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The Princess Calling: Part One


by puppy_girl252

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PART ONE: Royal Expectations

It has the capability to be mighty confusing at times, this thing we call life. Like how does one know, with so many paths there are to choose from, which one to take? My whole life I had been trying to live up to my name: Princess Rosellen Dellamore. Yet I always seemed to fall flat. Royal expectations in my book were far too tedious to ever succeed. Though I was a royalgirl Xweetok, I was just too inadequate for such a thing as royalty. But there is time when trials call us to rise above such expectations. Through near tragedy I'd learned just who Rosellen Dellamore truly was. I'd finally found my calling.

      ~*~*~*~*~

      Insufferable anxiousness welled in my being. Do come on, I thought, glancing once again at the ancient clock hanging on the wall. What is it? Why ever would you summon me without giving me a reason why? I sighed heavily, shifting my position. I squirmed rather nervously in my chair. Come on. Whatever is taking so long...

      I jumped as a figure appeared around the bend. My mother stood there. She regally beckoned me with a gloved paw.

      "Rosellen, come now; we've important matters to discuss."

      I did as bidden. Ignoring royal rule number 137, I bit my lip nervously. Oh, I'm in trouble, I thought dismally.

      Whatever had I done now?

      Let's see... I hadn't brought a stray petpet into the castle again. What a disaster that was! Muddy paw prints everywhere! Oh, and I hadn't slid down the spiral railing in such an awful long time... least never that they have seen me anyway. So what could they... I stifled a gasp. My goodness, could it be that they had found out that I had accidently chipped the royal statue of great, great grandfather King Leonall?

      My mother was leading me down a long hallway where paintings of former queens and kings trailed along the walls. Each one seemed to stare me down with accusing eyes.

      I hadn't meant to! I had simply found the ball on castle grounds and my curiosity got the best of me. I'd never been able to play ball in the castle before. I didn't think I would break anything... I found it rather fun actually. At least until one of my kicks resulted in a left-pawless great, great grandfather Leonall...

      "Rosellen?"

      I nearly jumped out of my fur. I looked up to find Mother staring at me, the royal Xweetok cocking her brow.

      "You spoke, Mother?" I asked, prim as I could when my nerves rattled so.

      Mother continued to look at me. "Yes, my dear. I simply asked why you were staring off at the painting of great grandmother Louisa like so."

      "Was I staring?" I asked, feigning guilt. "Do forgive me, Mother. I fear I'm feeling poorly."

      Mother's eyes widened. "Are you ill, Rosellen?"

      No, I thought, but I do wish I was. Illness would bid me to my bedchamber, and I would be excused from the chastisement of my life...

      I realized that Mother was staring at me oddly again, and I shook my head. "No, Mother," I said, gathering breath for a sigh. Also gathering courage for what may lie ahead. "I am fine. Might we carry on? You said you and Father required a meeting with me."

      "Yes, my dear," my mother said. "Do follow me." So I carried my guilty self to the room where Mother had seated herself next to Father at the table, and a small seat of red satin awaited me in front of them. Duly, I seated myself and fixed my eyes on them. Under the table, I kicked my feet in uneasiness.

      "Rosellen." My father, King Vermont, nodded at me. I bowed my head in return.

      "Father," I answered judiciously. I could hardly bear to look him in the eye. My father was the most inexorable king in all of Neopia when it came to decorum. Or so it seemed to me. "You demanded my presence?" I asked casually, fiddling with a stray purple curl on the side of my cheek.

      "Yes, Rosellen," my father said. The king Xweetok bent over the table a bit and eyed me. "Your mother and I have important matters to behold with you."

      Oh my. Here it comes. I gathered all the strength and will I could muster, finally being able to meet my father's steel-gray eyes.

      "Rosellen," he continued in his booming, power-filled voice. "I understand that you've been reckless in your demeanor as of late. You aren't nearly as heedless as you were when you were younger, but I fear that you do not uphold your princess duties with all due importance."

      "What are you suggesting, Father?" My heart was pounding hard against my ribs.

      Father's bushy eyebrows settled in a V-shaped slant over his eyes. "Rosellen, you should know what I mean. Since you could toddle you've been a willful Xweetok; it's time you harness some of your spontaneous behavior and start acting like a veritable princess."

