Kaden and his new friend Tali finished their race and paused
to rest on the cobblestone path. Breathing hard and laughing, they collapsed to
“Good race,” said Tali. “What fun!” The Techo
stood up and said, “Ready to continue? I can see the castle.” Kaden jumped up
and they walked the rest of the way.
The Meridell castle was incredibly beautiful.
It was made entirely out of limestone. Blue and white flags billowed in the
breeze and the same royal Zafara, Darski, stood outside the gates. More and
more Neopets were coming now and the line to get to the gates was becoming congested.
Neopets piled behind Tali and Kaden, mashing them together like sardines. The
line was moving slowly to enter the castle; Darski was doing a good job of getting
around to everybody. When it was their turn, she asked,
“Here for King Skarl’s challenge?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Tali. Kaden was so excited
that he couldn’t find his voice. He just nodded.
“Go on in,” she said and they thanked her.
The entry room was so vast that Kaden thought
that his house plus three others wouldn’t be able to fill the space. At least
one hundred Neopets were sitting down, writing on little slips of paper. A silver
Shoyru wearing a long robe swooped down towards Tali and Kaden, handing them
each a slip of paper and a pencil.
“Fill out these forms please, then drop them
in the crate over there,” he acknowledged a wooden box in the corner of the
room. Kaden looked down at his slip of paper. It wanted his name, species, address,
and family members. He quickly filled it out, and dropped it into the box across
the room. He sat down on the tile floor next to Tali, who had finished before
him, and looked around.
Some Neopets brought large and fancy gifts that
they had to carry because it was too big to put away. One Acara was holding
a magnificent golden sword, with a sapphire above its handle. An Usul was holding
a necklace, with a silver chain and a large jewel in the middle, two Scorchio
brothers were each holding a satin cloak with gold embroidery. Kaden’s face
fell, thinking that his gift would stand little chance against all those expensive
“Looks like we’re going to be here for a while,”
Tali used his backpack as a pillow to lie down.
“Hungry?” Kaden asked and Tali nodded. Kaden
withdrew the two red apples from James and gave one to Tali, as he ate the other.
Neither of them said anything for a long time.
After an hour of waiting in apprehension, Darski
the Zafara made her way to a small podium in a corner of the large room. Her
dress grazed the floor as she passed and the ribbon on her hat bounced behind
“All listen now!” she said and everyone gave
his or her rapt attention. “King Skarl is ready to see all of you. He will choose
the gift that he thinks will represent you if you are chosen to live in this
castle. I will be drawing names from the wooden box and when I call your name
you can come forward to see the King. I ask you for your silence.” Darski reached
into the crate and read the first slip, “Flonna, the Uni.”
A blue Uni gasped and made her way down to the
podium with a small box. Darski gestured towards a big door on the left. The
Uni went in after looking back tentatively at the crowd. Gradually, more and
more names were called. They just kept on coming. This was a good sign, Kaden
decided. That meant that the King had not found a gift that he liked yet.
Another hour went by quickly, and the big crowd
was slowly to disappear. Kaden, Tali and about fifty others were left. But then…
“Tali, the Techo,” called Darksi. Tali jumped
up as if the Lab Ray had zapped him.
“Good luck,” said Kaden.
Tali disappeared into the big room, leaving Kaden
with no other company. He leaned back again and thought about winning the challenge.
He would be so rich that he could paint himself starry. Two Kikos were talking
in a loud whisper and Kaden couldn’t help eavesdropping…
“…Well, I heard that the King sees all the gifts
then picks one in the end,” said the first Kiko.
“That’s fair,” the second Kiko agreed.
Kaden’s stomach jolted violently. He thought
that when the King found the most interesting gift, he’d stop the challenge.
But since every gift was going to be reviewed, Kaden felt he had less of a chance
to win. Having woken up so early, Kaden drifted off to sleep. But he only slept
for a few minutes because a Peophin was nudging him with her tail.
“Darski just called ‘Kaden, the Lupe’ and you’re
the only Lupe left,” she said. Kaden thanked her and turned towards Darski.
She was looking a little agitated, probably having to repeat his name while
he was sleeping. He apologized as he took his card and faced the doors. He sucked
in a deep breath and entered.
King Skarl, accompanied by two large Eyries,
(probably bodyguards) was staring at him. Kaden stopped, feeling very small
in the large room.
“Come forward and let me read your card, please,”
said King Skarl. Kaden felt a little embarrassed being addressed by the King.
