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Dragon Quest Chapters 1 & 2
Chapter One: Tabitha Woodward
Emily sat in the backseat of a shiny black limo, in the very back, reviewing the day’s events. She was rudely awakened in the orphanage by two boys who had come in. They whacked her in the face with pillows, then ran out, laughing. Emily had fumbled for her alarm clock. Five A.M. Perfect. Emily knew she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so she got up and dressed in her usual gray t-shirt and jeans. It was like this almost every day...it had been since she came to the orphanage, when she was less than a year old, the only survivor of the car wreck that had killed her parents. She had made her bed and grabbed her favorite book, Tom Sawyer, and sat back down to read. It was her favorite because she loved how Tom was free to do anything! Not like in the orphanage...required to get up at six every day, to arrive for breakfast at seven, start studies at eight, arrive to lunch at exactly noon, then arrive back at studies at exactly 12:30, to be back in their rooms at 3:00, work on homework until supper, which occured precisely at 6:00, and bed at exactly 8:00. Nothing exciting happened. Ever. And she wasn’t expecting anything exciting to happen today, even though it was July First, her thirteenth birthday.
But Emily had been wrong. At exactly half past eight, Emily was called down to what everyone simply referred to as “The Room of Doom.” There, Headmistress Margaret Thatcher, stood next to a prissy old lady. Bug eyes, tiny, square glasses perched on the end of her hawk-like nose, her hair in a tight bun, and a black velvet dress with a high, white lace collar gave the old lady a very vulture-like impression.
“Emily Rain,” said Headmistress Thatcher, “this is your Great Aunt Tabitha Woodward. She is here to adopt you!”
Emily peered at her so-called ‘Great-Aunt’ through slitted eyes.
How can I be related to her? Thought Emily. We don’t even look alike!
This part certainly true. The old lady’s hair was jet-black, so black Emily was sure that she dyed it, because how could a seventy-year old lady have hair as black as ebony? And her eyes...black, again, and cold as ice. There was no warmth or feeling in them. They glittered maliciously, like two stones in a freezing river. She didn’t look anything like Emily, who had strawberry-blonde hair, and green eyes.
“How could you be my aunt?” she asked, rather rudely. “We don’t even look similar!”
“I am not your Aunt, I am your Great-Aunt!” she sniffed prissily. “I am your Grandmother’s one and only sister. And I will not tolerate that sort of rudeness in my house!”
Her voice was clipped, as if she was in a hurry and had better things to do then change a thirteen-year-old’s life forever.
“Now,” she continued, “I will give you exactly ten minutes to pack up all your belongings and say goodbye to your friends, starting now.”
“I don’t have any friends,” Emily mumbled dejectedly.
“Nine minutes. And I won’t tolerate mumbling, either!”
Emily trudged away to her room after snatching up a suitcase that was by the door. It had her name on the handle, printed on masking tape. Emily didn’t have much...only a few articles of clothing, a few books, several notebooks filled with scribblings and doodles, and a set of panpipes that she had found in the garbage and set to teaching herself to play after reading Peter Pan. Emily slowly walked out of the old room, memorizing each detail of it. The tiny, grimy window, the small bed in the corner, the wardrobe across from the small, now-empty-bookshelf...
“Sucks for the next person in here,” Emily said, shrugging. She had hated this room, every inch of it! From the cracking wood to the puke-orange paint, she had loathed this room, hated it, despised it, wishing that she could find a new home, a better home, and yet trying to keep her spirits up, like in A Little Princess. She had failed miserably. Emily clumped back down the stairs to the room. Where Great-Aunt Tabitha looked Emily up and down.
“Heavens, is that all you have? Well, less mess, I suppose. Mercy me, your clothes! Hardly becoming for a girl? Don’t you have any dresses? Well, I suppose once we reach Woodward Manor, we shall have to get you some decent clothing. Having a child is such a bother! That’s why I never married,” sneered Great-Aunt Tabitha.
“You have the paperwork?” Headmistress Thatcher asked.
“I already gave it to you, as soon as I arrived.” sniffed Great-Aunt Tabitha. “I want this child out of this dump as soon as possible!”
At this, Headmistress Thatcher’s cheerful smile was replaced by a rather forced one. Emily grinned. She didn’t like Headmistress Thatcher much, but she liked this Great-Aunt even less, and knew that Headmistress Thatcher felt the same.
“Ah, well then. I will escort you to the door.”
“Not necessary!” snapped the old lady. “I am not a blind, toddling nanny to be ushered from place to place! I, unlike you, were privileged enough to be born a Woodward!”
At this outburst, Headmistress Thatcher lost her smile completely.
“You are under my hospitality, for however long it takes to get Emily out of this ‘dump,’ as you call it, and I will not have you insulting me under this roof!”
“Then I will get out from under this...you really call this a roof?” the old lady asked, staring questionably at the ceiling. Yes, the wood was rather old, and had a few holes here and there, but that didn’t daunt Great-Aunt Tabitha from throwing salt in the wound.