      "Rosellen," my mother intervened before my father could proceed. "You are the future princess of Satinsand Island. You are coming of age; why, you are nearly seventeen. It is time you learned what being a princess truly is about."

      I looked from my mother to my father, then back to Mother. I was genuinely perplexed. Were they speaking of the broken statue or something extensively different?

      "Mother... Father. I fear I don't understand," I admitted sheepishly.

      "Ahh, see." My father's eyes darkened with disappointment. "She has no knowledge of her faults."

      "My faults?" I echoed quite bewilderedly.

      "Now, Rosellen," my mother said gently. "Let me simply tell you straight. We worry for your regality. We fear you are too... feckless in your ways."

      I frowned. "What is this all about? I demand to know."

      "We are sending you away."

      My father's deep voice echoed in the tiny room. Silence followed on its heel. My head was spinning. Sending me away? Sending me where? Conflicting thoughts battled in my head. They were sending me away...

      "I'm sorry, Rosellen," Mother said, casting a sidelong glance at Father. "Your father has spoken too blatantly. What he means is that we are sending you to princess school."

      Princess school. The words tumbled over and over in my head.

      "Princess school." I spoke the words aloud slowly. "Really..." I looked up at my parents. Never had I heard of such a preposterous prospect. Princess school? Such a thing existed? "You mean a place where I'd go to learn how to balance a stack of books on my head?" I wondered.

      "Now, Rosellen," Mother said chidingly. "You know being a princess is so much more than that. Why, being a princess consists of nobility and honor, stability and authority for the domain of which you reign willingly."

      "And discipline," my father added rather brusquely. "Discipline and regulation. A princess cannot be imprudent in her ways, Rosellen."

      "So you're sending me way." The idea still rankled me.

      "Rosellen, we fear it is the only way." I looked up to see the wariness in Mother's eyes. She doubted my ability to be a real royal. Both her and my father. Well, I'd prove them wrong. I could be a princess. I would be a princess. I hadn't a choice, really.

      "When will I leave?" I asked coolly, pretending as if it weren't a tremendous deal. Though inside I was wavering between screaming and crying.

      "Right away," was my father's reply. "Tomorrow morning will suffice, I respect."

      "What?" I practically yelled. "Tomorrow morning? Well that's hardly enough time to prepare," I argued.

      "Rosellen, it isn't fitting to raise your voice as so." My father frowned deeply. "And yes, we feel the sooner, the better. The program begins in two days' time. You must arrive early in order to sufficiently settle in."

      "We only want what's best for you, Rosellen," my mother added softly.

      I stared at them dumbly. I was to be shipped away to princess school on a whim. Like a meal not fit for the royal table that is sentenced back to the kitchen under the bidding of mere words. Goodness, must they be worried sickly of my regality. Well, I sure hoped they weren't making a huge mistake of matters. As unprincess as it may sound, I had always desired to say the words "I told you so".

      ~*~

      My maids helped me pack my suitcases, all I would need for the trip. They seemed sad to see me go. Who would sneak them desserts from the kitchen or tell them forbidden jokes in my absence? I was sorry to say goodbye to them as well. They insisted I needed no such insanity as 'princess proper decorum school' and that my behavior was most fun and delightful.

      The program was held in Greenvelle, which is, aside from Brightvale, the most noble and high-class reign in all of Neopia. Perhaps only because the castle is most exquisite and the king most wise—even wiser than King Hagan. So I've heard, anyway.

      My journey began when Mother and Father's assigned escort, Lucas, a giant white Eyrie, flew me over the shimmering sea from the little island of Satinsand to the vast and verdant country of Greenvelle. I must admit the name sure served its country well. Fields rolled across the land, clothed in flowers of various colors. I nearly gasped when I saw the castle. It stood tall and shining, at least three times the size of that in Satinsand.

      Lucas dropped me off at the front, bidding me farewell and good luck before soaring away, and I suddenly found myself alone and quite unsure of what to do next. Well, I could always turn tail and run in the opposite direction. I laughed aloud at that thought, then chided myself, glancing around to see if anyone had heard me. Still, the idea was rather enticing. I craned my neck way back in order to gaze up to the top of the castle. Goodness, but it was huge. So frightening. I drew in a deep breath, looking around. I spotted two Shoyru guards by the palace gate. They stood erect and carried spears in their hands. Mustering courage, I strode over to them.

