A Roo-yal Expedition: Part Six
Caleb looked down at the ground before looking up at Julia.
“Hello, Julia,” he said.
The Acara opened her mouth and closed it again.
“B-but you -” she finally managed to say.
“I realized that you weren’t going to colonize the island,” Caleb said. “It was obvious from the start that you didn’t have the intention of taking over. So I had to take matters into my own hands. Or paws, rather,” he added, looking down at his grubby fingers.
Julia looked at the fleet of ships just off shore. Now that it was almost dark, she could only make out their silhouettes.
“But you must have arranged for those a while ago,” she said. “You didn’t trust us even before we landed here.”
“We had everything prepared,” Callie said, stepping forward. “Caleb just sent us the signal.”
As Julia was about to what the signal was, it became obvious. A Yellow Teasquito flew from one of the trees and landed on Caleb’s shoulder. Its large blue eyes blinked at Julia.
“Teasquitos are fast creatures,” Caleb said. In response to this, the petpet fluttered its wings.
“But Caleb,” Julia said, “you’ve been on our side. You were the one that told us you had no idea where we were going. So why would you want to colonize this island in particular?”
Caleb laughed. A red gleam lit up his right eye.
“You think I didn’t know what I was doing?” he said. “I knew that the storm was coming, and I knew that it would lead us in this direction. Roo Island is a profitable piece of land.”
At that moment, Julia heard something crashing through the trees. Diabbalo appeared, looking flustered. The Pirate Aisha ran to Caleb’s side. He whispered something in the Kacheek’s ear.
“It looks like the Aisha will be joining us,” Caleb said.
Julia heard a gasp from behind her. Jaraiya stepped forward.
“What?” he said. “Diabbalo, is this true?”
Diabbalo nodded. “I saw the ships from the house where I was staying. I realized that I came here to colonize, not to break bread with the natives. I take it you remember our agreement.”
Jaraiya nodded, still shocked.
“As long as we fight the same battles,” they said in unison.
Jaraiya stepped back, still unable to take his eyes off the Aisha. The Poogle stood next to his sister, who put a hand on his shoulder.
Ilna, who had been watching this exchange, stepped forward.
“You can’t have the island,” he said. Ilna walked up to Caleb, holding a staff in his hand. He raised it up firmly. “We won’t let you.”
Julia didn’t dare look at Ilna. She knew that they had lost his trust; even if she insisted that she’d had nothing to do with it, he wouldn’t believe her. She’d shown up in royal clothing, for Sloth’s sake!
“We have more ships than you do,” Caleb said. “We have more forces. You cannot fight us.”
Ilna didn’t say anything more, but he had let down his staff. Julia knew that he realized Caleb was right – there was nothing more they could do.
“We will stay here for the night,” Callie said. The Royal Aisha turned and began to walk towards the edge of the beach. “Tomorrow we begin negotiations.”
Julia and Jaraiya hurried to catch up with Ilna as he stepped through the trees. The Blumaroo walked quickly, and Julia was often slapped in the faces by the branches that he thrust aside.
“Ilna – wait up!” she said. Finally the Blumaroo turned around, breathing heavily.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said, “I have some business to attend to. This has been quite a busy day.”
“It wasn’t us,” Jaraiya blurted out. “We didn’t mean it.”
They were almost at the edge of the forest; another step and they would be inside the town. Through the trees, Julia could see almost no Blumaroos on the path. The atmosphere had completely changed.
Ilna nodded slowly. “I knew that,” he said. “You don’t seem like the kind of pets that would ruin a whole civilization.”
He walked forward again, but didn’t stop the siblings from following him.
“Where are we going?” Julia said. She didn’t receive an answer, and saw that they were headed toward the center of the island. In front of them was a large blue and white building. A wooden Blumaroo head balanced on top.
“We’re going to see the king,” Ilna said, and he opened a silver gate to let Jaraiya and Julia through. They tiptoed across the garden to the front door, where two guards were poised at the entrance. They were both wearing hats similar to the one belonging to the Blumaroo at the Merry-go-Round.
A large chatter reached the pets’ ears as they walked inside. Julia could now see where all of the Blumaroos went for the evening. In the main room, a large table was set up, covered with die. A dozen Blumaroos sat around it, rolling the dice on the table. Every few seconds, a waiter would bring by food for the table.
Julia saw a Yellow Blumaroo munching on a churro.
