A Roo-yal Expedition: Part Two
“And what might that be?” the king asked. He leaned over his throne to see the two pets. Julia craned her neck as she looked upwards.
“Sir,” she said.
“Your Majesty,” Cranik coughed.
“What?” Julia said, puzzled. She turned to the Draik.
“Call him Your Majesty.”
“Right. I’m sorry, Si – I mean, Your Majesty. I was just going to say that I don’t think we’re what you’re looking for.”
“Oh, yes?” the king said.
“Yes. I think you’ve got the wrong pets. We’re nothing special, and we really should be getting home.”
“Where is home?”
“Jaraiya – that’s my brother – and I live on Mystery Island. We were just vacationing in Neopia Central when we ended up here.”
The king, if anything, looked more pleased than ever. Cranik flew up to the throne’s armrest, and tugged on the king’s sleeve. Skarl leaned forward to hear what the Draik had to say, and shook his head.
“I can handle it myself,” he said. To Julia, he said, “I’m going to propose something to you.”
Julia and Jaraiya waited for him to continue.
“I am leading an expedition,” he said, and his voice rose an octave, “to explore islands off the coast of Meridell. I need your help.”
“What do you need from us?” Jaraiya asked. He seemed genuinely confused.
“I want you to lead the exploration,” he said. At this, Julia frowned.
King Skarl seemed to have taken no notice. “The voyage will last about two weeks,” he said, “and I’ll need you around a little longer to get everything in order.”
Julia leaned close to Jaraiya, and whispered something in his ear. He nodded.
“...of course, everything will be provided. This includes food, books...”
“One,” Julia said quietly. She gritted her teeth.
“Two,” she said, and tensed her body.
“THREE!” both pets yelled. Jaraiya and Julia tripped over each other as they made for the door. The guards didn’t realize what had happened until the pets had reached the end of the hallway.
“They’re coming after us!” Julia yelled. She grabbed her brother and instead of going out the main door, pulled him down a separate hallway. “This way!”
They ran through several passages in the castle, followed by heavy footsteps that seemed to be only a few feet away.
Julia spied an open doorway, which she ran into. Jaraiya followed, panting. Julia put a hand on his mouth and pulled the door closed. Through the keyhole, she saw guards rush past, their heavy armor clanking.
“I think we’re okay,” Julia breathed. “At least for now.”
She took her hand away from Jaraiya’s mouth and slid down the wall until she was sitting on the floor.
“What should we do now?” Jaraiya asked. “They’re going to find us soon.”
Julia rubbed her temples, trying to think of a plan.
“If they don’t catch us by nightfall,” she said, “we can try to get out. But I think the castle is incredibly protected. I bet they have even more security now, to try and stop us.”
Jaraiya nodded solemnly.
“We’ll just have to wait until then,” he said.
Nightfall seemed to take forever to arrive. Jaraiya and Julia watched through a window as the sky turned steadily darker. At six o’clock, they heard the gates close and the drawbridge being pulled up. The sound that it made was harsh, and woke the two pets from their stupor.
“Oh, no,” Julia said.
“What?” Jaraiya asked.
“We’re trapped,” she said. “We can’t get off.”
She looked despairingly at her brother.
“We only have one choice. We’ll have to go now.”
“Now?” Jaraiya said. He sat up suddenly and hit his head against a broom. It began falling, and Julia caught it before it made a sound.
“Yes, now. Be very quiet.”
Julia opened the door, and gestured quickly with her paws. A soft breeze blew through the castle. Julia took it as a sign.
“We just need to figure out where that breeze is coming from,” she said. “I’m sure there’s a door somewhere.”
“Yes, and it’s on the way to a dungeon,” a shrill voice said.
Julia looked around wildly. A candle waved above her head, attached to a floating hand. She couldn’t see the face of the pet that stood over her.
“Come this way,” the voice said. Julia thought of escaping, but a look from Jaraiya stopped her.
