The Secret Cupola
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Lily and Einon were ushered into their grandmother’s chambers under caution and whisper, the two fraternal twins not really understanding the significance of what was going on at their tender age of ten. They hadn’t seen the queen in weeks, since the three had been playing a game of hide and seek out in one of the gardens. Despite her royal duties she had always been this way with the two, more like a mother than grandmother, making sure they had time to laugh, run and play together at least a few times a week, for this was the only memory the siblings had of their parents. At play in the gardens, smiling faces looking down upon them with such love. Faces that were now all but faded as the years of growth took them further and further away from the tragedy of losing their mother and father when the axle to the imperial carriage the two had been riding in sent them off the mountainous winding road leading to their palace. Dear grandmother had ordered everything to go on as usual. From regal events to scholarly studies, strength would come in the children’s stability. And would continue on even after that fine day in one of the garden’s weeks ago, when she had lost track of her own tracks in the youthful game of running and hiding, the paths leading to recognition beginning to blow away like dust in the wind, as a result putting a great deal of shock into her grandkids when she ran off amongst the trees yelling gibberish while stripping away her regal garb.
Grandmother was lucid now, which is why she had called on them to pay her a visit, the effects of just a few weeks’ time enough to widen their young eyes in surprise at how gaunt she now looked, So frail under that huge bedspread she lay under, propped up by pillows that were just as massively impressive.
The only one who remained in the room was the queen’s closest confidant, and even he kept his distance from this private gathering, his back to them as he leaned his old body up against the sill of the farthest window.
“Children, come closer,” the queen said as they stood at the foot of her bed, perhaps using the transparent curtains which hung from above to shield their uncertain nerves. Slowly, they obeyed.
“No need to be afraid, my dear ones. I know you must have been frightened by what you saw out in the garden a few weeks past, but you must know of the truth of what now plagues your grandmother. It is a disease of the mind which inhabits all in our family who live long enough to see old age. Slowly but surely it will take me away from you, but the time to say goodbye is now, for my only wish is that you don’t scar your own mind while you are young enough to enjoy it.”
Lily began to cry. “But grandmother, who will take care of us?” she asked while blinking away tears.
“You have a palace full of servants, dearest Lily,” the queen assured. “As always they will make sure every aspect of your daily needs are met. And don’t forget Old Roger over there. He’s been here since I was your age, and wouldn’t let a thing happen to neither of you.”
Unlike his sister Einon only stared, until desire not emotion moved him to ask a question.
“Does this mean I will become King now?”
Old Roger couldn’t help but glance over, so intent on power beyond his years the lad had always been.
“The matter has not changed,” his grandmother said unto him. “Succession will be determined when the time is right. By my most trusted of advisors.”
Expecting his long-faced reaction she followed up his disappointment by placing a glimmer in his eye with what she said next. “Today is the day you are to inherit your father’s sword. But you are to only wield it when properly supervised, until you have grown into it both physically and in maturity.”
The corner of Einon’s eye sharpened Old Roger’s way, knowing the old man would now be the decision-maker for all things the boy desired, already being a thorn in his side as the only one who got away with being stern with him.
“I’ve arranged for your training with Sir Tristan to begin this afternoon,” the queen said as she pulled one last string to make him smile. ‘Old Roger will escort you over to him now.”
The brat prince did not wait a second longer, running over to the veteran servant and pulling him out the room. “You heard her, let’s go!” he said impatiently, the young fool not realizing, not caring that he would never again set foot in this chamber while his grandmother was still alive.
Lily on the other hand was still teary-eyed, holding her grandmother’s hand and never wanting to let go. “Can’t I come visit you? I promise I won’t be a disturbance.”
“My precious Lily, it is not you who will be the cause of any disturbance, it is I. This- This disease will turn me into something- into someone you will no longer recognize. You must promise me, when you take your leave and walk out that door it will be for the last time until my last breath. Please, it is my final wish, to have you remember me as the loving grandmother you have always known. Promise me, as I lay before you here and now. Promise to fulfill my final wish.”
With a heavy heart Lily promised.
“Now,” the queen went on to explain. “There is something I must share with you that is far greater of importance. Are we alone?”
