It wasn't easy when her parents left for the colonies. She wasn't even old enough to remember their faces properly when the final goodbyes were exchanged. They were officers, part of the army sent to stamp out the indigenous rebels and put the primitive savages back in their proper places - in grateful service to civilized man. "Samantha, you have to be a big girl for mommy now, okay?" Her mother had told her. "We'll be back in time for your birthday party," her father had promised. "Can we go to the zoo?" She had asked, eyes beaming. "Of course," her father had nodded, patted her head, and then he was gone. She remembered the cawing of seagulls and the acrid smell rising from the smokestacks of the ship that bore her parents across the sea, never to return.
Father and mother were still busy in the colonies, they had explained apologetically in the letter that arrived on her birthday, so they wouldn't be coming home for a while. Instead, happy birthday and look at this stuffed animal your mother picked out for you! It's a flamingo, a bird from the colonies that stood on one leg in the lakes and dipped its head into the water to catch fish. That's why its head is a different colour from the rest of its body, see. Samantha hugged it close to her chest that night while she cried herself to sleep.
It didn't get easier when several birthdays later, her father had been granted land and title for his valiant deeds in the war, and made governor of the colonies. He wrote her a letter and sent it with the treasure ship returning from the colonies just as he did every year. Her mother had fallen sick with a tropical disease and passed on three months ago. He himself had to remain in the colonies to fulfill his administrative duties. The colonies, however, were completely unfit for raising and educating a young lady like herself, so she was to remain where she was. His rank entitled him to an estate in the city and he had arranged for her to move in there and a governess to oversee her upbringing. The estate was large and cold with old servants who made poor conversation. A pair of paintings hung in the main hall: Lord and Lady Rosewood. Their faces were strangers to Samantha Rosewood. The governess made sure that Samantha had food, clothes and schooling, and otherwise ignored her existence. She had hope, however. In a postscript to his letter her father had promised to return in a few years as his term as governor would expire then. He kept his promise, and returned on time for once.
In a closed casket. She inherited his title and his wealth, but of his personal effects only his ceremonial short sword was passed down to her. Everyone was strangely silent about the circumstances of his death.
She was Lady Rosewood now and she had a legendary name to live up to. In death her father's deeds became even more heroic, even more outlandish, and people looked for the same in the next person to bear his name. She became alienated from her friends and schoolmates; either they resented her status or they venerated her and expected great things of her, then became disappointed when she could not deliver. The other noble lords and ladies looked down upon her as an entitled upstart brat when all she wanted was to be normal like everybody else. Then one night, when she had been crying into her stuffed flamingo again, it suddenly slapped her on the face with a fluffy wing. It didn't hurt - the cloth was too soft for that - but it did shock her frozen. "Hey, can you get a proper hankie instead of using me as a towel? Don't think I like getting my feathers wet just because I'm a waterfowl!"
"You - you can talk!? And move!? But you're just a stuffed toy!"
"I resent that! Don't lump me in with those useless puffballs! I'm not just any stuffed toy: I'm a witch doctor's doll and that makes me as different from them as you are from a monkey. Do you know how hard it's been keeping still all these years while you cried on me like a baby? I thought it would get better once you grew up, but no! A magic doll like me deserves better than this!"
Samantha latched on to one word in that and disregarded the absurdity of talking to a stuffed toy for the moment. "Magic? Then... can you do magic? Like, make me normal, like everyone else, so I can fit in?"
"Sorry, girl, but magic is special. Unique. Different. It makes great or terrible, not mundane. You're asking the impossible, I'm afraid."
"Then..." her voice hardened. Resolve and inner strength, built up unknowingly from years of forced independence, shone through. Unconscious bitterness towards the man who called himself her father but never bothered to return home while he had his adventures in unknown lands, and a hidden desire to one-up him, surfaced. "Then make me special. Unique. Great - greater than my father. I want to be known, not as the daughter of Lord Rosewood, but as Lady Rosewood in my own right."
"As long as you stop crying on me, I'm game. But first things first, I need a focus, something from my homeland."
She thought. Besides the stuffed toy itself there was only one other object she had that had spent any time in the colonies. Her father's sword hung above the fireplace in the main hall as an ornament and reminder.
"You know what? That thing normally shouldn't count, but it's been bathed in so much blood it's practically an artifact in its own right by now. Where is it now?"
"I'll show you."
And so, in the hall of the Rosewoods, Samantha swore the oaths of a magical girl and took her father's sword as her focus, so that she would prove herself to be greater than him.
"Good," the flamingo had admitted when they were done, "just in time for your first outing to try out your new powers!"
"Oh, did I forget to mention it? Your friends' envy has gotten so out of hand that they're making shadow monsters wander the night while they dream. It's your fault you know. Out you go and good luck beating them all! If you don't who knows what they'll do to the city!"
Her stuffed toy had practically kicked her out the door where she was immediately accosted by shadowy... monstrous... things. She had stumbled through her first battle against the shadows of darkness... somehow.
"You could have warned me!" She screamed at it when it was all over. "I never wanted this!"
"Oh really? I thought this was exactly what you wanted. Wasn't it? Deep down inside, and all that."
"I..." she stammered and stopped. Power in her hands, all she wanted, not within her reach, just waiting to be grasped. She couldn't honestly say no.