Magical Evil: Part Four
Libby looked deep into Rosalene’s eyes, clearly surprised by her reaction. Rosalene had stiffened, and now looked very hesitant.
“Did I say something wrong? You don’t have to tell me anything, you know... ”
Rosalene shook her head. “It’s OK. In fact, I think I do need to spill it all out...” She took a deep breath. At that moment, Libby’s mother walked in. Rosalene sighed, knowing that this was all for the best.
And then she told them. Starting from how her childhood had been like, being shut in her room all day and being taught strictly. How it felt like to never feel the wind on her face, never chase the Doglefoxes that were running around, never to have a proper childhood, never to have anyone she could talk to.
Then she went on to the banquet. With each word she spoke, she felt like she was finally letting it out, finally relieving herself from a burden. She felt she really had to tell someone of Alarisca’s plan. She knew now, in her heart, that she hadn’t made the right decision, and she felt that by telling someone, she would be able to make things right.
When she finished, all three Neopets were staring at her in amazement.
“I never thought...” Libby began.
“Bad, bad saw-sair-ras!” Pancho exclaimed.
“I need to make things right,” Rosalene said. “Libby, will you help me confront... ?”
The mere thought of meeting Alarisca again made her shudder. Libby, on the other hand, was thinking hard.
“Rosalene, did she say anything about where she came from?”
Rosalene paused, and then said, “In fact, she did. She said she was the... Royal Sorceress of... Memmis? The Duke of Central Meridell.”
Libby gasped. “You must mean Memphis! We have to go talk to him! Maybe... maybe he’s part of Alarisca’s plan!”
Rosalene raised an eyebrow. “You think so? I’m not so sure... maybe she just made that up as an excuse for going.”
Libby shook her head. “We don’t hear much from these parts, but the Duke does have a Royal Sorceress. Of that, I am sure.”
Rosalene gasped. “What if... she’s bewitched his mind?”
The two of them stared at each other, and then looked up at Libby’s mother.
“Well,” she said slowly, “I will be busy here, but you two can go alone. I’ll come later in case there’s trouble.”
They nodded. Rosalene’s heart fluttered, just slightly, with warmth. It was amazing knowing that someone wanted to help her, even when she’d just dragged them into her own troubles.
There was a slight hurry as they headed towards the Duke’s palace. However, there was enough time for Rosalene to look around and enjoy the sight of the Rubbish Dump, Potato Counting, Turdle Racing and Turmaculus. Libby smiled every time she said “Wow!”, but didn’t laugh or tease her about it.
The palace was, of course, not as grand as King Skarl’s, but quite amazing all the same. There was an enormous, stiff gate, with guards outside it, looking fierce and wary. The two of them hesitated, and then walked boldly up to the gate.
A muscular Red Lupe glared at them as they approached. He looked at Libby down his snout, snapping, “Commoners aren’t allowed to meet the Duke.” He then saw Rosalene. “And your fancy-dress won’t convince me, either.”
Libby frowned, but Rosalene simply took off her tiara and showed the Royal Brightvale Coat of Arms on it to the Lupe. He looked suspicious and stared at her for a moment, but nodded and opened the gate for them.
Libby let out a sigh of relief and laughed. “Glad you left your tiara on!” The guard glared at her again when she stepped in, but fortunately, didn’t stop her.
They slowly walked inside the castle grounds and approached the palace. Rosalene constantly stared at her fingers in anticipation and thought, wondering what she would find out.
The Duke’s room was bolted up and locked. Rosalene gave her friend a shrug and gave the door a few gentle taps.
Just as Rosalene was about to knock the second time, the door swung open, smacking the two of them right in the face and knocking them over. An unusually skinny Royal boy Skeith ran around in a panic, his face in his palms, yelling out something neither neopet could quite understand. The two of them raised their eyebrows at each other in confusion as they stood back up. Duke Memphis was now yelling something slightly distinguishable...
“NO! SHE’S DONE IT! SHE’S DONE IT!”
“Err... Duke Memphis? Excuse me?”
Memphis turned his head just slightly towards Rosalene. He gasped out loud.
“You... you’re the Princess! King Hagan’s daughter!”
Rosalene nodded fiercely. Memphis shook her shoulders.