Lily looked around the room. It was empty, the doors closed.
“Yes,” she said softly.
The queen gestured over to the side of her bed, where a smaller version of the palace sat. Although miniature in scale compared to the one they were actually in it was quite grand, the cupolas crowning its top like delectable dollops. At least that is how Lily had always seen them. The outer four domed droplets served as a key to bringing the palace to life, winding up each to its end and then letting go causing a different part of the royal residence to animate with activity. Dancing in the ball room, games being played in the great hall, a feast taking place in the dining area, all portrayed by intricate figures of royals and servants. All watched over by a king and queen sitting atop their exalted throne.
“You must always keep what I’m about to tell you as the deepest of secrets, sharing it with no one until you are my age and ready to pass it along to a child or grandchild. No one: your brother, your friends, your future husband. No one is to know, Lily. Do you understand?”
“Yes, grandmother,” the little girl answered with her light voice.
“The king and queen on the throne.” Grandmother continued. “Those are your great-great-grandparents. I want you to take hold of their crowns and simultaneously turn them counterclockwise.”
Lily’s heart began to beat faster with excitement. From as far back as she could remember she and her brother had been captivated by this marvelous mechanism, at many points believing with all their being that it just had to hold other secrets. But like countless others who had come before them they had given up on the idea many times, only to come back around to it when the occasional thought would catch their interest. But nothing had ever been discovered, and now it was going to be…
With baited breath Lily gently took hold of the two crowns and did as told.
All of a sudden the fifth cupola, the one in the center that never moved, slightly popped up as it unlocked.
“Now turn the cupola clockwise to the very end,” the queen instructed.
After doing so Lily let it go, the windup now unraveling to reveal every figure in the palace leave what they had been doing for generations and all gather before the king and queen.
The center cupola then popped up a little more.
“Go on, take it,” the queen said. “But be careful, it is very dangerous.”
With extreme caution Lily pulled up on it, finding it was loose and so she withdrew. A serrated blade an inch long protruded from its base, the jagged little edges filling the girl with fright.
“Carefully now,” the queen went on. “Bring it around over here to the fruit.”
There was a large watermelon on a side table Lily had not noticed before. Once again she did as told.
“Now raise the blade above your head and drive it down into the fruit. Hard, fast. Do it now, child…”
Following the words and not her fears Lily complied, the mysterious tool immediately turning on and as a result causing the girl to let go, the vertical blade under the melon’s skin splitting into two to become horizontal as a way of imbedding itself, then going into a rapid lethal spin, filleting its way across the watermelon in an instant before it was released into the open air, at which time the blade came to a grinding holt and retracted back to its vertical state where the device then came to rest atop the side table.
With eyes wide and mouth agape Lily looked over to her grandmother.
“One day you might need this,” the elder said. “I can only hope you never do, but know it will always be there just in case.”
After instructing Lily how to carefully clean it and return it to its rightful place the queen went on to tell the tale of the secret cupola, including how, during the unfortunate times in history when it had to be used, no one ever suspected anything other than the folklore of the Dracloid, a microscopic dragon who would grow ten times its size once it penetrated someone. Nothing else could explain the unusual markings and damage left behind, with an investigator from centuries past even going so far as to create an illustration of the would-be creature.
This had been all fine and well with the few who had been entrusted with the royal secret, for all speculations further from the truth was welcome to keep it protected, as history had shown the thirst for power could turn most against their own blood.
So much to take in for a child no more than a decade old, but Lily’s heart, her soul, could handle such a revelation. And besides, time was no longer on their side, indiscriminate in taking what had been destined within the royal blood. Unlike her parents, whom she really had no memory of anymore, Lily knew she would remember this afternoon with her grandmother for decades to come. Perhaps even the final recollection within her mind’s eye before one day too becoming blinded by the inflicting inheritance.
As if the queen’s own soul knew it was now time to submit she looked over at the magnificently crafted palace one last time then over to her dear Lily, a smile of contentment spreading up over her face as her eyes slowly came closing down.
Feeling royal, are we-LOL!
Stay tuned for The Secret Cupola’s powerful conclusion,
being posted tomorrow,
right in time for the royal wedding!