      "Good evening, gentlemen," I said politely, adding a curtsy. "I am Miss Rosellen Dellamore, future princess of Satinsand Island. I find your country most delighting. My, how green it is." Nervously, I fiddled with a ruffle on my dress. "Anyhow, sorry to ramble so. But I am here for the... princess school," I finished dumbly. What a fool they must take me for, I thought. Only reckless children go to princess school.

      The purple Shoyru looked to the green one through his armor. The green Shoyru simply shrugged. "Hey, um, Marcus," he called into the gate. "We gotta girl here. Says she's here for the, uh, princess school." Footsteps echoed on the stone ground, and a guard Chomby appeared on the other side of the gate. He carried a clipboard.

      "I see," he said, eying me. "What is your name?"

      "Rosellen Dellamore," I stated duly, bestowing a curtsy. "From Satinsand Island."

      "Dellamore," the Chomby murmured, skimming his list. "Ah, yes. Here you are." He nodded at the green Shoyru. "Let her in."

      As bidden, the green Shoyru cranked the lever and the gate's iron doors lifted.

      "You've luggage, I presume, Princess Rosellen?" the Chomby asked.

      I nodded and beckoned to where my suitcases lay. The Chomby motioned for the purple Shoyru to come and help him. They carried my luggage into the castle, which I must say was rather charming inside. "Follow me, miss," the Chomby said, and he lead me to the opposite end of the castle, down the longest hallway imaginable.

      We stopped at a large, golden door. Nobody said a word or even moved.

      "Whatever happens next?" I wondered aloud, looking to the Chomby. He simply shrugged, and the Shoyru followed suit.

      Then they both left me, the nerve of them, saying how I would "hopefully" find what I was looking for on the other end of the door. I gazed at the door, where a golden sign was hung that read: "Madam Lupine's School of Proper Princess Decorum".

      My, but that was a mouthful.

      I sighed. Now what? I bent over to examine the doorknob, which was a large purple jewel. I was nearly fearful of touching it lest I leave pawprints. But however would I get in otherwise? I twisted the knob. Much to my dismay, it was locked. Well, wasn't this grand.

      I knocked. No answer. I gazed around, searching for another way in. There didn't seem to be one. Sighing again, I settled on the one thing I always partook to when no other notion seemed applicable: exploring. Someone was bound to open the door eventually; why not peruse a bit in the meantime? I wouldn't wander far; I'd stay near the door lest someone arrive.

      I wandered over to a large oil painting hanging on one of the vast red walls. A regal Kougra sat perched on her throne, donned in a stately lilac gown, a large magnificent crown atop her head. But my, whatever was wrong with her nose? It seemed large and rather... bulbous. My eyes snagged on the Kougra's bare feet. Wherever were her shoes? I leaned in closer. Suddenly I heard a door opening, which startled me, and I jumped, my elbow jarring the table next to me. It wobbled, then down fell a vase. Water and roses among the broken glass scattered across the marble flooring.

      Oh, wasn't this simply marvelous.

      Groaning inwardly, my eyes hesitantly lifted, falling upon a wide-eyed Lupe with dusty-rose fur. She was royal. Just my luck. I smiled sheepishly.

      "Pardon my clumsiness," I said, gesturing to the mess. "But if it would lessen any rebuke you may chose to bestow upon me, the flowers were dead anyhow."

      The Lupe's left eye seemed to twitch ever so slightly. "And who might you be?" she demanded. Her lips were etched with red, so bright I could hardly stop staring. A black beauty mark all but graced her right cheek.

      "I, gah... I am Rosellen. Rosellen Dellamore." The royal Lupe stared at me blankly. "From Satinsand Island," I added.

      "Ahh, Satinsand." She clicked her tongue. "A slight little island, is it not? Barely enough room to walk without bumping elbows with the commoners." She shook her head. Then she stared at me, rather curiously. "Whatever brought you here?" Suddenly her eyes widened. "Oh, my... Do you admit to being the future princess of Satinsand?"

      I bristled. "As a matter of fact, I bear that title quite nobly."

      The Lupe's eyes narrowed. "Well, 'tis no surprise you are here. But why ever were you just standing out here in the hall? I gave explicit orders to have princesses escorted to me personally. Did someone not endow you a key?"

      "Ah... no, my lady. The guards, they simply dropped me here and embarked without so much as a proper welcome. They were quite rude if I must admit so."

