Avalon:Volume 0 Prologue

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It was supposed to be a family gathering. Maybe one of a wealthy, high-class family, seething with competition hidden behind every exchange of words. But even with the adults boasting to one another about their newest business acquisitions or their kids' latest accomplishments or even their most recent vacations, the loud yet joyous chatter of young children playing around in the gardens should have at least preserved the innocence of their flowery paradise.

Yet try as she might, Viviane could not hear the mirthful cries of her own daughter. The children had already run off into the English gardens, but she walked unerringly towards those of oriental design in the far back. Her steps hurried down a pebbled path. Her hands brushed aside branches of willow. She found the seven year-old child exactly where she expected -- huddling in the gap between two large scholar stones.

The child looked up at her mother and sobbed once more, her large eyes and red cheeks stained with tears. The right shoulder of her white dress was torn, exposing a flaring bruise on her delicate skin.

Viviane knelt down, arms grazing the sharp rocks as she wrapped them around the shivering girl and embraced her tightly.

"It's all right... it's all right," she whispered reassurance into the child's ears, "you don't need to listen to their nonsense."

"They wouldn't stop... calling you... b-bad names..." the young girl sobbed as she tried to explain, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks and onto Viviane's bared shoulders, "they kept saying that I should stop... faking Cinderella when I'm just the worthless daughter of a... a... streetwalker... they even called you the W-word!"

Viviane winced, not from the insult itself but the malice that drove parents to teach such young children a term so foul. Hugging her daughter's tiny frame even more tightly, Viviane continued to whisper words of comfort into the girl's ears while silently berating herself.

She should have known this was going to happen. The family would never accept her homeless background or her unnatural appearance. It didn't matter how skilled she was at financing or how many decades she spent building the foundation to her husband's success. Sure, he was the eccentric yet prodigious son of the family, and no one was about to curse his beloved wife within earshot. But away from watchful eyes, the rest of the family would never regard her presence as anything better than the darkest of stains.

Viviane knew she would do anything to protect this child from them. Yet she also knew that she couldn't shield and shelter this child from harm always and forever... The world simply wasn't like those fairy tales that her daughter adored so much, and fate would demand even more from this young child.

Leaning back slowly and pushing her daughter's shoulders straight with her hands, Viviane looked into the girl's teary red and blue eyes with a loving yet resolute gaze and a soft but firm smile.

"Remember Kannon -- It matters not what others say. It matters only what you believe. The moment you let another's degradation or doubt reach you, is the moment you mark your own failure."

Viviane spoke with mixed emotions under the swaying willow branches. Her eyes softened under the sun's rays yet hardened with every passing shadow.

"Believe in yourself, trust your feelings."

Her right hand slid down from the girl's shoulders, under her fluffy blossom-pink hair that swayed gently in the breeze, and over to cover her chest.

"You're a very special, gifted girl, Kannon. Your heart alone holds the key to your life, your universe... As long as your heart is set, you can accomplish anything."

As the daughter nodded softly, hesitantly, Viviane reached around and pulled her into a tight hug once again while she gently stroked her hair.

"You're not just our beautiful and charming princess; you're the gift of life who brought light into our lives, our hopes, our dreams..."

She closed her eyes. Her lips formed a bittersweet smile as she thought of the true meaning that lay behind her words, the burden that awaited this child.

"...And one day, when your heart is pulled and you find your prince, you'll become so much more than any princess. You'll become his indispensable partner; the protector of his ideals..."

"...The guardian of his dreams."

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