Princess Bones: Part Five
Rina stared at Princess Saya in total shock. She couldn’t believe that the Shadow Xweetok was only a few feet in front of her. She was robed in an elegant green and gold dress embroidered with tiny suns and she stood with absolute perfect posture. Her young green eyes were quizzical.
“You saved me,” Rina managed once her voice returned; however, a second later there were loud banging noises coming from the door leading into the hall. Dr. Renwick and Mr. Milleran were trying to break into the bedroom.
“You’re not safe yet,” Saya said. Her voice was strong, but had a hint of both confusion and fear: obviously the young princess hadn’t witnessed anything like this ever before. “We need to get out of here; you can tell me your story later.”
“Story?” the green Zafara asked, staring at the princess confusedly. “What story? And how are we going to get out of here? That’s the only door!” The banging was more insistent now, accompanied by angered shouts and curses, but Rina tried to ignore them and instead looked around the bedroom. There was no other exit save for the window, which was useless since they were a few stories up. The only other things in the room were a lavishly made bed, a wardrobe, and a full-length mirror.
“Obviously you must have some sort of an explanation about what’s going on,” Saya said, quickly crossing the room with her dress flowing behind her. “I need to be sure, for example, that I didn’t just save a thief or something.” She opened the wardrobe door, revealing many more pretty dresses like the one she was wearing, and said, “Now come on. We need to go. I doubt the door will hold much longer.”
“We’re gonna hide in your closet?”
“No.” Princess Saya held back the dresses with her paw, revealing a hidden tunnel entrance. “Now come on. We need to go.”
The loud banging noises increased, and the door rattled on its hinges. With a shiver, Rina nodded and followed the princess into the wardrobe. Saya latched it shut behind them and then led the way beyond the luxurious fabrics until they were both in a narrow stone passageway.
“Wow,” Rina said, staring at the rough stone pathway. She couldn’t believe that something this crude was in a palace so magnificent. “What is this place?”
“A secret passage,” Saya said simply. “There are tons throughout the castle. They were built to keep the royal family safe in case of an attack. I had to memorize all of them, and when I was younger I used to use them as a way to secretly get around the castle. Of course, it was all for fun and games back then.” She turned toward the green Zafara beside her. “So now that I saved you, do you care to tell me what’s going on?”
Rina took a deep breath and looked at Saya. The young princess was the same age as her, give or take a year, and yet she seemed to have the maturity and seriousness of someone much older. Rina’s eyes then fell to a scar on the princess’ collarbone, almost identical to her own. The only different was that instead of it jutting out, the bone seemed to sink in slightly, as if a piece of it was missing.
She gulped nervously. “Um, I’m assuming you know the Law of Bones.”
“Of course,” the princess said. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
Rina fiddled with her shirt sleeve. “It has to do with everything. You know that Eyrie crash you were in five years ago? I was the other neopet in the crash.”
“Really?” Her eyes fell to Rina’s own scar and she did a double take. “You have the same scar as me. Broken collarbone, I take it?”
“Yes, yes,” Rina said impatiently. “But the thing is, when Dr. Renwick patched us both up, he took a piece of your bone and grafted it to mine.” She drew her finger over the bump on her collar. “And according to the Law of Bones...”
“...that means you’re heir to the throne as well!” Saya gasped. The princess turned toward the Zafara, her eyes a bit accusatory. “And you’re here to become the new ruler of Brightvale?”
“No!” Rina said quickly, not wanting the princess to get the wrong idea. “It was Dr. Renwick’s plan to get back at your dad. Mr. Milleran said he was going to help me, but now... now I just found out he was lying all along.”
She felt as if her heart weighed a thousand pounds in her chest. It was finally sinking in. Mr. Milleran had used her. Turning away from the shadow Xweetok, she felt her face burn and her eyes sting with the beginnings of tears. I thought you were going to help me. I thought you were on my side...
Saya caught sight of her face and frowned. “Oh no. Don’t cry!” She reached into her pocket and pulled out an embroidered handkerchief. “Here, er...?” she trailed off, not knowing her name.
“Rina,” she sniffled, taking the piece of cloth.
“That’s a pretty name,” Saya complimented. The princess gave a gentle smile, and Rina felt her heart warm a bit. Maybe the princess wasn’t so serious after all.
Rina blew her nose loudly and swabbed her red eyes. It probably was a bit crude, especially in the presence of royalty, but she didn’t care. “All I want to do is go home,” she mumbled pathetically, her feet dragging as she walked down the passageway. “I don’t want to be a princess.”
“Well, then,” Saya said, placing a paw on her shoulder reassuringly, “I’m sure there’s a way out of it. We won’t let Dr. Renwick or Mr. Milleran win.” She shook her head sadly at the second name. “Mr. Milleran... it was a long time ago, but I still remember him from when he was my tutor. He was always so nice. I don’t understand why he’d do this.”
Rina blew her nose again.
“Well, it’s no matter anymore,” Princess Saya said solidly. “Because we’re going to get to the bottom of this! Come on, Rina,” she said, tugging at the sluggish girl. “Hurry up, or else we’re going to miss him.”
“My father of course. King Hagan.”
* * *
The passageway was full of random twists and turns. Rina followed the princess confusedly until the Shadow Xweetok stopped in front of a door. “Here we are,” she said, pushing gently. The door creaked and Rina found herself in the throne room.