“At Woodward Manor, the ceilings are fifteen feet high! They are made of the purest marble, and in my bedroom, painted with twenty-four karat gold flakes, and encrusted with diamonds! You may call this crumbling piece of cow manure a home for many children, but it will not be a home for this girl!”
And with that, Great-Aunt Tabitha Woodward latched hold of the back of Emily’s shirt and thrust her out the door.
And that’s how Emily Rain celebrated her birthday...being taken out of the only place that she had ever called home. Even though all her life she had wished to be taken out of the orphanage, she now wondered if she wouldn’t be better off in it, instead of with this Great-Aunt Tabitha Woodward.
Chapter Two: Non-Fiction Manor
As the chauffeur drove up to Woodward Manor, Emily pressed her face against the window to get a better look at the spectacular mansion. White marble pillars, sprawling lawns, sparkling diamond chandeliers visible through the ten-foot tall windows, glittering duck ponds, and diamond-encrusted black iron gates were all visible. It was the home that Emily had always dreamed of being taken to!
“Emily! I won’t tolerate nose prints on the windows!”
Her great-aunt’s sharp voice cut through Emily’s stunned stupor like an axe. Emily sighed. This new dream house would not be quite like how she imagined it.
Emily opened up her door, and accidentally whacked the balding man dressed in a tux who had hurried to open the door for Emily unconscious.
“Oops!” she whispered as she got out.
“Lionel! Lying down on the job, eh? Be off with you! You’re not welcome here anymore!” cried Great-Aunt Tabitha as she stepped out, barely glancing at the man lying in the dust. “The first rule about servants, Emily, is that if you catch them slacking once, they must be fired immediatley. Fail to do so, and they think they can get away with anything!” Great-Aunt Tabitha gave another sniff, and Emily had a brief vision of Great-Aunt Tabitha as a haughty queen, complete with crown and scepter and muttering “Peasants!” under her breath.
Emily stared upward at the towering mansion before her and gulped. She had the impression of walking into a monster’s yawning maw, the perfect breakfast snack.
“Come along, Emily! These two hundred and forty-two steps won’t climb themselves!” A hint of impatience crept into the old lady's voice, and Emily hurried after her. After reaching the top step, Emily was out of breath, but the old woman looked to be in the peak of health. As Great-Aunt Tabitha strode up to the door, and it was opened for her by two servants in perfectly groomed tuxedos. Before Emily followed, she turned to cast a worried glance at Lionel the door-opener. He was still lying spread-eagled on the ground, but a sharp call from her Great-Aunt brought Emily hurrying to catch up.
Servants in green dresses and white aprons, brandishing feather-dusters, brooms, and mops scuttled to and fro. A small man was hurriedly waxing the checkered floor, and when the Great-Aunt snapped “You missed a spot, you fool,” he flinched and polished faster.
A tall, thin man with a comb-over approached Emily and her Great-Aunt.
“Welcome home, Madam, and Miss Emily, of course. May I be permitted to take Miss Emily’s bags to her room?” he asked.
“Yes, please do, Rupert, and tell Janet to explain the dress code and have her get Emily dressed for supper,” sighed Great-Aunt Tabitha.
“Yes, Madam, right away, Madam,” said Rupert.
Rupert had thin lips and a thin face and thin arms and hands that were so thin every vein and knuckle stuck out. He reminded Emily of a scarecrow, in ways, only a very sullen one and nothing like the one in Wizard of Oz. He had plain, water-colored eyes, so pale you weren’t sure if they had any color at all, and what little hair he had in that pathetic comb-over was fine and gray, and seemed to be clinging to his dry little scalp for dear life.
As Great-Aunt Tabitha stalked away, Rupert made to grab Emily’s suitcase, but she clutched it tighter, and said she’d carry it if it was alright. Rupert raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He began walking up one of the two flights of stairs, the one on the left. It led a balcony with a gilded railing that looked down into the entrance hall which we had just entered, and Emily got a glimpse of everything from above. The marble and ebony checkered floor shone in the chandelier's light, which was lit with real candles, and dripped diamonds. There was not a speck of dust or a cobweb upon it, and Emily pitied the man who had to climb up there and dust. Rupert noticed her gazing at it, and said, “There are over a hundred diamonds in that chandelier, and over three hundred crystals. It’s coated in twenty-four karat gold, and weighs around seven hundred pounds,” he explained. Emily nodded, too overwhelmed for words, and continued looking down. The walls were a circular shape, and had two or three marble pillars holding up the ceiling. Two sixteen-foot paintings stretched down to the ground--one was a portrait of Great-Aunt Tabitha when she was younger (not necessarily more good-looking,) and the other was a Monet, Emily thought.
