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.**

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