All fairy tales must begin the same way, or else they cannot truly be considered a fairy tale. Cliché as these four words may seem, but they're the true beginning to any proper story, thus we begin with:
Once upon a time...
Once upon a time, a sleeping beauty was awakened by true love's first kiss. After spending a century dreaming of the moment she would fall in love, Princess Meleprene opened her eyes to gaze into the eyes of the man who would hold her heart forever.
Theirs' was a whirlwind romance. Their first kiss took place before their actual introduction. Within three weeks, they were engaged and two weeks later, they were man and wife.
But king Gustave's and Queen Meleprene's story did not end happily ever after, for no true love story ends immediately after the wedding. Their marriage was filled with joy and laughter, and their love continued to grow with each year that passed-- and as each new daughter was placed in her bassinet. There was seven in all, two of whom were twins.
The couple had been married ten years when Meleprene decided to visit her slightly old-fashioned-but-surprisingly-yoing parents in the kingdom of Eleanor a half-day's journey from their manor in Floria. The youngest daughter, Claire, was put into the care of her father and eldest sister, Ellie. Meleprene set off with the full intention of returning by nightfall.
But it seemed that fate was not kind that day.
Not ten minutes into her departure, the caravan was beset by a ruthless band of plundering marauders.
The thieves swiftly slew all three of her guards and all but one attendant. Then fell on the lady herself with their wicked daggers, gathering all valuables, including the horses, they disappeared into the thick forest without another glance, leaving behind the bruised body of dear queen Meleprene.
The surviving attendant had fled for help almost as soon as the plunderers had left. Even so, the sun was already high in the sky, having already dried the puddles of blood lying on the forest ground, before he returned. A distraught king Gustave hoarsely ordered for his unconscious wife to be carried back to the manor.
It was nearly night time when the physician voiced out his diagnosis to the family now gathered up:"I'm sorry, the Queen could not be saved." Tears slightly ran down the faces of Ellie and Clioe, the eldest daughters. The three middle sisters- Callie, Raida and Ria-wailed loudly at the top of their lungs, while Patricia and Claire, the youngest daughters, merely looked to their father's face in confusion. King Gustave's face was disbelieving, filled with grief, shell-shocked.
Seeing that her father was in no shape to deal with anything, 10-year-old Ellie took charge. One by one, she sent her younger sisters into the sickroom to speak with their mother one last time. As each emerged from the sickroom, Ellie noticed newfound serenity in their faces, and knew that this final glimpse of their mother would prove ever valuable in the ensuing years.
It was Ellie's turn. Before stepping into her mother's room, she turned to Clioe and whispered softly,"Take the others to our room, I'll be up soon." With that she opened the door and ventured inside timidly.
The windows were closed ominously. The bed curtains were opened, and Queen Meleprene lay prone under the many blankets, her brown eyes drooping lethargically. Her luxurious hair spanned across the pillows underneath her head. Ellie stepped to the side of the bed and placed her hand inside her mother's, nearly jumping out of her skin when Meleprene's fingers squeezed her own with a slight but definite pressure. The young girl's eyes were drawn to the red stain on the bedcovers, the only indication of her mother's injury, but flew back to her mother's face when she heard her speak.
"Ellie",Meleprene began softly."Listen closely, not only to me, but to your sisters, too. It is up to you now to look after them. They'll depend on you more than ever before. You're their eldest sister; take care of them."
Ellie nodded and looked down at the bedspread, her eyes stinging. Meleprene slid one hand out from under the covers and underneath her daughter's chin, forcing her head up to meet her eyes once more.
"You will have to grow up very quickly, dear, and for this I am very sorry. But whatever happens, Take care of yourself As well. Don't be afraid to ask for help, whether from your father or Clioe, or someone else entirely. I know that you can't do it all alone, but I also know that you can do it. Most of all, please don't loose track of your dreams, for they will be your strenght."
Tears were now running freely down the faces of both the mother and the daughter. Meleprene weakly gathered another breath, setting her hand down once more. Her eyes slid shut as she rasped "I love you, honey. I'm so proud of you."
The room seemed fraught with tension as the once great lady lay back against her pillows. A grasp of air- and lady Meleprene breathed her last.
Ellie squeezed her mother's hand one last time before standing and pressing a single soft kiss upon her brow. Salty tears stained her cheeks as she walked over to the door and opened it quietly. The look in her eyes told the physician all he needed to know as she closed the door once more.
Shoulders drooping, Ellie climbed the stairs and entered her bedroom. Six pairs of eyes stared soberly back at her from her own bed. She silently plucked Claire off the bed, then positioned her on her own lap after sitting in the now-empty spot. Collectively, the Seven sisters all leaned towards each other, comforting one another in their time of grief.
In his study downstairs, king Gustave stared, unseeing, at the desk in front of him. His beloved wife...gone, stolen through the cruel intentions of dishonerable men. His daughters, left without a mother to take care of.
The mere thought of his daughters caused him to shoot upright in his chair. He hated the thought that they would be exposed to a world in which mothers were brutally murdered, leaving innocent children behind.
Gustave's fist tightened with determination. From this day forward, his daughters would be protected from any and every form of danger that may come their way. If he had to lock them inside the manor at Floria, then so be it. He never wanted them to experience the same fate as their mother. He wished never to endure such an agonizing loss ever again