The Shadow Princess
The troll spouted out from a random tree trunk, flying and smashing head-first into another tree (the convenience of battling in the woods). It scrambled to stand but, with a wave of Sera’s hand, the monster was frozen in its spot. Fear suddenly filling its giant, dark eyes, it stared at Sera as she sauntered over to it.
“Do you know who I am?” she hissed. “And yet you dare attack us?” She raised her chin and pursed her lips. “Or maybe you don’t remember. Why don’t I remind you?” She lifted the yellowed page in her clenched fist. “Dylan, the book!”
The boy was still frozen in awe, so his sister pulled it out of his backpack and opened it. Sera released the paper and let the wind fly it over to the book. Meanwhile, the few pages in the book flipped in the wind. Like a feather, the page danced down onto the book. In a magical flash of light, the page was sealed into the book.
Zach’s eyes widened, and he stumbled backward. “I-I remember!”
The expression on the troll’s face showed that he did as well.
“Your training! It's back!” Lilith cheered.
“What’s goin’ on?” Ella asked as Dylan snatched back the book.
“It’s...it’s a page!” he flipped the page from the back to the front over and over. “It’s a page from the story!”
“Now you know who I am, you going to leave?” Sera hissed, running her fingernail down the tough, calloused skin of the troll’s leg. It nodded nervously, and Sera flicked her hand once more. The troll relaxed, unfrozen, and scurried away from them, disappearing into the thickening woods.
Clutching the children with either arm around them, Sofia finally released the breath she was holding, her grasp on Ella and Dylan loosening. “Wow.”
Dylan tried to calm down his racing heartbeat, but Ella’s excitement wasn’t helping one pinch. The girl wriggled out of the messy princess’s grasp and started to dance around Sera.
“That was AMAZING!” she cheered. Sera spun around, trying to keep her eye on the dancing kid.
“Uh, thanks, kid?”
“You were all, POW!” Ella shot out an arm. “And he was all AH!” she pretended to be frozen. “I didn’t know you could control trolls!”
“I don’t...control trolls, kid,” Sera sighed. “I can control their shadows. I had Fatty fall into his shadow and come back out in the shadow made by that tree. And then I froze his shadow, so he couldn’t move.”
“A classic move I taught her in training,” Lilith scrambled up Sera’s arm and rested on her shoulder like a proud cat.
“Can you teach me?!” Ella asked energetically.
Lilith and Sera scoffed. “Not unless you’re bonded with a dragon,” the small dragon snorted.
“Come here, Ella,” Dylan’s breathing had finally reached its normal pace, and he rushed over to grab his sister by the arm. “I don’t know what just happened, it was all much too fast.”
“What just happened was we got our memories back,” Zach explained, bringing all the attention to himself as he sheathed his knife.
“YOU!” Sera snapped, shooting her hand out. Zach froze.
Or, more precisely, his shadow froze. He choked in surprise before furrowing his eyebrows in anger.
“Serafina!” he scolded. “Release my shadow this instant!”
“You think you can just WALTZ into my life like I won’t hate you?!” she yelled. Rebecca moved to stop Sera, but with a snap of the shadow girl’s fingers, even the warrior was frozen to her spot. Dylan tried to back away, but soon realized that Sera had grabbed everyone’s shadow.
“I-I remember why I visited the banished lands!” Zach defended himself as Sera stalked closer.
“Oh, you do, do you?” she chuckled.
“Yes!” Zach gasped as Sera’s fingers tickled his neck before wrapping around, ready to choke him. “I-I was going to invite you to the coronation, to my coronation!”
Sera froze, just as still as the people’s shadows she had controlled. “Your coronation?”
Zach sighed as Sera’s hands left his throat. “I’m going to be crowned king,” he explained. “I’m finally of age. And now that I have a say in the affairs of the banished lands, I wanted to free you and invite you for the coronation.”
Dylan felt the tension release, and suddenly he could move again. So could everyone else, he could tell. Ella instantly reached up for his hand, while the others shuffled away from the Akain siblings.
Sera studied her brother’s face, determining whether or not he was telling the truth. “R-Really?”
“Father never judged you fairly,” Zach said, nodding. “It wasn’t a just banishment. You are technically innocent, and deserve a chance to live with us.”
“Live...with you…” Sera breathed, emotionless. Slowly, she turned to the others. “I-I don’t know how to respond.”
“Say yes?” Zach begged, raising an eyebrow.
“No, I mean I really don’t know how to react,” Sera shrugged. “I feel like I should but…” she put both hands to her stomach. “It’s...it’s not…”
“It’s not on the page,” Dylan cut in, flipping the new page back and forth. “This page is your brother telling you about the coronation, but on the back it is just an illustration of you guys.” He held up the book to show them the neatly drawn sketch in colored pencil of Serafina attacking Zach. “It ends right at ‘You deserve a chance to live with us.’”
“Theymustrememberthisbecausethepageisbackinthebook,” Ella guessed, jumping around, still too excited to speak correctly.
“If we get the next page, we’ll know what your answer is,” Zach said.
“My brain hurts!” Sofia let her head fall into her hands.
“We’ll need to find the rest of the pages,” Dylan determined, shutting the book. “And maybe that could help us get y’all back. Ella, stand still for one sec, would ya? You’re gunna break something.”