Emily glanced up at the domed ceiling, and gasped. A marvelous fresco had been painted, that showed clouds and baby cherubs zooming around, and men and women drinking and dancing, and on a throne in the middle of all the partying sat Great-Aunt Tabitha, in one hand holding a book, and in the other hand a pile of gold that trickled out through her fingers. A giant, Lady-Liberty tiara sat upon her raven-black hair, and her black eyes radiated power and fury. A puckered mouth completed the expression, and made her look as if she had swallowed a bucketful of lemons.
As Rupert continued on up the winding staircase, Emily followed him, stopping every so often to admire a golden trinket or diamond-dunked possession that sat protected in glass display cases. Finally, he stopped outside a room marked with a gold lion-head door knocker, with ruby eyes.
“This is your room, Miss Emily. I’ll give you the key now, and Janet will be up here shortly to teach you the ways of Woodward Manor,” Rupert announced, then presented from a pocket a gold key (no surprise) that matched the lion door-knocker; it had a lion’s head, with the ruby eyes, seemingly eating the key handle. Emily glanced down at it, studying it, then looked at the door, which had no lock or place to insert the key.
“How do I get in?” she asked, but when she looked, Rupert was gone. Emily stared at the key, then at the door, and an idea formed in her head. She held the key up to the mouth of the lion, and she was right, there was a small hole in the mouth, big enough for the teeth of the key. Emily inserted the key and turned it. There was a small click and the door swung open. Emily’s mouth dropped open. It was a huge bedroom, much, much bigger than the one at the orphanage. There was a private bathroom with three different spouts in the bath, a queen-size featherbed with red velvet canopy, large ruby drapes, and an entire walk-in closet the size of small room, outfitted with vanities and mirrors.
Emily quickly explored the room, and found a small hiding place in the back of the walk-in closet, a small door hidden behind a vanity. There was a lock to this one, with a lion roaring. Emily stuck the key inside and turned it. The small door creaked open, an automatic electric light came on, and Emily crawled through the child-sized door. As she stood up and looked around inside the small alcove, Emily noticed two things: one, there was a small bookshelf with a few novels on its dusty shelves, and the entire room was decorated in drawings. Emily gasped, and ran her hands over the papers taped to the wall. They were old and faded, and crackled a little bit, but the colors were still vibrant. Here there was a drawing of a griffin, and here there was a water nymph, but the most recurring animals were dragons--small ones, big ones, blue ones, red ones, a few rainbow ones that had fins and gills, and so many others. Emily ran to get her books she had packed, and her notebooks, and her panpipes. She set them carefully on the shelves, and was about to go get her clothes and bring them into the closet, when there was a knock at the door.
“Coming!” Emily yelled, and shut the hidden door. She started to go, but turned back. A sneaking suspicion made her pull the vanity back in front of the door. When Emily opened the door, she almost gasped in shock. Standing there was the oldest lady she had ever seen. Her face resembled a raisin left out in the sun too long, and she wore an ugly puce-colored dress.
“Finally. Thought you’d left me to die out here! Doesn’t the elderly get any respect?” the lady grumbled, and shoved Emily aside as she stormed in through the door. As Emily closed the door, the old lady turned around.
“My name is Janet Marthenpane, and I am your nanny.”
“I don’t need a nanny, I’m thirteen years old!” Emily protested.
“Hmph! In my day, we had nannies until we were married!” Janet said sharply.
“When was that, during the Civil War?” Emily muttered.
“No muttering! Your Great-Aunt and I cannot abide muttering! You shall address me as Mrs. Marthenpane, or Ma’am, and I will not take any sass. I am here to instruct you on the dress code, and Mrs. Woodward will list the rest of the house rules. Number one: Girls must wear dresses at all times, and nightgowns at night.”
“What?!?” Emily yelped. She had grown up in jeans and t-shirts, and only wore one dress in her entire life. She hated them.
“Number two: Shoes are either heels, boots, or flats. No sneakers,” continued Janet, otherwise known as Mrs. Marthenpane. “Number three: dress up for dinner. Your dresses are in the closet. I shall leave you now to get dressed. And be warned, Miss Emily, we here at Woodward Manor do not tolerate bending or breaking of rules, atypical behavior, being different, or being common and coarse,” finished the prune-like ‘nanny’. She stalked out the door and slammed it shut behind her.
Emily sighed dejectedly. When would this nightmare end? She opened the closet door and surveyed rows upon rows of velvet, lace, cotton, and silk. She groaned.
The door swung open again to reveal the raisin face.
“Oh, and a few things I forgot: There are no fiction books allowed,” the octogenarian spat the word ‘fiction’ like it was dirty, “and no secrets.” The door slammed shut again.
Emily gasped as if she had been stabbed. Fiction was her life, her dream, her ray of hope in her orphanage-filled life--Great-Aunt Tabitha had severed Emily from the world, it seemed. She could only pray for a miracle, like ones that she had read about. Now that she thought about it, Emily was glad she had hidden her books, or old prune-face would have probably burned them.
To Be Continued...