Ever since she could remember, she had been told that her parents lived and worked in Houston.
It had been a very busy day for Emma, and she didn’t even realise when she hit her pillow and fell into a deep sleep. Next morning, she woke up hearing her sister screaming at the top of her voice. “Wake up, Emma! Wake up!” she said.
Emma rose from her bed only to see that it was early in the morning and still dark outside. To her surprise, her room was crowded with her family members. She blinked twice to confirm if these people were really there.
“ Happy Birthday!” they said together.
She realized it was 21st January and she was going to go to Houston to meet her parents. She was more excited about the visit than her birthday. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes as she hugged her relatives. She had turned twenty-one.
Never could she forget the day of her 21st birthday. It was fun, cutting the cake, while she was still in her pyjamas.
By eight in the morning, everyone started to leave. She quickly bathed and got ready for the day.
Emma lived in Lake Jackson, Texas with her elder sister, Rose.
Rose had a job and could earn enough for two people, or at least, Emma thought so. In fact, Rose received money from her parents every month even though she earned a little by working in a charity.
Ever since she could remember, she had been told that her parents lived and worked in Houston. What Emma didn’t know was that her parents were the King and Queen of a magical kingdom called Endornia. Rose had decided to tell Emma everything when she turned twenty-one, and the day had finally arrived.
After finishing their breakfast, both packed their bags and left for Houston. While driving, Rose revealed everything to Emma. Emma’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. With each word that left her sister’s mouth, she became more and more astonished.
They reached Houston in an hour. Emma was still in shock. It was too much for her to digest. Rose drove to the Hall of Ancient Egypt at Houston Museum of Natural Science. Emma followed her as they entered a secret passage that was completely dark. To Emma’s surprise, Rose’s hand glowed! The light that emerged from her hand guided them on that never-ending path.
“How are you doing that?” asked Emma, surprised.
“I’ve been practising since I was twenty,” replied Rose with a smile.
“I have so much to learn,” realised Emma.
Rose agreed. It had taken her a lot of time and practice to master that.
Finally, Rose stopped in front of a door, and Emma nearly bumped into her. She removed the chain with the owl pendant from her neck—the one she never took off; it was almost a part of her. She touched that pendant to the doorknob, and the door flew open, blinding Emma with light. When her vision cleared, she saw that she was in the centre of what looked like an ancient royal courtroom with two people sitting on thrones. Her body froze at the sight of them.
The king and queen rose from their seats. They smiled at Rose and turned towards Emma.
“Welcome, Princess Emma, to the kingdom of Endornia.”
Emma’s heart skipped a beat.
They were her parents!
She rushed towards them; and her parents, the King and Queen of Endornia, embraced her with warmness.
It was Emma’s best birthday. She was shown to her room where three of her personal ladies-in-waiting awaited her. After seeing her room, she went in search of Rose. She asked a few servants whom she met about Rose.
“The princess is in the library, Your Grace,” said one of the servants, pointing to her left.
Emma thanked them and hurried towards the library. As she walked into the doorway, she bumped into some woman, sending the poor woman’s books and papers flying by.
“I’m so very sor-“
“How dare you!” the woman interrupted her.
She narrowed her snake-like green eyes at Emma and made a face of disgust.
“Oh! It is the new little princess Emma. May I ask why you were running so fast? Or do you think it is just your filthy family that lives in this palace?” she snarled. Emma flinched at the word “filthy”.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean any harm. I was looking for my sister Rose. The servants said she was in the library, so I headed this way,” Emma said, while she helped the woman pick up her books and papers.
The lady snatched them out of her hand, and stormed past her without saying another word.
“Great! First day in my home, and I’ve already made an enemy,” Emma scolded herself.
As she opened the doors of the Library, her mouth opened in amazement.
The place was really enormous. She entered, and turned a full circle to see the infinite number of books on the shelves.
She had always loved books, and this library felt so magical.
“Emma!” shouted Rose.
Emma returned to reality recalling why she was in the library— to find Rose.
Emma spotted her descending the stairs, waving at Emma as she approached.
“I was about to come to your room,” said Rose.
“Father has announced a ball this evening on the occasion of your birthday.”
“Oh!” Emma said, astonishingly.