“It’s not worth it,” he whispered.
They followed the candle for the stretch of the hallway. Julia looked longingly down a passage, where she could see an open door. The breeze from it blew out the candle, and a spiral of dark smoke crept toward the ceiling.
“This way,” the pet said. Its voice was strange – high and nervous.
Julia and Jaraiya made their way down a long flight of stairs. The stairway smelled musty, and Julia wrinkled her nose.
The Acara heard a jangling of keys, and she realized that they had stopped walking. The pet leading them had gotten another light, and Julia saw that they were staring at a dungeon door. The pet, which she could see was a Blue Scorchio, opened it and let them through. Once they were inside, he closed the door and put the keys back in his pocket.
“Have a nice night,” he said, and chuckled. Jaraiya sighed and began to sit down on the floor, but Julia pulled him up.
“Do you even KNOW how dirty that is?” she asked. She shuddered. “I don’t want to think of how many other pets have been here.”
The walls in the dungeon were covered with stains, and the floor felt slippery. From what Julia could see, they were the only pets in the cell. She put her hands on a pair of bars, and peered through. She felt her body slump against the door...
She woke again with a start.
“What’s that?” she said, and turned to Jaraiya. He had curled up in the middle of the dungeon floor, fast asleep. He smiled peacefully and rolled over.
Someone was walking down the steps. The pet obviously had trouble moving around; its steps were heavy and far apart.
A White Zafara finally appeared. Without a word, he opened the dungeon door and began walking away. Julia looked after him, confused. Finally she poked Jaraiya, who stood up and yawned. She began walking, and he followed.
After a few minutes, Julia realized that they were walking in the same direction that they had first come in. She wasn’t surprised when they stopped in front of the wooden doors that led to the king’s chamber.
They were hardly halfway down the red carpet when the King walked toward them. His robes billowed about him, and his clothes were haphazard. He looked like he’d just awoken, which as Julia realized, he probably had.
“All right,” he said, and he came to a full stop in front of them. The Zafara bowed and walked in the other direction, out of the chamber.
King Skarl leaned down so that he was eye-level with both of the pets.
“What I am proposing to you,” he said, “is mandatory. You may not refuse it.”
Julia nodded several times.
“But,” he said, “I will be sending a letter to your family, telling them of your whereabouts.” His eyes narrowed. “Due to your... ah, uncooperativeness, however, you will be leaving first thing tomorrow. Callie will see you to your rooms.” A Royal Aisha approached them. She nodded at the King, who swept out of the room.
“Another walk?” Jaraiya asked.
But this journey was surprisingly short; they arrived at the guest room after only a few twists and turns through the castle.
“Be ready by nine o’clock,” the Aisha said, and left.
Jaraiya took no time in exploring his surroundings. He bounced on the large plush bed, and tried soaking in the bathtub.
“Ugh, this is too hot,” he said, and crawled out. The water sloshed in the tub and spilled onto the floor. The Poogle walked out wrapped in a bright pink bathrobe, embossed with the initials KS. The bathrobe extended past his knees, and collected in a mound of cloth on the floor.
“Have you brushed your teeth yet?” Julia said distractedly. She stared up at the ceiling.
“No, have you?” Jaraiya said. His sister blushed.
“So, I’m thinking,” Jaraiya said. “Maybe they’ll let us go out for breakfast tomorrow morning. I’ve never been in Meridell before, and I’m dying to try out cheese rolling.”
Julia didn’t respond. She gazed out the window. Jaraiya walked around to the other side of the bed, and curled up next to his sister.
“What do you think Mom will say?” Julia asked. Without waiting for a response, she continued. “I bet she misses us, but maybe she’ll be proud of us after all this. It isn’t our fault that we got whisked away to Meridell.”
“Are you even listening?”
Julia looked over at her brother, next to her. He was fast asleep, his body rising with every breath. Julia pulled a blanket over the two of them and turned off the light.
To be continued...