~Chapter 14 - A Friend in the Forest~

The book which Adela had been clutching to her chest slipped from her grip as she stumbled away from the body which she had just crashed into. She lost her footing and fell backwards onto the ground, making a pile of leaves beneath her flutter away, and immediately tried to scramble away, expecting one of the De Noir's guards to be standing in front of her in the dark.

"Oh my Goodness, I'm so sorry!" A feminine voice gasped.

Frowning, Adela looked up to see the person pull down the hood of their cloak to reveal a beautiful face. She had high cheekbones and a strong jaw line, a straight nose and calm blue eyes which contrasted with her wild and curly light brown hair.

Feeling the shock and fear die down, Adela took the hand the woman was extending and stood up, and brushed her now muddy dress off. Then she picked up her book quickly, and held it protectively. "Who on Earth are you?" Adela asked, and then when she realised how rude that sounded she added a smile.

The older woman laughed kindly. "I'm Loveday, dear. Might I ask your name?"

Adela paused for a moment, before deciding that Loveday was safe enough. "I'm Adela… Adela Merryweather, niece of Benjamin Merryweather." She told her, relaxing. Loveday smiled warmly, and then took of her cloak and wrapped it around Adela's shoulders, revealing a plum coloured dress, which complimented her cream skin.

"It's freezing out here, I suggest we go inside." Loveday said, taking Adela's arm and leading her towards a fairly large tree. "This is where I live, Adela." There was an opening in the tree, which Adela gaped at. Loveday chuckled at her expression. "I must say it is quite homely inside, first impressions shouldn't always count." She told Adela, with a laugh.

Raising her eyebrows, Adela smiled and followed Loveday into the little tunnel under the tree. It was quite cool; a house under a tree, but what Adela couldn't understand is why she lived there in the first place. Uncle Benjamin hadn't mentioned any people living literally in the woods.

Once they were inside, Loveday ushered Adela onto a chair, and sat down as well. Inside, Adela had to admit it was quite nice. There were little lanterns hanging around amongst the few hanging plants, and it was clean and cosy.

"The forest is too dangerous for a girl like you to be out there at night…" Loveday muttered, shaking her head sadly. "Much too dangerous."

"What?" Adela murmured, staring at Loveday through narrowed eyes.

"The shadows, dear. They're everywhere, Gosh if I hadn't found you…"

Adela felt her stomach go queasy. Loveday was not the first to talk about the shadows. Rose had told Adela of how the shadows had grown strong and destroyed her village, killing her family in the process, except her baby, who worked in the De Noir castle but didn't know his mother. At first Adela hadn't believed her, who would? There was a village in Moonacre; Adela had heard Benjamin talk about it. But what happened to Rose was years ago, so the village could have been rebuilt, right?
They were silent for a while, both staring off into the distance.

"Now, what is that you have there?" Loveday asked Adela suddenly, her eyes drifting over the book she was clutching.

"Oh." Adela gasped, realizing she was asking about the book 'The Chronicles of Moonacre Valley'. "Well… my father left it to me; I received it before I came here. It seems that… everyone here feels that the events in this story are true…" She trailed off. Loveday smiled warmly, and took the book from her.

"That is because they are true, my dear. Surely you have realised by now?" Loveday sighed. "You're the Moon Princess, we all know it. Even I do, and I live in a forest."

Adela sighed, caressing the cover of the book with her finger. "I don't know what to do. I've heard all about these shadows and it just… seems so unreal." She replied, sinking into the chair.

"Adela, believe me, you're special. I'm surprised that Robin and Coeur haven't been after you yet." She said, finishing with a little laugh, which was cut short when she saw the look on Adela's face. "What? You're not telling me that… oh why did I not question why you were out in the forest at such a time. I'm going to kill that little-"

Adela coughed loudly, interrupting Loveday from her ranting. "Why do they want me?"

"The moon pearls. The De Noirs believe that the Merryweather's have stolen it, and it's the same the other way around. This feud has been going on for many moons. Speaking of moons Adela, we don't have many left. Have you read the rest of the book?" Loveday explained, and continued after Adela shook her head. "The very first Moon Princess cursed the pearls, after her bridegroom and father became obsessed with the pearls power. She said at the 5000th moon, the valley will plunge into darkness….unless a pure heart returns and is 'heard' before then. And that pure heart is you, Adela."

Adela watched her, taking everything in, trying to keep calm. She was the Moon Princess, and it was all up to her to save the valley before they all die. She gave a nervous laugh. "That's not the only problem though, is it? There are the shadows as well!"

Loveday was silent for a while before she answered. "You're right. The Shadows were born when the feud reached its worst point, and a De Noir was killed. It was about 2000 moons ago. There was so much hatred and no love left, and they seemed to be a second curse. They take the life from your soul sometimes killing you. It makes them stronger. The victim never themselves again if they survive, and the kindest thing to do is to let the victim die… the Shadows wreak havoc Adela, they must be stopped. They have been known to destroy whole villages before!" Loveday finished her explanation, and stared intently at Adela, who was sitting with her eyes wide.

