Also Known as Ettie: Part One
This story is dedicated to Claire, Lily, Aisha, and all of the rest of my awesome Neopian friends!
I was crouching behind a pusberry bush on Meri Acres Farm. Some might think being the only daughter of one of the top Knights of Meridell would be a little more glamorous, but I suppose I wasn’t your ordinary knight’s daughter.
Maybe it was because my father, Sir Tarleton, wasn’t always a knight. In the beginning, he was a farmer. Just a normal shadow Eyrie with his wife, Raya, a striped Aisha, and me, his daughter, a pink Acara. We lived happily on our own little plot of land. I would climb trees, splash in streams, and run around with my best friends. Life was perfect. Until we went on a trip to the capital, that is.
Father and Mother planned for weeks. It would be the outing of a lifetime. Of course, Father visited every two weeks to sell his wares, but this time, we’d be with him. We were going to visit Turmaculus, the castle, and all of the other important sites. Father even promised to buy me a petpet.
On the big day, we left a happy little family. Everything worked out fine, until we got to the castle. I bought an albat and named him Tiraglo, after one of my favorite legendary heroes. I wouldn’t risk trying to wake up the king of petpets with my new friend, fearing for his safety, so we just wonderously pointed at his immense figure and chattered about his size, and how one might best go about waking him.
And then. Then it happened. We walked into the castle, and just as we were bowing before the king, a Darigan Scorchio swooped in and tried to knock him over. My father jumped up and tackled the Scorchio, pinning him to the floor. The villain, whose name was Arjunitfo, was put in the dungeons. And Father was knighted and given a mansion, servants, and tons of money. From that point forward, he would be Sir Tarleton. He moved all of us to the mansion. Life was never the same again.
So there I was, two years later, a runaway. I had been planning my escape for months. I was in Meri Acres Farm, not knowing what to do next.
“Mistress Etinla,” came a deep voice from behind me.
I froze. The only people who included my official name and title when talking to me were all of the stuffy people at our mansions and the castle, as well as our servants. I had been found out. I was going home. I turned around slowly, very slowly, thoughts whirling in my mind. How would Father punish me this time? When I had turned all of the way around, my jaw dropped, and the speaker, a brown Ixi, and his companion, a green Kacheek, laughed wildly.
“Ettie, you should have seen the look on your face!” The brown Ixi, Clem, my best friend from before the trip, guffawed, now in his normal voice.
His sister, Claire, who at ten was two years younger than us, was still giggling too hard to get a word out. I hugged my friends and explained what I had done.
“No problem, Ettie, you can stay with us,” said Clem, when I told them I didn’t know what to do next.
“Yeah, Ettie,” said Claire, finally regaining her composure, “You can help haul the hay!” She started laughing again, as though the thought of the daughter of a knight hauling hay was too much for her.
“I’ll help with the chores,” I promised.
When we got to their hut, their mother, a blue Kougra, showered me with kisses. “It is all right, Deltirsa,” I managed through the bone crushing hug. “I’m safe.”
“How is your mother fairing, dearie?” asked Del.
“Fine, but she is like me. She’d rather be back at the farm.” It pained me to think that I couldn’t have taken Mother with me even if I had tried, but Father would punish her as well as me.
Del, Claire, and Clem did their best to make me as comfortable as possible. Del gave me heaps of pillows and blankets, along with some soft white cheese, which I love. Claire made my bed, the perfect little hostess. Clem just walked around helping everybody (or trying to help, which is a very different thing).
My heart warmed at the sight of this lovely little family. I envied Clem and Claire, never having to worry about poise and dignity. They were free to frolic and play like I used to. I resolved that while I was with them, I’d have the time of my life.
In the days that followed, I climbed and splashed and ran like never before. When I offered to help Del with the chores, she just laughed and told me, “Go have fun. I doubt you get much up in that mansion of yours.” Which pretty much summed up my situation perfectly.
At first, after their initial joyousness of having me back with them, Clem and Claire were a bit too formal and shy. Clem even pulled out my chair for me and Claire gave me an extra few berries with my dinner. I allowed these things, but they vexed me. Why couldn’t it be the same as before.
Gradually, they started treating me like, well, me. Clem pulled out my chair while I was sitting on it, giving me quite a big bruise (and quite a big laugh). Claire teased me by stealing berries from my plate and holding them menacingly over her mouth.