Ella stuck out her tongue at her older brother, but obeyed, halting her jumping right beside Kyros. He looked down at her and she winced, stepping away. “How’d ya reckon we’re gunna find all of these pages, Dyl?”
“That’s a good question,” he sighed, tucking the book back into his backpack. “Sera, Zach, you said you guys were feeling weird as we got closer and closer to the page, right?”
“Me too! What am I, chopped liver?” Lilith growled, perching himself on Sera’s shoulder, who reached up and patted his head.
“You’ll be chopped dragon if you continue to misbehave,” Zach mumbled, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Watch it, pal,” Lilith growled.
“Hey, shut it you two,” Sera flicked her dragon in the side. “Let’s listen to the kid!”
“Thank you, Sera,” Dylan sighed. “There must be some sort of sensor in you that goes off when you get nearer and nearer to one of your pages. If anyone feels anything weird, please tell us, so we can look for a page that might be around.”
“So we’re just supposed to walk around Cliffhaven like metal detectors?” Ella crossed her arms.
“Not just yet,” Dylan looked around at the surrounding woods, seemingly empty now. “Who knows what other weirdos are lurking around here. Now that we’ve gotten what we were looking for, perhaps we should get back to the stables. Ella and I should go check on Granny and Grandpa, to see that they haven’t gotten suspicious.”
“Sure thing, Dylan,” Rebecca agreed. “We’ll head back to the stables.”
“Can I trust you to go back there alone?” Dylan asked.
“We’re not kids!” Sera snapped. “Go on, run back home!”
“Don’t worry,” the much kinder Sofia put her hand on Dylan’s shoulder. “We’ll stay in the stables for now, we understand. You’ve already done so much for us, and besides, your grandparents must be getting worried.”
“I like you!” Ella danced around Sofia before sticking her tongue out at Sera.
“Be nice, Ella,” Dylan took her hand. “We promise we’ll be right back for you guys.”
“Just go,” Lilith groaned, getting irritated, inspecting his claws like they were newly polished nails.
“Okay, we’ll be back soon!” Dylan tugged Ella towards the house while the others headed back to the stables.
The Princess and the Dragon
Serafina pushed her way to the front of the crowd of banished creatures, her trusted dragon perched on her shoulder like a parrot. Her teeth ground together upon the sight of a magnificent, baby blue carriage with a very familiar family crest. She recoiled back into the crowd, hoping not to be seen.
A young man stepped out of the carriage, a royal blue sash tossed over his chest. While he and Serafina looked shockingly similar, he was actually two years younger than her. His eyes scanned the crowd before clearing his voice.
"ATTENTION, RESIDENTS OF THE BANISHED LANDS!" he announced. "I WISH TO SPEAK WITH THE BANISHED PRINCESS SERAFINA!"
A whisper blew along the crowd like the wind, circling Sera. The few people, trolls, centaurs, and other creatures around her looked at her with uncertainty. She glared at them, daring them to speak.
"SERAFINA! I WANT TO SPEAK WITH YOU!" the boy said again, louder. "I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE!"
"It's Prince Zachary," Sera growled under her breath, recognizing her younger, luckier brother. She looked down and saw the shadow beneath her feet and sucked herself down into it.
She calls it traveling by shadow. She enters one shadow and exits in another. Like, say, a younger brother's shadow?
Sera rose from the ground behind her brother, his shadow rippling slightly. "To what do I owe this pleasure, brother?" she spat out the word like it was grotesque. Zach yelped and jumped into the air, spinning around in surprise.
"Zachary," a sickly smile spread across her pale face. "You came to visit me?"
"I came to give you this," Zach said once he regained his bearings. He shuffled through his pockets before pulling out a small blue envelope, the same shade as his suit and carriage.
"Gee, ya like blue?" Sera asked sarcastically, snatching the envelope from his hands. "To Serafina Akain, from the royal family?" she read.
"I am finally of age to become king of Resembia," Zach explained.
Sera's eyebrows furrowed as her face fell into a scowl. With a simple tightening of her fist at her side, she froze Zach's shadow, making him immobile. Yet another skill taught to her by Lilith.
"You dare take the throne?" she hissed dangerously, stalking closer to her brother. "I'm the elder, the crown is rightfully mine!"
Her hands flew up to his neck, and the crowd watching them gasped. "You can't come to me after ten years and not expect this, Zachary!"
"Read the note!" Zach begged, gasping for breath as her hands tightened. "I-It's an invitation!"
Sera hesitated before releasing his throat. Lilith held up the envelope in his tiny claws, and Sera took it from him, opening it with one smooth motion. "You have been cordially invited to the coronation of Prince Zachary...." she read before trailing off, looking up at him with disbelief and anger. "What is this supposed to mean?"
Zach nodded to the envelope. "I want you to attend my coronation. I was hoping that, once I was King, I would lift your banishment."
Lilith and Sera tensed up. "And why would you want to do that?" she asked, less angry and more confused.
"Because it's not just!" Zach exclaimed. "You were just a baby when you were banished, Father wouldn't have known if you would turn out evil or not! You're...you're still innocent!"
Another whisper fell onto the ground, with many shaking heads. Sera crossed her arms and glared at them. "Seems they all disagree."
"Please say yes, Serafina," Zach insisted. "Prove to the world that your banishment was unfair! You deserve to come back! You deserve to live with us!"