“You... you shouldn’t have... Brightvale in trouble... Meridell in trouble... Neopia in trouble... dangerous sorceress... ” He shook his head, mumbling away again. “She’s done it, she’s DONE IT!”
“Pardon me, sir,” Libby began, “But what do you mean?”
Memphis wrung his hands and banged his head against the wall. “It’s my entire fault... my fault... ”
Duke Memphis was acting like someone insane, Rosalene thought. But he realised she’d run away! Maybe he did know something about Alarisca! She stepped forward and said, “Sir, Duke Memphis, do you h-happen to know anything about a Yellow Acara sorceress? Alarisca?”
Memphis went pale, but nodded fiercely. “In fact... I do. I know a lot...”
He sighed. “Time is short, but it’s important that you know, Rosalene. You and your friend, come on in. I’ll tell you what I know about her, but as for how to overthrow her... that is up to you now.” Beckoning for them to come in, he pulled two chairs over for Libby and Rosalene to sit on, while he pulled at his hair, whimpering, and finally plopped down on his bed.
The Duke’s room was quite magnificent, much better than how Rosalene’s had been. The walls were decorated with portraits of him, all of them framed with gold; the bed was an enormous canopy one; and the room itself was about the size of the dining room in Brightvale Castle. Rosalene thought this was pretty grand for someone who wasn’t even royalty, although of higher class. Her brief excursion to Libby’s home had shown her how most Neopets would live in a simple house, and in simple rooms. But she wasn’t there to concentrate on how good the Duke’s home was. She sat down and waited patiently for Memphis to calm down.
Finally, he hiccoughed himself into seriousness, furrowed his brow and asked, “What did Alarisca tell you?”
Rosalene paused, thinking back to the night before. “She said she was going to use magic to gain the throne, forcing me out of the way so I won’t be the heir, that she would use magic to control Brightvale and later Neopia, that she would use magic to make people think I was involved in an accident... that my father was a terrible king, trapping me, and that he did that to others as well... that sort of thing.”
Memphis nodded. “That’s mostly what I was going to tell you, so that saves us a bit of time. However, there is one important thing that you don’t know, and I think it will help you a great deal. I knew Alarisca before, however amazing that may seem. Her parents were best friends of mine, and when they died two years ago, Alarisca – or Ally, as I called her – lived with me. I was her new guardian. She was such a bright, cheerful, amazing girl, and I absolutely adored her.
“However, three weeks ago, a rather strange Eyrie approached me. He told me that he had magical abilities which were of good use, and could teach my servants if I wanted. He demonstrated some of his skills to me, and I was amazed. I immediately asked him to teach Alarisca.
“But after the lessons started... Alarisca totally changed. She became serious, silent, and quite malicious, in fact. She stopped talking to me. She stopped eating and drinking altogether. She appointed herself my Royal Sorceress, and made sure all of Meridell knew about it. I was really worried about her, and sent the Eyrie teacher away. When I received the banquet invitation from King Hagan, she forced me, by magic, to write a letter saying I couldn’t come, and that she would in my place. She enchanted the letter so that Hagan would definitely let her come.
“You see, she’d done a little research beforehand, and found out about you, Rosalene. She began to make plans, and attended the banquet. When she didn’t come back last night, and I heard about Brightvale having a new Royal Sorceress this morning, I went nuts. I found her plans in her room, and learnt how she was going to dominate Brightvale and Neopia through you. I also heard this morning about an accident taking place at Brightvale Castle, involving you, Rosalene.
“You might be surprised that I’m telling you all this, but the point is: Alarisca is not a one-hundred-year old immortal sorceress. She’s Ally, a fourteen-year-old intelligent little Acara who is not in the right state of mind. Help her break free from whatever’s changed her. There’s nothing more which I can tell you.”
Duke Memphis sighed, and looked into the eyes of Libby and Rosalene. The two were thinking individually. After a few moments, he added, “I’d like to come with you.”
Rosalene smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that! The only plan I have is to talk to Alarisca, and try to awaken her, and no doubt you, who’s known her for so long, will help.”
Libby nodded. “I was thinking something along those lines. There’s no time to make a proper plan – we’ll just have to go. And the only choices, either way, are to fight her and destroy her or talk to her and bring her back. The latter is definitely more productive.” She stood up. “Let’s go!”
To be continued...