      The Lupe shook her head. "Those guards—they haven't the brains of a meager Spardel." She beckoned to me with a gloved paw. "Now enter, my dear. I am Madam Lupine, sole proprietress of this school of decorum. If you'd be so kind as to take your luggage, I would gladly show you to your room."

      "Certainly." I went for my bags, trying to avoid shatters of glass and wilted rose petals, as well as the puddle of water. "Oh, Madam, who will clean up this mess? I am truly sorry again," I said with a sigh. "Please, allow me to help."

      "Nonsense." Madam held up a paw. "That is a job for the maids. You, my dear, are a future princess. And future princesses need not be crawling on their knees upon the earth scrubbing with mere rags."

      "Oh." I cast another glanced at the horrible mess I'd caused before following Madam Lupine through the golden door. "Madam Lupine," I said. "Please overlook my audacity, but I've a question: Why ever was the queen in the painting not wearing shoes?"

      "What?" Madam Lupine gazed down at me in shock. "You noticed? Goodness, but that Queen Berdeila was as lackadaisical as a wild Doglefox. She abhorred the constriction of shoes and simply refused to wear them."

      "You're joshing," I dared to breathe. Never had I heard such absurdity. My, but imagine! To venture barefoot was to venture free in my book. But Madam was shaking her head.

      "A royal does not bear falsehoods, Rosellen," she stated firmly. I heard her words, but those bright red lips of hers had snagged my attention once again. Was there not a rule in the book stating that one's lipstick could not be redder than raspberry jelly? Goodness!

      "Rosellen? Are you even listening to a word that I am saying?" Madam Lupine was asking me.

      "Uhh... yes, ma'am. I was indeed paying attention." I grinned impishly. Madam Lupine frowned.

      "A royal never stutters."

      "I did not stutter," I defended, standing my ground.

      Madam Lupine shook her head. "A royal never begins a statement with 'uhh'. She is always sure of her speech before speaking, lest she make a fool of herself and her audience."

      I simply shrugged. "Well, I have never given total thought to my words before I speak them—and I've never been made a fool."

      I saw the Madam's eyes flash with fire, and I knew I had taken a wrong move in trying to defend myself. My mistake.

      "Did your parents not teach you the rules of the royal? A royal never disagrees with regulations endowed by the royal rule book. That is absolutely fatuous. I'm appalled that you would even think to do it willingly."

      It was my turn to frown. "Forgive me, Madam. I never try to do it willingly."

      Truthfully, I could not help myself. There were so many inane rules in the book that I had never cared to remember even half of them. I simply forgot all about them when I went to speak. Perhaps the Madam was correct—perhaps it would suffice to ponder my words before speaking them aloud.

      "You must pardon my behavior, Madam," I said, evoking my well-practiced acting skills. "I fear I am a bit out of sorts today." I paused to set my suitcase down, bringing my paw dramatically up to my forehead in a manner as if I might faint. "You see, I get dreadfully confused at times. Often I know not what causes it, but I am quite tired. And this castle in awfully hot. Perhaps that is also why I feel a bit faint." I extracted a fan and proceeded to fan myself in the most convincing manner. "I fear when I feel faint, I become rather... clumsy."

      The madam Lupe simply gazed at me. "I see. Well," she said with a brisk motion of her paw, "in that case, you may rest in your bedchamber come nightfall." I was rather crestfallen at her sudden abandonment of my "feigned illness". She only strode on down the long hall, leaving me standing there dumbly. "But for now, we've important matters to attend to. Come now," she beckoned.

      With a reluctant sigh, I followed. I suppose the Lupe hadn't bought my charade, but that did not mean my clumsiness was a natural fault. One could not help causing accidents, could they?

      ~*~

      "Ah, here we are." Madam Lupine swept her arm across a large room with an enormous bubbling fountain in the center. Perched on the very top were stone royal Kougras, water spewing up from around them. An inside fountain... Now, wasn't that rather classy, if not messy. However, as I passed the tinkling waters, not a drop could be seen shimmering on the marbled flooring. Impressive. I was quite awed really. The water looked so clear and inviting, if Madam Lupine had not been present, I may have been tempted to dip my paw in the pristine water and let the coolness run through my fur.

      "Any contact with the fountain is strictly prohibited," Madam said with an austere gaze, as if she could read my thoughts. "That includes touching, drinking, bathing, and swimming."