“You don’t need to feel stressed. I was planning to take you to Mother. She has a surprise for you,” said Rose, with a smile.
Emma was touched by her sister’s words. Everyone cared so much about her.
As Rose led her to the queen, Emma thought about the kind of queen her mother would be. She thought of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Will she be like the Red Queen or the White Queen?
She came back to her senses when Rose called her name.
“We’re here,” Rose said, as the doors of her mother’s bedroom opened.
Her mother was sitting on the chair of the dressing table with a mirror in front of her.
“Emma, my little princess. Come here.”
She smiled at Emma from the mirror.
Okay, maybe she was the white queen after all, thought Emma.
She did as she was told by Rose, and knelt in front of her mother, as one of the ladies-in-waiting braided the Queen’s hair. Her mother cupped her face with her soft hands and kissed her forehead.
“How do you feel being here?” she asked.
“Home,” replied Emma.
It really felt like home. At last, her parents were with her.
The Queen smiled and gestured to her servants, as Emma stood up.
“I have a surprise for you.”
Oh, great. Just great. Another surprise, thought Emma.
Her mother stood up and turned her around by her shoulders.
Emma couldn’t believe her eyes.
Right in front of her was very beautiful light-purple ball gown with a heart shaped neck, and smooth silk fabric, falling off in two layers beneath the waist.
“Happy Birthday, little princess,” said the Queen.
Tears of joy escaped Emma’s eyes, and she hugged her mother. The gown was so stunning.
“Thank you so much.”
“Oh, don’t thank me. It was Rose’s idea. Besides, the ball is going to start in a few hours and you still have to get ready. So, stop thanking and go get dressed,” said the Queen, hurriedly.
So definitely “the white queen”!
Emma wiped her tears, and rushed to her room with Rose.
“I’ll get ready in a few minutes and come to pick you up,” said Rose, when they neared Emma’s room.
As soon as Emma opened the doors, the maids she had met earlier rushed in behind her, with her beautiful gown.
They helped her wear the gown and made her sit on the chair in front of the full-length mirror.
The gown fitted her so well. She imagined how it would feel to twirl in it.
Her maids started with her curly, long light brown hair. They pinned the front of her hair with pins, and let her curls cascade. As Emma continued to admire herself, the maids perfected her look. Hearing a soft knock, one of the maids opened the door, and Emma saw Rose standing in her blue gown, simpler than Emma’s, but elegant enough, with a matching tiara on her head.
“You look beautiful.” Rose said, as she walked in front of her.
“So do you,” smiled Emma.
“Come, everyone’s ready.”
Emma wore her sandals and took her sister’s hand in hers, as they headed towards the ballroom.
Emma was anxious to meet everyone.
She met her parents at the top of the stairs leading to the ballroom.
Her father smiled at her, and placed a kiss on her and Rose’s forehead.
They descended the stairs together, with the King and Queen in front and Emma and Rose following right behind. Everyone in the room faced them and broke into a murmur.
They went to their seats and stood there.
“People of Endornia, may I present to you, Princess Emma, second to the throne of Endornia.”
The crowd broke into applause.
Emma bowed to the crowd but her mind was lost on the last line said by her father.
“Second to the throne of Endornia! Will I have to be a Queen someday?” thought Emma. “Of course I will have to rule this kingdom, since my father is the King. How stupid of me to even doubt this statement” she chided herself.
But still she felt that it was going to be a huge responsibility. She shifted that thought away and tried to look calm.
Her father took a small, purple tiara from one of the ministers, and turned towards her.
She bowed her head, and he placed the diadem on her head.
She rose and smiled at her father, and then turned towards the crowd.
“Daughter of King Rafeal and Queen Aurora, Princess Emma of Endornia,” announced the King.
The crowd cheered in response.
“Listen to me carefully, Princess. You have to go with Trystan to a safe place. We’ve been expecting this attack…”
The next few hours flew by like the wind. Emma was so happy. It really was her best birthday ever. She met many new people.
Then, just as she was admiring the crowd, she spotted the woman whom she had bumped into while heading for the library. Somehow she did not like her; she carried a strange and mean aura.
Rose noticed Emma staring openly at the woman.