"I don't know what to do though Loveday. You have to help me!" Adela cried, standing up in her angst. Loveday stood up as well, and took the younger girl in a warm embrace.

"It will be okay, Adela. You must find the pearls and return them to the sea, but before you do that you must stop the Shadows. And to do that, you need to overpower them… with love." She said quietly, letting go of her and holding her by the shoulders. "Now you need to answer my questions. Firstly, what on Earth were you doing in the forest at night?"

Adela began explaining her whole story, the words rushing out of her mouth so quickly that when she had finished, she was out of breath. Loveday stood before her, a shocked expression over her face. She seemed to be taking everything in and registering it, but didn't say anything the whole way through. Then her face turned angry. It reminded Adela of someone, but she just could think of who-

"You're Robin's sister!" She cried out in realization. She remembered now, the day they had run from one of the De Noirs, and ended up in the gardens, after Robin had attempted to fetch a blanket from a room… Loveday's room. "How did I not realise before? He told me… oh my gosh, it's you! You were in love with my uncle Benjamin!" She gasped, shutting up when the woman took a sharp intake of breath.

"Yes, I am a De Noir, daughter of Coeur and sister to Robin. And I forbid you to say his name to me." She said softly, her voice rising when she began speaking about Benjamin. "I think I should take you back now."

They left the warmth of the underground home, Adela was wrapped up in the maroon cloak, and they trudged through the forest, relying on only the moonlight and Loveday's sense of direction to lead them back to the Merryweather Manor. "I know the forest like the back of my hand." Loveday had assured her, commenting that it was the same with her brother. "We practically grew up here… and it's my home now." She said, laughing dryly.

After about 5 minutes, Adela's eyes had become quite accustom to the dark. She was chatting away with Loveday about what life had been like in London, when she spotted something. Just a little further out into the woods to her left, was something that was giving off a glowing, white light. "What's that?" She murmured, forgetting about her conversation with Loveday and heading off towards it. As she came closer, she noticed that the little things giving off light were what seemed to be flowers.

"Those are Astrid Flowers." Loveday told her, smiling. They used to be rare, but it seemed they had started coming back.

"Wow." Adela breathed, bending down to pick one. She held it in her hands, her grey eyes gazing at the soft, pure white, heart shaped petals. After a moment, she stood up again and followed Loveday, whilst tucking the flower behind her ear.

"I must leave you now." Loveday suddenly said, as glowing yellow lights came into view. She hugged Adela tightly, before turning her in the right direction to the house. "Stay strong, Princess, you can do it." She whispered, and before Adela could even thank her, she was gone.

Shivering slightly, Adela set off at a quick pace towards the house, despite being exhausted. Nerves bubbled in her stomach at the thought of seeing Uncle Benjamin and Ms Heliotrope again. She had missed her Governess terribly. As the manor came into view, the nerves disappeared and were instead replaced with joy. All the lights seemed to be lit, and sitting on the porch, by the door was a sleeping figure.

Suddenly Adela was knocked to the ground, and had the unpleasant feeling of something licking her face. She opened her eyes to come face to face with none other than Wrolf, the massive black dog that she had thought of as scary when she first arrived. He bound away from her, barking excitedly. Adela got up and brushed herself off for the second time that night, and ran towards Uncle Benjamin, who was now stirring in the rocking chair.

He sat up straight suddenly, and his head whipped around, scanning the area. It took him a moment before he noticed Adela, who stood a couple of meters away from him. "Adela?" He said quietly, standing up and squinting.
"Hello, Uncle Benjamin." Adela replied, walking forwards.

"Adela!" He cried out, running forwards and engulfing her in a massive hug. His shout must have alerted Ms Heliotrope, as her figure appeared at the now opened door, silhouetted against the bright light coming from inside.

"Oh Adela!" She cried, lifting her skirts so she could run and give the girl a hug too. Digweed followed after, and bowed politely, although his eyes were brimming with tears at the obvious delight of Benjamin and Ms Heliotrope. "Oh my, you're filthy! Come inside, come inside! We must get you bathed and changed and fed," Ms Heliotrope babbled, taking Adela by the arm and rushing her inside, where she was greeted by a rather small man with a slight moustache, wearing an odd hat.

Ms Heliotrope took her upstairs and began fussing around, preparing a bath and some clean clothes. Adela sat down on her bed, looking around at the room. It had been almost a month since she had last been in there. And although she had only spent one day and night in the manor, with Ms Heliotrope fussing about, and Uncle Benjamin telling her how worried he was (even though she hadn't liked him very much at first, she was definitely relieved to see him) and Digweed asking how she could help, Adela felt like she was finally home.

A/N: Sorry I keep saying I'll update quickly, but I don't! Very sorry. I hope you like this chapter, I finally introduced Loveday and partly Marmaduke! Please leave a review :)