      "Me? Touch the fountain?" I asked in feigned horror, pointing to my chest. "I would never."

      The madam continued to eye me with a severe gaze. "I am being completely serious, Rosellen. Anyone who touches the fountain will be dismissed without hesitation."

      Suddenly I sobered, realizing the consequences were indeed grave if my curiosity ever did in fact get the best of me. I sighed inwardly. So much for fun.

      "Yes, ma'am," I told Madam, dipping my head, even saying the words in earnest. That seemed to please her. She led me to a hallway of rooms off of the left side of the fountain area.

      "Please place your things in your room," she instructed, stopping at the first door, "and clean up a bit before coming to the dining hall. I expect you not to dally; ten minutes top is all I offer. And a princess never wastes time."

      "Yes, ma'am," I answered. Madam Lupine nodded at me before performing a regal exit. I watched her stroll away, her long cape trailing behind her. Then I looked back to the room. It was of marvelous structure and even a tad larger than my own bedchamber in Satinsand. The marble flooring sparkled, the large bed was crisp and neat, without a wrinkle in sight, and also bound with bedding of gold satin. I paused as I stepped into the room however; off to the right was another bed. Now whatever would I need with two?

      I dragged my suitcases inside—which had now become the weight equivalent to stones—and placed them next to my bed. Then I ran my paw over the bed comforter, my paw pads gliding over the satin. Oh, how inviting the bed looked! I was rather tired, but mainly aching to lie down and rest and dream. The bed appeared to be soft and fit for a princess. Like sleeping on clouds. The thought made me smile.

      My gaze flitted over the other bed across the room. Were we to have... roommates? I had never shared a bedchamber with another soul in my life. Curiously, I padded over to the bed where a few suitcases lay discarded. Picking up the tag, I read the name aloud.

      "Colleen Louer, Meridall Castle."

      Meridall? Marvelous, just what I needed—a princess of the "high lands" to be in my company. Princesses of Meridall, Brightvale, and Greenvelle, the noblest reigns in all of Neopia, were typically most arrogant and staid. Not at all fun. They were strictly compelled to fulfill their duties with impeccable diligence and honor. Not that us royals of Satinsand did not commend such a thing; however, there was a difference between a large kingdom as this and the bitty island of Satinsand, where I was given a bit of leave in my obligations to regality.

      Yet the thought of a princess hailing from Meridall brought a wrinkle to my brow. If it was one of the most well-known provinces in all of Neopia, why ever would the future princess need teachings in the importance of decorum? I supposed I would find out eventually.

      "Miss Rosellen?"

      I leapt away from Colleen Louer's bed as if it had tried to bite me. If the future princess of Meridall spotted me snooping in her belongings, I'd be as good as dead. But the small thing I saw standing in the doorway was no princess, but rather a maid Aisha in all of her black and white ruffles. She had the largest honey-colored eyes, and bits of curly brown hair peeked out from under her ruffled hat. She was rather short and oh so tiny, yet appeared friendly as she gazed at me.

      "Yes," I said in return with a smile. "That is me."

      The Aisha dipped her head in response. "I was beckoned to invite you to the royal dining hall, ma'am—an order of Madam Lupine."

      I nearly gasped. Had it been ten minutes already?

      "Oh, do forgive my disregard for time," I said, gathering my skirts and hurrying after the tiny maid. "I suppose I am out of sorts today after all."

      The maid only briefly looked at me, then ducked her head in response. "Ma'am." I took that as her pardon of my careless ways, though taken aback that she offered no more.

      I paused and stared at her. She seemed almost afraid to say anything more. "What is your name?" I asked her.

      She looked up, large eyes growing round. They were the very color of rich dark honey, graced with specks of gold. "Siri, ma'am," the small Aisha responded.

      "Siri," I repeated, smiling. "Well, hello, Siri. It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I am Rosellen Dellamore of Satinsand. Might I be bold enough to say you've very pretty eyes?"

      I expected Siri to blush and say thank you. After all, that is what one does when paid a compliment, is it not? However, Siri's eyes simply grew even larger. She blinked several times yet continued to stare at me dumbly. For a moment I wondered if she had heard me right.

      "Siri?" I asked, tilting my head at her in puzzlement. "Are you alright?"