“Mm, this is good!” the Blumaroo said. He put down the pastry, rolled the dice again, and watched as a small pile of neopoints appeared at his place.
“Is that Dice-a-Roo?” Jaraiya asked excitedly. “I’ve heard of this game!”
“Yes, it is,” Ilna said. Julia saw that there were five exits out of the main room, with signs at the top that said GUEST ROOMS or KITCHEN. Ilna took them down one marked KING’S RESIDENCE.
“We’re meeting so much royalty!” Jaraiya said. “I can’t wait to tell the rest of the crew about this.”
As he said that, the Poogle cocked his head to the side.
“Wait a second,” he said. “Where is Allie, and Zeal?”
Julia knew that he was also thinking of someone else.
“They’re being taken care of by a family of Blumaroos,” Ilna responded. “They will be fine.”
Julia sighed in relief. So the Blumaroos didn’t suspect all of them – only Caleb and Diabbalo.
They had approached a large wooden door, which Ilna knocked on. After a response from inside, he turned the Blumaroo-shaped handle.
King Roo’s room was only slightly smaller than the main hall. Directly in front of the pets was a large gold throne, balanced on bean bags. There was a smaller dining table – similar to the main one – in the center of the room, and posters of famous Blumaroos hung on the walls. The farthest wall was simply a long stretch of windows, which looked out onto the village square. The walls were painted a light beige, and Julia sank her toes into the rich red carpet.
King Roo rose from his throne and walked toward the pets.
“Hello,” he said to the siblings. To Ilna, he asked, “Do you have any news?”
“They are camped at the edge of shore,” the Blumaroo answered. “They said they would like to talk to us tomorrow.”
The king shook his head and rested his hand on the dining table.
“I knew this day would come,” he said. “Skarl has been sending me messages almost every month. I haven’t read a single one, and destroy them all.”
He pointed to the Rainbow Fireplace in the corner of a room, where a bright fire was burning. A furry table and chairs were arranged around it.
“Let’s sit down there,” the king said. Jaraiya grabbed the largest Furry Chair, and bounced in the seat a few times before settling.
Before the king could begin to talk, an Island Blumaroo walked in bearing a plate of food. She set a tray of smoothies and crackers down on the Furry Table, and closed the door behind her.
Jaraiya grabbed a handful of crackers and downed his smoothie in a few seconds. Once he’d slurped the last drop, he put a paw to his head, wincing.
“You all right?” the king asked him.
“Brain freeze,” Julia explained for her brother. “He gets it a lot.”
Ilna and the king shot each other a glance, smiling.
“Here on Roo Island,” King Roo said, “we do everything in moderation. That includes eating cold drinks.”
“I don’t think Jaraiya’s learned that lesson yet,” Julia said, and patted her brother’s shoulder.
A moment passed. Jaraiya took away his paw from his forehead.
“All right,” he said, “so what’s our mission?”
“Mission?” the king said. He laughed shortly. “We don’t have a mission. I don’t have any idea what to do. From what Ilna has told me, the Kacheek was right. We don’t have any forces; we don’t even have a coalition of Blumaroos. And Meridell won that huge war years ago.”
Julia shook her head as she struggled to swallow a cracker.
“No,” she said once she’d finished. “I have a plan.”
“Shh! They’ll hear you!”
“Julia, it doesn’t matter. We have to get this over with.”
The night was dark, and silent except for Jaraiya’s occasional grunts of frustration. He fiddled with the lock, every few seconds taking the key out to inspect it.
Julia stood next to Ilna, the king, and Mr. Jones. She saw that the old Blumaroo was tired; he sighed and leaned against a tree trunk for support.
“Here, let me help you,” Julia said. She grabbed the Green Blumaroo’s arm and eased him onto a wooden stump. He patted her shoulder in gratitude.
“So, you’re sure that the documents are here?” she asked him. He nodded slowly.
“They were signed at the edge of this beach,” he said, pointing to the coast, “and were put in this cupboard.” The sea, which he was pointing at, glittered in the darkness. The breeze that it threw on the sand dunes was cold.
“You almost got it?” Julia asked her brother, shivering.
“It’s hard to see,” he said. “It’s just so dark out. I’m trying.”
Finally the lock clicked, and the door opened to reveal a small room surrounded by shelves. Julia walked in, and felt around until she realized what the room held.
“They’re documents,” she said. “Hundreds of them!”
“And thank you for making our job so much easier,” came a voice from the darkness.
To be continued...