,” I asked her.  
“Of course, your Highness,” she replied. She scurried off to request an audience with my dad. Funny, how to just to talk to my parents, I had to make a formal request. 
At last, I was ushered into the throne room, IV’s and all. My father was still busy, talking with Kena, the detective assigned to my mother’s kidnapping. “Papa,” I called to him. “Papa, do you know anyone named Jok? Both my father’s and Kena’s faces paled. 
Sombra, how do you know this name?” my father demanded. I showed him the message. 
“Do you have any idea who it's from?” asked Kena. 
“Nope,” I replied. “Papa, I came to ask you for your permission to travel on the quest. I believe it will be beneficial to our kingdom.” My father drew his head back, shocked.  
Sombra, you don’t have the strength for such a quest.” 
“No. You are not to go on the quest. Lidy, please take Sombra back to her room.” 
Lidy ushered me out of the room. Once back, I sent PaskLidy, and Alissabeth out of my room. It was just the Sparrow and me. Quickly, I pulled a ribbon out of my drawer and grabbed a marker.  
To whom it may concern. How will I begin my quest? I must begin right away.  
I tied the message to the sparrow’s leg. “Mister Sparrow, please take this back to your sender.” Thank goodness all he needed were a few moments of rest. I waited. One minute, two minutes, five minutes. The Sparrow returned to my bed, perching on my bedpost. I held him in my hands as I gently untied the message from his leg.   
Princess Sombra, disguise yourself as a poor and weary traveler. Visit McGuckin’s inn, where you will meet a friend of mine, Reglin Santi. He will get you started. I will help you once you need me.  
I reached under my bed for a secret trunk. Inside was a brown cloak, a ragged ivory tunic, and a worn pair of sandals. I reached for the doorknob, but froze. Knowing Pask, he’d still be waiting outside my room. I reached for my IV. It would be hard to travel with this, but my brother had made a way for me to be free of it just before he died. I unhooked the IV from my forearm. I grabbed the pills instead and jumped out the window. 

**Chapter 2- Miss Artichoke Meets Mr. Reglin and the Gang.**

By Lime Green Giraffe Social Director, Emily D.  
Part II: Miss Artichoke Meets Mr. Reglin and the Gang 