“Oh, don’t stare so. That’s Lady Leticia. She’s quite full of herself,” Rose warned.
“Yeah, I learned that the hard way,” Emma pitied herself.
“What do you mean?” Rose asked confused.
“I wanted to ask you earlier but I forgot. When I was headed to the library to search for you, I bumped into her,” admitted Emma.
And she narrated the whole episode.
Just when their conversation finished, a boy of her age approached her.
“Your Highness.” He bowed and kissed Rose’s hand.
“Trystan, I’ve told you so many times. Please stop calling me that,” Rose smiled, annoyingly.
The boy giggled and turned towards Emma.
“Emma, this is Trystan, your cousin brother,” Rose said, as Trystan bowed to Emma.
“At last! I have someone of my age now,” Trystan said, merrily.
“I’ll leave you two, then. Enjoy your evening,” Rose said, and left to attend to the King who had called her.
“Do you want to dance?” asked Trystan.
“Well, I’m not an expert,” said Emma.
“I insist,” said Trystan, with a smile.
“Do I have a choice then?” Emma returned the smile.
Trystan laughed at her humour, and taking her by the hand, led her to the centre of the ballroom. The rhythm of the music changed as Emma swayed gently in Trystan’s arms. She twirled in the gown, just as she had imagined earlier. Soon the music ended and they stopped dancing.
Suddenly, Emma heard the most horrible cry followed by a roar. Everyone in the room froze in their places.
In a fraction of a second, the wall towards the garden burst open and a giant dragon entered the room.
Emma was too shocked to move, but Trystan grabbed her by the hand, and ran towards the main gate of the castle. Emma stopped abruptly.
“What?!” asked Trystan, frustrated.
“My parents and Rose are still in there! I cannot leave them,” said Emma.
She spun around at the familiar voice only to find her parents and Rose running towards her.
Her father held her by the shoulders, and said,
“Listen to me carefully, Princess. You have to go with Trystan to a safe place. We’ve been expecting this attack…”
“But I don’t want to leave you guys behind,” she replied, and paused. “By saying you have been expecting this attack, do you mean it is happening because of me?”
“I’m sorry Emma, there’s very little time to explain everything.”
There was a loud BOOM!
Her mother came in front of her, and kissed her forehead.
“Go!” she said.
Trystan caught her tightly by the arm, so tight that it hurt. And together they ran. Emma struggled to keep pace, but kept on moving.
“Hold on!” Trystan shouted, as Emma started to slip from the saddle.
“It’s going to run faster!”
The wind whipped Emma’s face and hair. She hung on to Trystan’s waist for dear life.
The ride felt like hours.
Finally, the wind slapping her face slowed into a calming breeze. She was nearly asleep on Trystan’s back when the horse stopped.
“Where are we?” Emma asked, as she scanned the area.
The forest they were running through was left far behind them, and in front stood a long, old gate.
“It’s your grandmother’s house,” replied Trystan.
Emma was surprised. So apparently she had a grandmother, living in the castle that stood in front of her. Before she could ask further questions, the gate opened by itself and they proceeded inside.
She got off the horse, half asleep, and followed the servants that led her to a room.
She was so tired she didn’t even realize that Trystan wasn’t near her. But she was too exhausted to find out where he was, nor did she realize that she was still in her purple gown. As she was shown to her room, she didn’t even bother to change, and collapsed on the comfortable bed.
She woke up with sunlight streaming from the windows into her room. As she blinked her eyes open, the last day’s events came flashing back. Her parents were the King and Queen of the magical kingdom of Endornia. She was the second heir to the throne, and she escaped with Trystan on the back of a horse to her grandmother’s castle.
Wait, where was Trystan?
She got out of bed and surveyed the room.
There was a bathroom, a closet with a warrior’s battle attire, and a full-length mirror.
She cleaned herself, and wore the dress that was kept in the closet. They fitted her perfectly. She pulled her hair into a high ponytail, and left the room. Two guards were positioned right outside her door.
“Princess, you are expected to go to the dining hall,” said one of the guards.
“And where exactly am I going to find that?” asked Emma.
“Follow me, Princess,” said the guard, with a hint of a smile.
She did as she was told, and followed him to the dining hall.