“Wow,” she murmured softly, staring up at the sparkling chandeliers dangling from the arched ceiling. The room was massive and beautiful, with windows draped in sheaths of luxurious fabric and a large mosaic of a sun on the floor. But it was the two thrones that commanded the room. They were large and golden, inlaid with intricate designs, and the seat was upholstered with green fabric.
And seated in the chair was King Hagan himself.
“Father!” Saya called, rushing across the tiled floor, dragging Rina along with her.
The king looked up from the scroll he was reading, his eyes peering through small spectacles perched on his nose. “Saya? What is it?” Then his eyes fell upon Rina and his eyebrows scrunched up. “And who is that young Zafara?”
Rina shivered under his gaze. He was more intimidating than she had thought. The green Skeith’s eyes were small, he sported both a golden beard and mustache, a sparkling emerald amulet hung around his neck, and he towered over her from his spot in his throne.
“This is Rina,” Saya introduced as the Zafara attempted a hasty curtsey. The princess looked straight at her dad, her green eyes clear and serious. “We have a bit of a problem.”
“Oh?” he said, his deep voice echoing gently in the room as his eyes narrowed. “Go on...”
Saya did a pretty decent job of filling her father in on the situation considering she had just found out herself only minutes before. Rina was mostly silent at first, feeling slightly uncomfortable being in the presence of the king, but Saya eventually convinced her into sharing her bit of the story as well. It was slow going at first, but soon she was spilling her soul, telling him about everything. About the doctor appointments. About having Mr. Milleran as her Brightvalian History teacher. About fleeing to Brightvale.
And finally about the betrayal.
When she was done, she felt as if some weight had been lifted off her chest, but her stomach still squirmed uncomfortably. King Hagan’s hand was clenched on his throne, looking deep in thought, and Saya was staring up at her father nervously.
“Dad,” she murmured, “there has to be something we can do.”
There was a good size pause. Rina fidgeted nervously as the King stared into space, the cogs in his head almost visible churning. Finally: “Well,” he said slowly, “there is something, but it’s not up to me.” His eyes latched onto Rina. “It’s up to you.”
King Hagan sat up in his throne. “Tell me, young Zafara, why don’t you want to be a princess? Isn’t it every girl’s dream to have a throne like mine?” He made a large sweeping gesture with his arm. “To live in a palace like mine? To have servants? To be the top of the social ladder, to have the entire realm of Brightvale in your grasp?” His voice grew cold. “Don’t you want that, Zafara? Isn’t that what you seek?”
“Father!” Saya gasped, appalled.
Rina was shaking with fear, but she couldn’t look away from the King’s dark eyes. “N-No, sir,” she finally stammered. “That’s not what I want.”
“Well, then why?” he demanded. His voice reverberated throughout the chamber.
“Because, because...” Rina’s stomach was clenched in knots. She was so afraid, so confused... and yet she suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. The King glaring down at her, Saya standing confusingly at her side, it was just too much. She finally snapped.
“I don’t know why!” she yelled. “But I just can’t be a princess! I just can’t! I live in Middleway, and it’s the stupidest piece of nowhere in all of Neopia, but it’s my home! I miss my school, and the smelly farm fields dotted with Kau manure, and the dusty roads. And I really miss my mom who is probably worried sick thinking I have some incurable illness dreamed up by Dr. Renwick. And what do I know about ruling a kingdom? I’ve always been a bad history student, so how in the world can I make the right decisions? How do I know not to repeat the mistakes of the past? I’m just a kid! I’m not a ruler, I’m not a princess! I’m just Rina, and I don’t want to be the stupid heir to the Brightvalian throne!”
And with that, she crumpled to the floor and started shaking. She couldn’t cry anymore. Tears refused to fall. Instead, she hugged her body tightly, shuddering violently as she took shallow breathes.
Saya dropped down to her knees and put her arm around Rina. “Shh,” the true princess murmured. “Everything will be alright.”
King Hagan’s harsh features suddenly melted into concern. “Oh come, come child,” he said, stepping down off his throne and helping Rina to her feet. “I didn’t mean to be so harsh. It’s just, that you can never tell with a job like mine. People are after you left and right. They don’t understand the intricacies of running a kingdom. But I can tell you have knowledge beyond your years. You understand. And I believe you.”
Rina looked up into his eyes. “You do?”
The king nodded. “Yes, I do. And I know a way out of this. Have you heard of my niece, Roberta?”
Rina nodded quickly. Who didn’t know of the Acara who had helped save Altador from the clutches of the Darkest Faerie?
“Well, she can be considered heir to the throne as well due to the Law of Bones. However, she, like you, never wanted to be a princess. She wanted to study magic and work as a shopkeeper.”
“I remember this!” Saya said, her emerald eyes widening. “Roberta got out of becoming Queen, and so can Rina.”
“So what do I have to do?” Rina asked quickly. “How do I get out of this?”
“Well, tomorrow is the coronation,” Hagan said, sitting back down in his throne. “When the time comes, both you and my daughter must take the stage. The people of Brightvale will then decide who is to be the new heir... but not after hearing each of your positions. Saya will make a case to be queen, while you, Rina, must convince the people of Brightvale to say no.”
“Ok, that shouldn’t be too hard...”
“Normally it wouldn’t,” the king said, “but if both Renwick and Milleran are involved, they will try to sway the crowd in your direction. That is why you must present a strong case, and the best way is to convince the people that you have talents that are best suited elsewhere, besides being a princess.”
Rina frowned. “What do you mean by that?”
“What I mean is that by tomorrow afternoon, you need to find a job.”
To be continued...