      "Pa... Pa... Pardon me, ma'am," Siri replied hastily before she ducked and fled.

      I was completely abashed. "Siri!" I called after her. "Whatever is the matter?" But the little Aisha kept running, ruffles swishing behind her. How odd, I thought. How very odd. I wondered whatever could be the matter with her.

      Shrugging, I set off to find the dining hall. Thankfully there were signs at every hallway corner to guide me. Someone had obviously been thinking of me when they'd built this castle.

      Finally I came to the designated area, yet stopped before I rounded the corner. Perhaps this was the moment of truth. In a moment I would come face-to-face with the other princesses of Neopia, the ones whose royal parents thought they needed some "princess school" to aid them in achieving proper etiquette. Whatever would I find? Also, I was late, which wasn't a surprise for me, but I was sure to receive a chiding from Madam Lupine—in front of the other princesses, no less!

      I heaved a huge sigh, straightened, and resolved to appear normal as I strode gracefully—at least as "gracefully" possible for me—into the room. The murmurs at the table ceased as I made my appearance. I consciously felt every eye on me and offered a rueful smile to the entire table.

      "Rosellen." Madam Lupine, at the other end of the table, eyed me with a fixed gaze. "You are late."

      I nodded in acknowledgement of that fault and dipped my head. "Indeed I am, Madam Lupine. I am awfully sorry; truly I am. Seems like the time has slipped away from me. Quite regretfully, that comes as no surprise."

      "I never settle for tardiness, Miss Dellamore," Madam Lupine said, her voice carrying a trace of a worn-out sigh. "This will be the last time it happens, I assure you. Now please take your seat; you've disrupted the meeting enough."

      "Yes, ma'am. I truly am sorry." And I was. "I will try to be on time in the future."

      "That is just the thing I simply loathe, Rosellen—this 'try' word you use." Madam shook her head and sighed in what I inferred to be exasperation. "Trying and succeeding are two distinctive manners. And as a princess, only succeeding suffices."

      I nodded. "Yes, ma'am." Inwardly I groaned. Well, I would "try" again in the future. I "tried" at accomplishing needed tasks every day. Not always did it prove to be a successful outcome, but I was trying at least. I slipped into the nearest chair, next to a royalgirl Kyrii with the longest hair I've ever seen.

      "Nice one," she said to me under to breath. "The madam already hates you."

      "You've no idea," I muttered.

      "Girls, talking must cease," Madam ordered from her spot at the head of the table. "We've been dallying far too much; it is time to begin the first meeting." All talking died away, six pairs of eyes going to Madam. Madam Lupine gave what I assumed was a smile, seemingly pleased.

      "Thank you," she said with a nod. "Now, I've called this meeting as we've a new addition to our school. A new princess to... straighten out, shall I say." At this the Madam looked to me with a flat look on her face, though she tried for a polite smile. "Rosellen is new to Greenvelle, and we must welcome her with open arms. She is, after all, a fellow princess." All eyes went to me, and I smiled and nodded.

      "Greetings, everyone," I said most politely. I got a few nods and murmured hellos, but mostly I received the most curious of looks.

      "Rosellen is actually the last princess to be joining this year," Madam Lupine continued. "Furthermore, we must proceed with introductions." She nodded to a pretty Kacheek with almond-shaped eyes and dark hair sitting nearest to her. The royalgirl Kacheek gave a brief nod before standing. She turned in my direction.

      "How do you do? I am Airyetta Shou of Blossomlend. If you wish to know, that is a region of Shenkuu." She smiled, and her exotic eyes disappeared. "Most do not apprehend that little bit of knowledge, so I thought to inform you," she finished before seating herself.

      "A very small region, if I might add," Madam Lupine added, mostly to herself. She flicked her paw. "Next, please."

      Seated next to Airyetta was a Zafara. She grinned broadly, revealing two rows of white teeth. "Hello, Rosellen. I am Emilia Cortell, from Evermeadow. It's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

      "Likewise," I said with a smile.

      Next to Emilia sat a Bori with long sky-blue ringlets cascading over her shoulders. She was staring down at her lap but quickly glimpsed up at me, though her eyes ventured back to her lap again after a moment.

      Madam cleared her throat. "You are next, Colleen."

      The Bori looked like she might bolt. Instead, she hesitated a few moments before standing. She kept her eyes downcast however.