There was a long table in middle of the room with all seats occupied except for one.
Everyone stared at her.
She stood transfixed.
“Princess Emma,” said the woman sitting at the head of the long table. She looked to be in her sixties. It was her grandmother.
“Please take a seat.”
She took the only seat that was left, next to Trystan.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hello,” replied Emma.
“Welcome to Endornia. Please eat first. I know you might be famished,” continued her grandmother.
Emma really was ravenous.
They ate in silence, and after everyone had left the room, Emma’s grandmother led her towards the garden.
“You might be having a million questions in your mind right now, I’m sure,” said her grandmother.
“More than a million,” admitted Emma.
“You can ask me anything you want. After yesterday’s incident, you have the right to know everything.”
“Umm, why did the dragon attack the palace yesterday?”
“Okay, that question has a very big answer. Let’s start from the beginning. There are seven kingdoms, like Endornia, all over the world. The nearest to Endornia is Avalon. Well, you see the bond between them is not that good. The king of Avalon is very jealous of your father’s kindness and the way he handles the kingdom. But during a war, the king of Avalon had saved your father’s life unintentionally, so that he could win the war, and to repay his kindness, your father had asked for anything the king wanted.
“The king smartly asked for the throne of Endornia, but your father was no less intelligent. He agreed on one condition, that as long as his heirs are alive and he himself is alive, the King of Avlon will not get the throne. That settled the matter temporarily, but your father then realized the mistake he had made. He had put you and your sister’s life in danger.”
“So, that dragon had actually come to kill me and Rose,” murmured Emma.
“And your father. Dragons are vicious creatures,’’ continued her grandmother.
“Okay, another question, where is my family right now?” asked Emma.
She’d been worried about them.
“Oh! What timing. They are right behind you.”
Emma turned around.
Seeing her family, she rushed towards them and hugged them.
“I was so concerned about you all,” she said.
“It is yourself you should be worried about,” said Rose.
Her mother shushed Rose.
“It’s okay, Mom, I know everything. Grandma told me,” Emma said.
After her family got cleaned up and ready, Emma followed them towards the empty ground where soldiers and mages practised.
Her grandmother was waiting for them.
“After yesterday’s attack, your father realized that it is important that you know how to defend yourself when there is no one around to save you,” said her grandmother to Emma, while her family went to relax in a nearby tent.
The rest of the week flew by, and Emma became stronger day by day. She learned magical skills from her grandmother, while a female soldier, Penelope, taught her the art of combat. Her day was full of activities – she didn’t have time for herself. She woke up early and went jogging with Penelope. She returned ravenous and ate a very heavy breakfast. This was followed by a session to enhance her magical skills with her grandmother. Then she practised the art of defending and fighting with Penelope. After lunch, was her favourite part—studying politics in the library, with Rose and her father. Soon after finishing her dinner, she would return to her room and go into hibernation.
All this while, Emma had been wondering where Trystan was. She hadn’t seen her since the morning she met her grandmother. And no one knew about his whereabouts.
One morning, when she was doing her usual rounds with Penelope through the safe parts of the forests , an arrow zipped past her head and she ducked, in time.
She ran with Penelope to warn everyone. She was instructed of what to do in case of an attack like this and thanked her father silently. An army of enemy soldiers came rushing from the side of the forest. Thankfully everyone was safe inside the palace and ready for them. Their own army rushed out of the castle, and in no time the enemy soldiers started falling. The few that were left just fled.
When the enemy soldiers were gone and the attack stopped, Emma was dragged inside by Penelope and Rose, who told her that it was very risky of her to stand guard.
Emma didn’t like that thought, but being with her family and knowing they were safe made her feel relieved.
Not long after they had returned to their castle, they came to know the truth.
Lady Leticia and Trystan had been the spies for Avalon. They were the ones who kept informing the enemy king of all the movements of Emma’s family.
Emma had saved her kingdom and her people from the attack. For this act of bravery, she was knighted and soon came to be known as the Knight of Endornia.
Vidhi Bhanushali is a student of eighth grade at Pawar Public School (Bhandup). A big Harry Potter fan, she loves reading fiction and listening to music. Residing in Mumbai with her family, she dreams of becoming an author.