He inched forward until he was standing a few feet in front of him. One of the
Eyries took the card from him and handed it to the King. King Skarl looked it
over, “Kaden,” he said the name as if trying it out. “Kaden, let’s see your
Now Kaden really doubted his gift. He exhaled
and pulled out a small velvet sack.
The King reached out a scaly hand and took it.
He looked inside, but there was nothing in it. He forced a smile and said, “Why
have you chosen to give me this gift?”
“Your Highness, I know it’s really not much.
But it’s something that I always cherished. It was like a place where I could
store all of my memories. When my brother Garret, a red Lupe died of a very
rare sickness, my owner James and I struggled to keep our small family together.
We live on Scenic Drive; the very last house is ours. It’s pretty run-down and
it’s not as nice as the others. But we’ve always managed,” Kaden paused to see
if the King was going to say anything, he added, “The little velvet sack is
my only remembrance of Garret. It’s as if when I opened it, the memories came
back to me. But my memory of him is so strong, that I don’t need it any more.
And I would like you to have it for a special memory of your own.”
The King smiled down from his golden throne and
said, “Thank you for your time and this most precious gift, Kaden. I am sorry
about the loss of your brother. You may proceed into the next room with the
others.” Kaden bowed respectfully, thanked him and exited.
Tali waved him over the minute Kaden appeared
at the doors.
“How’d it go?” Tali asked.
“Not bad,” said Kaden, pleased with his impression.
“Okay, I guess. So what are you going to buy
if you win?”
“A starry paint brush,” Kaden told him. “I’ve
wanted one for some time, but we could never aff-, I mean, we’re still saving.”
He blushed. Tali didn’t seem to notice. Another half-hour went by and the heavy
doors swung open. This time, Darksi entered, followed by King Skarl. Darski
motioned for all of the Neopets to stand since King Skarl was in the room now.
“I have made my decision,” King Skarl said.
Kaden glanced around. Most of the pets were wide-eyed and anxious. “I have chosen
the most interesting gift. Whoever gave me this,” he reached into his pocket,
“please come forward.”
Out of his pocket came the blue velvet sack.
Everyone groaned… everyone except for Kaden.
He stood there numbly, not knowing what to do. Tali sighed heavily. He did not
know that the velvet sack belonged to Kaden.
“Well?” said the King.
Kaden took a step forward. Tali looked at him
in astonishment, as if to ask, ‘Was that your gift’? Kaden felt a boost of energy
and he came forward to stand next to the King. The crowd erupted with clapping
and cheering, though most of them didn’t understand the meaning of the gift.
Kaden felt King Skarl’s hand on his shoulder
standing next to him. He couldn’t find anything to say. He opened his mouth
to say; ‘Thank you’ but the words, “Why did you pick me?” came out instead.
The King chuckled, “The task was to bring me
the most interesting gift. Not the most beautiful, nor the most expensive…”
the Acara that was holding the giant gold sword turned to leave. “Kaden’s gift
was the most unique because he brought me something that made him happy.
Not something that would make me happy. He showed pure generosity by giving
up his most cherished item, and for that he is rewarded with fame, a long life
and a home in my castle.” The applause started again and Kaden was handed a
golden crown from King Skarl.
“Thank you, your Highness, th-thank you so much!”
“Thank you everyone else for your determination,”
said the King, as the Neopets were exiting. King Skarl turned to Kaden and said,
“Your gift was very touching, and you are a most generous Lupe. As I’ve promised,
you and your family may live with me in the castle. A carriage has already been
sent for James and your personal belongings. Kaden began to thank him over and
“I promise that I’ll serve you in any way that
I can. My owner and I are extremely grateful!”
“Thank you and you’re welcome, Kaden. But… I
wish there is something else that I can do for you…”
That night the King called for a feast. There
was marrow stew, potatoes, bread, corn, tomatoes and pie. James and Kaden’s
bedrooms were identical. Each had a regal oak wood bed, dresser and bathroom.
The walls were lined with gold and the sheets and curtains were made of silk.
James knocked on Kaden’s door, “Hope you’re going
to bed soon.”
“I am,” Kaden promised him.
“Good night,” Kaden took off his leopard print
robe in front of the mirror and admired his new starry self.
Author’s Note: Hope you enjoyed my mini continued series! If you liked it,
then I’ll probably write more stories about Kaden and James. Please feel free
to mail me with some feedback or other comments. I’d love to know what you thought!