I stayed with them for two weeks, my fear of being taken back to my father edging away like a kadoatie in the night. But then a messenger came. Not to Del and Clem and Claire’s house specifically, but to the village. After that, my mind changed.
I was walking down the street with Clem when it happened. A yellow Shoyru stood on the podium where announcements about market days and festivals were usually made. He wore a midnight blue jacket with my father’s coat of arms. I think I was the first to see him. “Ettie? What’s the matter? If you don‘t move, you‘ll get run over,” said Clem when I stopped in the middle of the road. Unable to speak, I lifted a shaking paw and pointed at the Shoyru. My friend’s mouth formed a small “o” and he led me behind several large Skeiths. The Shoyru wouldn’t be able to see me from his perch. I was safe. For now.
The messenger, who I remembered was named Linusio, began to speak. “Let it be known that Sir Tarleton is displeased with his daughter’s absence. Should she fail to return in a week, he shall sell her albat to the highest bidder.”
No! If Father was willing to sell Tiraglo, he must have been very mad. Even he was a bit fond of my petpet. I opened my mouth wide, ready to start shouting at Linusio, but Clem put a hoof over my mouth. I scowled. When the messenger was gone, Clem took it away with a small “sorry.”
Back at the house, we told Claire and Del what had happened. Well, Clem did most of the talking. I was still too furious to speak. I finally couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m going home!” I shouted to the room at large. Del nodded, Claire looked confused, and Clem looked like he didn’t know whether to be sympathetic or mad. “I need to save Tiraglo,” I explained. “He is my friend, my petpet. I have to help him. Father would have found me soon anyway.”
Del continued nodding, and Claire looked determined. “I’m coming with you,” she said.
“Me too,” offered Clem. His face wasn’t entirely sympathetic. There was still a trace of anger. Not at me, I realized. At my father.
They wanted to help me, and I loved them for it, but they had to stay with their mother. If they came with me, they might get stuck at the mansion. Claire and Clem wouldn’t be able to stand it. I had to go alone, and I told them so. Naturally, there were protests.
“But I want to come!” yelled Claire.
“Please, Ettie?” asked Clem.
“I want to come!”
“I’d help you.”
“I want to come!”
“You shouldn’t travel alone.”
“I WANT TO COME!”
“You’re a girl, Ettie. It isn’t safe. Please, can I come?”
“Enough,” I said. “Claire, you have to stay with your mom. You wouldn’t want to see the mansion, anyway. And sure, I’m a girl, but I traveled here all by myself and I managed not to get killed.” I glared at Clem. He flinched. “I’ll leave in the morning,” I finished, daring them to defy me. They didn’t.
At dawn, I said my good-byes. Claire was a little bit teary eyed and Del seemed to be unable to stop hugging me. Clem kept muttering under his breath that I should’ve let him and Claire come, but when I came to him, he put on a small smile and wished me luck. With a last wave, I turned and started for home.
I decided to take the long way home.
It was more scenic, winding through the forest. And besides, I had plenty of time. I would be back to rescue my albat before my week was up.
Father was mad. Very mad. I would probably be confined to my room for the rest of the year. I wanted to enjoy being outside while it lasted.
Trees surrounded me, their branches hanging down over my head. Weewoos flitted about, along with a couple wild albats, which reminded me of my own dear Tiraglo. If something happened, and I didn’t get home in time, he wouldn’t belong to me anymore. He would go to someone else, possibly in Brightvale or somewhere even farther away. But I wouldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t. Tiraglo was mine.
I traveled for two more days, sleeping in the trees and eating the fruits that grew on them. If I kept walking at the pace I was, I’d be home within two days, three at the most.
Despite the beauty of the trail, I grew bored. I started wishing Clem and Claire were still with me. They had begged me to go, but I had refused their offers. Now I regretted it. I was lonely.
That night, as I settled down in my tree, I heard voices.
“When do you think the order will come?”
“Five more days, maybe sooner. Lord Darigan is getting impatient.”
At this, I turned around quietly. I saw a large camp, there in the middle of the woods. I strained my eyes. It looked like most of the pets were Darigan. I looked down, and tried my best not to scream.
These soldiers were most definitely Darigan. An Ixi and a Hissi. The Ixi scared me more, because it reminded me of Clem, yet was so different. This pet had long black horns, terrifying red eyes, shaggy purple fur, and wings. I shuddered. I knew they were soldiers because they wore swords at their hips and sported the symbol of Darigan Citadel. It was a war camp, and I was perched above two soldiers, plotting against Meridell!