      "I am Colleen Louer, future princess of... of Meridall," she murmured.

      "Excuse me?" Madam spoke up. "A princess does not mumble when facing a crowd, Miss Louer. You will never be prepared to speak at social gatherings if you do not learn to project your voice and speak with all due clarity and accuracy."

      "Yes, ma'am," I heard Colleen whisper before sitting down again. I admit, I was stunned. If that was the Colleen Louer of Meridall who happened to be my roommate, she posed no threat to me. Why, she hardly seemed bold enough to yell at her own self!

      "She's a bit... antisocial," the Kyrii next to me said. She stood, though it seemed to be grudgingly. She sighed. "Name's Labella, Labella Gillien. Future princess of Opalland." She seemed to search of something else relevant to say, then shrugged and sat down.

      A Gelert with light purple fur peered from around Labella.

      "Hi!" the Gelert said with a wave. She then squeaked a gasp and fumbled to stand up, nearly tipping over her chair in the process. "Oops! I forgot to stand. Silly me." She giggled nervously. "Anyhow, I'm Hadley. Hadley Wilshire, that is. I hail from Allington. We are a pretty big place too, though not nearly as big as Greenvelle. Though..." She suddenly caught glimpse Madam's disproving gaze and stopped talking. "And uhh... that's it." She sat abruptly, though she peeked around Labella again. "We can talk later," she whispered at me, though loud enough for the madam to hear. "It's nice to meet you, Rosellen."

      In spite of myself, I giggled. I hadn't really been around other princesses too often, so this was rather exciting. Madam was shaking her head.

      "Well, at least that is over. Now, Rosellen," she said, addressing me, "you know the princesses. Or... future princesses anyway." Yet she didn't seem quite sure of the fact. "Here at the School of Proper Princess Decorum, we've many rules to ensure that qualified protocol is carried out with all due importance. Rosellen, I'm sure your parents have allowed you to view the royal rule book?"

      "Oh, certainly, ma'am," I said most seriously. "They upheld that book more than any other." Unfortunately...

      "Very good," the madam nodded. "I expect every single one of those rules to be followed without reproach. You all are the future princesses of Neopia. And as such, you are bidden to act accordingly. Do I make myself clear?"

      Mumbles of "yes, ma'am" traveled across the table. Madam Lupine gave us a stern glare.

      "Princesses are always sure of themselves and their duties," she stated. "You all look like you doubt the benefit of pursuing proper decorum."

      "I just don't see the point in any of this nonsense," Labella spoke up. "All of these rules, rules, rules. Who wants to spend their lives following what a stupid book says?"

      Murmurs of agreement rippled across the table. Madam looked furious.

      "Labella Gillien, I am appalled. You of all Neopets should know the rule book and all of its importance."

      Labella glared. "I never stated that I didn't know it; I merely insisted that I think it foolish. We ought to able to do as please, by our own standards. We're princesses, after all."

      This really got the other princesses aroused.

      "Not yet are any of you real princesses," the madam said. "And at this rate, I fear you'll never be."

      ~*~

      "Boy, am I glad that's over."

      The meeting, long as it was, had finally ended, and us princesses were allowed the privilege of venturing out into the courtyards until bidden to supper in the dining hall.

      I gazed at Labella in all of her audacity. Of all, she seemed most outspoken and unafraid to voice her opinions, strong as they may be. I nodded.

      "I'm afraid Madam Lupine will turn into a broken music box one day, spouting out the same lyrics over and over again," I fretted. Suddenly though I was feeling silly, so I made my voice monotone as I droned, "You will not mumble. You will not run. You must always behave. Proper decorum this, proper decorum that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A true princess never stumbles over her words. A true princess must always follow the rules. Don't ever snort when you laugh. Always stand up straight. Didn't you know?"

      Labella laughed. "Yup, you've nailed it."

      "I agree with Rosellen," Hadley said, bouncing into the conversation. "Madam Lupine repeats herself far too often. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if she were part robot."

      "Madam Lupine's a robot!" Emilia gasped from her spot on the bench, her blue eyes wide. "I never would've guessed."

      Labella shook her head. "She might as well be, for all I care about her. She's far too pushy with this whole 'proper decorum' thing. It makes me simply sick."

      "Agreed," Hadley murmured, the royalgirl Gelert gazing at a large blue flower on a tree shaped like a Flotsam. She buried in her nose into its silkiness for a sniff.