Mind you when I jumped out of the window, I was only on the first floor. I fell only a couple of feet. I fled out of the gardens and into the street. The town was hustling and bustling and so it was quite a hassle to make it to the inn. I ran through the door and slammed it shut, breathing in gasps. I walked over to the check-in desk.  
“Hello? I am here to meet a Mr. Reglin. Is he here?” I asked the girl behind the counter.  
“I do not know if I’ve seen him,” she replied. She was short, with a dark tan and black hair. Her eyes were sea green, like, well, the sea. A voice from behind startled me. 
“I am Mr. ReglinReglin Santi. And you are?” 
I turned to face him. He was rather tall with a clean-shaven face. His hair was messy and unruly, black as midnight. His face was pale but his eyes were the most startling. They were yellow. I had never heard of any person with yellow eyes before. “Um, hello Mr. Reglin. I am Miss Artichoke, Shadow Artichoke. May we have a private chat in those chairs?” I asked him, doing my best to sound like my mother would.  
“Of course, Miss Artichoke.” I led him to a pair of tawny leather chairs, over in a corner. 
“Now, Mr. Reglin, I was told you were able to help me on a quest?” I asked. 
“Yes. Sombra, let me introduce myself properly. I am War, son of Death. My father sent me to help you on this quest.” I stared at him, mouth agape. 
“You mean to tell me that you’re one of death’s sons?” I stammered. “May I still call you Reglin? To keep your identity safe?” 
“Of course. And I will keep calling you Miss Artichoke then, for the same reason. Now then. In my briefcase, I have a new disguise. It contains a red wig, blue contacts, an ivory dress and some makeup. You are to put it all on and travel over the mountains. I will travel with you and do my best to protect you,” he said, handing me his briefcase. I walked to the restroom and changed outfits. I put on the wig, the contacts, and applied the makeup. I studied myself in the mirror.  
“Hmmm. I look different. Perfect!” I exclaimed. I proceeded to walk out and meet Mr. Reglin 
“You look nice,” he said. We walked out of the hotel together and headed out to find a transportation device. We discussed along the way what to get. 
“A car would be nice. We could carry everything that way,” I said. 
“Well, yes, but we’re going through the mountains. Do you expect a car to last long through those extremes? I say we walk.” 
After some more discussion, we finally settled on two horses and a pack mule. My horse was a palomino mare named Cress, while Mr. Reglin had a black gelding named Thorne. It was very fitting for him. We loaded my travel equipment and my pills onto the mule. Her name was Ruby. She was very shy and gentle, a trait rarely seen in mules. We set off, on a path only Fate himself could have designed. 
We traveled the mountains for a few days. One day, we ran into a bear. The next, it was a group of rabid raccoons. Next, it was an angry fish! On day five, we were very tired and weary. We found a perfect spot to pitch a tent. It was next to a sparkling blue lake, surrounded by pine trees. The ground was level and flat, perfect for camping. The mountains loomed around us like a cage, except we knew we were free. The next morning, I awoke before Reglin. I sniffed the air. Something wasn’t right. Off in the distance, a cloud of smoke grew up into the sky. I burst into Reglin’s tent. 
Reglin! Wake up! There’s something you need to see!!” Reglin shot up out of bed, his hair messy, and his once clean-shaven face now with a stubble. 
“Miss Artichoke! What is it?” I led him outside. 
“See? That shouldn’t be there. I bet someone’s following us.” 
“Princess, did you take your pills this morning? Because you are jumping to conclusions faster than a racehorse speeds from the gates.”  
“Oh yeah? Then explain it!” 
“Fine then! Follow me!” He led me on a trail, winding around the lake and into the forest. Soon, we came across a petite cottage. It seemed to be made of cedar, with a small porch and a red roof. Reglin led me to the door and knocked. No one answered. He knocked again. Still, the cottage remained silent. “Harmony, Grave, Cheer, open up! I know you’re in there! This is War and Sombra!” Finally, the door slowly creaked open. We were greeted by a small blonde girl, her face dotted with freckles and her blue eyes shining. 
You’re here! Finally!” she exclaimed. She threw open the door. “Harmony, come greet the guests!” She skipped back into the house. 
“That’s Cheer.” Reglin said, stepping inside. Soon, a teenager, probably 19, came into the sitting room and offered us tea. 
“Hello War, hello Sombra,” she greeted us. “I am Harmony, daughter of Life, and War’s cousin.” She glared at Reglin. “Your brother is acting like a nincompoop!” 
A second teenager, this one around my age, walked into the room. 
“War! You’re here!” he said, sitting down on the couch. He extended his right hand to me. “M’lady, I am Grave, son of Death, cousin of Harmony, and brother of War. How do you do?” I slowly shook his hand. 
I am good, I believe.” I replied. “You have quite a group Harmony.” She opened her mouth to respond when Cheer bounded back into the room, talking a mile a minute.  
“Hello Grave! Hello War, Hello Harmony! Hi again Sombra! You look nice. Is that a new dress? Its cute on you.” She plopped down into my lap. 
“Um, hello Cheer,” I said. 
“You can call me Gracie. It sounds more real.” She replied. I was shocked. This could have been me, if Fate hadn’t been so cruel. I started braiding her nice, thick, shoulder-length hair.  
We spent the rest of the day at the cottage. When Reglin stood up to leave, Harmony pushed him back down. 
“War, you and the Princess can stay here as long as you need. We will continue on with you during your quest and help you when you need. But, please, stay the night with us. You will need a good night’s rest.”  
“Harmony, thank you for your offer” began Reglin. 
“Sure. Thanks for letting us. We’ll stay here, and you can travel with us. It’ll be great,” I interrupted, glaring at Reglin. 
We settled ourselves in our rooms. Mine was directly across the hall from Reglin’s. Harmony and Gracie shared a room and Grave stayed alone, sleeping on the couch in the living room. 
The next morning, the five of us set out to cross the next mountain range, directly on the border of Gailia and the Shadowlands. The Shadowlands were the lands beyond Gailia, where Magic, Evil, Despair, Death, and Shadow were the four beings. We had five creatures of light, including Death, who shared his time. No one could live without dying, after all. The borders between Gailia and the Shadowlands were clearly visible. One side, the Shadowlands, was darker and just, more evilGailia was still light and happy. There is a line between light and dark, night and day, evil and good that stands between Gailia and the Shadowlands- the Line of Shadows. To enter the Shadowlands, one has to cross it.  
As we continued our trek, the borders came closer and closer and closer, until we were directly upon them. Our group shared a look. None of us had ever crossed the border into the Shadowlands before. I took a deep breath and jumped, right over the Line of Shadows.
**Chapter 3 - The Shadowlands**