I realized I had been holding my breath. I let it out slowly. That worked perfectly well. Until I sneezed.
The Ixi spotted me right away, and pointed me out to the Hissi. They drew their swords, and the Ixi flew up and grabbed me. He held the point to my neck. “Poor, sick little spy,” he said, an evil gleam in his eyes and his smile. I squirmed, but it was no use. They led me back to the camp.
I was brought to the tent of a pet I assume was the leader, a Darigan Krawk. “Captain Gigonziss,” said the Ixi, holding me up, his sword still at my throat. “We found this spy in a tree, just outside our camp.” He seemed to spit out the word spy.
The Krawk, Captain Gigonziss, looked at me with such menace I wanted to run all the way to Father’s mansion, despite all of the stuck-up snobs and manners and frills. Anything was better than being glared at by the Krawk. Then he laughed.
“This pink Acara, a spy? Pink!” I didn’t like that one bit. I could be dangerous. Sometimes. He continued, this time more thoughtful. “Ask Lorthwrath to fly her up to the Citadel. Bring her to Lord Darigan. He will most likely throw her in the dungeon.” The captain smirked. “Go,” he said. The Ixi and Hissi obeyed, dragging me along behind them.
“Lorthwrath?” the Hissi called. A Darigan Draik appeared. The Hissi pointed at me. “Take this girl to the Citadel. Captain’s orders.” He explained who I was (or who they thought I was).
The Draik grabbed me by the paw, his claws tearing my skin. Then he took off.
It didn’t take long to get to the Citadel. The Draik flew quickly. When we arrived, we were ushered into the throne room, where Lord Darigan lounged. I cringed. He was even worse than the Krawk. His eyes reminded me of ashes. The remnants of a fire.
Lorthwrath explained to Lord Darigan who I was. The ruler yawned, showing his ugly teeth. “Lock her up,” he said.
When I woke up, there was a tall figure looming over me. I almost screamed. I rubbed my eyes instead. I was too tired to scream.
The figure was a faerie Gelert. She was still young, but older than me, maybe fifteen or sixteen. I wondered how she came to be locked up. I looked around. I was in a cell. The only things in it were me, the Gelert, and a bowl of gruel.
“You’re awake! What is your name? I’m Nathania, but you can call me Natha,” said the Gelert, Natha, speaking in a rush, as though scared she would run out of time.
“I’m Ettie,” I said, not wanting to tell her my full name. I thought it too flowery to suit me. “How long have you been locked up?”
“Three years.” She grimaced. I didn’t blame her.
“What in all Neopia did you do?”
She told me her story. “I was born in Meridell. I lived with my mother. I can’t remember having a father. Anyway, my mother wasn’t very girlish. She was strong, valiant. A true warrior. Lord Darigan saw this. He asked her to join his army, move to the Citadel. She refused. My mother was tough, but not evil or cruel. He locked her up, leaving me in the care of my neighbors. When my mother tried to spark a rebellion, he brought me here, to torture if she misbehaved. After I was here for about a year, Mother got sick and died. I’ve been alone ever since. Why are you here?”
I told her everything - including the day my dad saved the king and everything that happened because of it. When I finished, a smile was forming on her face. “Let’s rebel,” Natha said.
“What?” My jaw dropped. So far, this girl had seemed quite peaceful. Besides, what could we do?
“Rebel. A couple of months ago I found secret tunnels connecting the cells. I could tell them, and we could overtake Lord Darigan.”
I closed my mouth, knowing my face must have looked ridiculous. “Natha,” I said, nervous. “I think they’re going to attack Meridell.”
Her mouth formed an “o” that so resembled Clem’s that I had to fight back urges to both laugh and cry. Why hadn’t I let him and Claire come with me? If they had, I realized, they’d just be locked up with me. Or if we had taken the short route or gone a little slower, I wouldn’t know about Darigan’s plot.
Natha began talking. “So that’s what it was about. A couple of weeks ago I heard a couple of guards laughing, saying that Meridell wouldn’t know what hit them. Then, just a couple days ago, I heard one say that Lord Darigan had said to ready the troops. Now we have to escape. Ettie, we have to warn the king.”
Somehow, my quest to save my albat had turned into a quest to save my kingdom.
To be continued...