      "Well, if you want my opinion, I believe Madam truly cares for our well-being," Airyetta spoke up softly, all the while toying with a curl of her long ebony hair.

      Labella huffed. "You would, Miss Goody Good." The Kyrii turned to me, rolling her eyes. "Airyetta is such a princess. She's the only one who actually believes in all of the decorum nonsense. Follows the rule book too."

      "Only because I desire to be the best princess I can," Airyetta defended, her eyes widening.

      "Please!" Labella threw up her paws. "If you're such an established royal, then why are you even here?"

      Airyetta looked wounded. "My parents thought it beneficial," she murmured in her soft-spoken voice before turning away. She walked down cobblestone path, her long Shenkuu-style gown trailing behind her.

      Labella shook her head, her long hair bouncing. "Beneficial. Hah! That's a load of Slorg spit in all of its sliminess."

      "What does that even mean?" Hadley queried, turning to Labella with her mouth in a 'O'.

      Labella glared at her. "Doesn't matter. It's rubbish."

      "Oh." Hadley shrugged, and the careless Gelert went chasing after a wayward petpetpet that fluttered by her nose.

      I peered at where Airyetta sat on a bench afar, the Kacheek looking forlorn. Labella had been harsh. Perhaps Airyetta was in the same situation I was—fit for being a princess yet bearing a few flaws that couldn't be overlooked.

      I strolled after her, sitting down next to her on the stone bench. She sighed, and I waited for her to speak.

      "Labella... she's been simply horrible to me since the day I arrived."

      I nodded. "I can see. I'm so sorry."

      Airyetta looked up at me and smiled sadly. "Do not be. She is right. I am... overly good."

      "You admitted yourself that you want to be the best princess you can," I defended, not allowing Airyetta to put herself down so. "Being good is a commendable quality, Airyetta."

      But Airyetta only moaned, overwrought with remorse. "Oh, but I am really not good. I have failed my parents. They see me as disconnected from my true heritage. They say always... I have my head in the clouds." She pointed upward, her face contorted with shame.

      "Ahh, so you're a daydreamer." I smiled in hopes to keep the conversation light. Also because I was one too. "There's nothing wrong with that, Airyetta."

      "But I am a princess!"

      "Airyetta, really. Why should that keep one from having a roaming mind once in a while? I do so all of the time. And I cannot help it."

      "Oh, but we must help it," Airyetta mourned. "As princesses we are called to focused and stable, with sound minds." She frowned. "We mustn't 'daydream' as you say. We must be attentive, always. Lest something happen to our kingdom and catch us unaware."

      "Now, Airyetta, I don't believe daydreaming could ever cause us to fail our kingdom," I stated reasonably. But the Kacheek shook her head.

      "When I was dreaming... I became heedless to the rules of the royal book. When I was busy inventing, I did horrible things that princesses must never do. I lost track of time. I was tardy. I ran. I played. I made messes. I was a bad princess."

      "But those types of things are only natural," I asserted. "Honestly, they cannot be helped. They are merely everyday life occurrences."

      "But not for princesses," Airyetta insisted with a firm shake of her ebony curls.

      "Look," I stated firmly, staring Airyetta in the eye, "I realize you want to be the best princess you can possibly be. I want to as well. But truly, let us reasonable. We cannot help that we are neopets, destined for mishaps once in a while. It is normal. I've no idea why everyone is promoting this perfect way in which a princess should act. Whether it suits us or not, we are not perfect."

      "But we must try," Airyetta said, adamant. "As princesses, we must try."

      Airyetta's words troubled me greatly. All of the proper princess decorum had gone to her head. I tried to insist that we could not be everything that society desired of us, but Airyetta simply wouldn't hear me out.

      I suppose dinner went well for it being my first among other princesses. Well, Hadley did laugh so hard when Labella muttered that Madam Lupine chews like a Kau that soup went splattering everywhere, but other than that it was rather uneventful.

      Now I found myself lying on my new bed, aiming to sort out of thoughts of this rather interesting day. It seemed that everyone had engraved in their mind that princesses must be perfect. The very idea was unfathomable. After all, we were only neopets. The one difference is that we princesses had been given a royal purpose, to be rulers of diverse Neopian realms. But we were very much like normal pets in our attributes.

      We were... weren't we?

To be continued...

 
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