Number Five: Part Three
The cart slowly glided to a halt in front of the gigantic Sakhmet entrance gates.
My eyes grew wide at the sight. "This is more beautiful than any castle I've seen! Even the sun likes it; see how it shines on those towers?"
"That would be gold, m'boy! Now don't drag your feet, we've got to deliver with joy!"
Two guards smiled as they opened the door for us.
Sakhmet was quite a busy place. Colorful stalls lined the sides of the pathway to the palace entrance, where Neopians – more than I believe I have ever seen in my lifetime – conducted business. But as we walked through, escorted by the best of Brightvale's guards, everyone seemed to stop, taking interest in what we were doing.
What a wonderful feeling -- Neopians stopped their daily lives to watch me.
I tried to keep my cool, but I'm sure a large smile crept across my face.
The palace gates seemed to open even more seamlessly than the city gates. Whatever was in this tiny box had to be important.
"Hello, I'm here to deliver this –" My excitement was cut off by an angered growl.
"Who dares be so insolent as to barge in my throne room shouting nonsense?!"
Calder nudged my side, dictating that I should follow his example.
He knelt on one knee. "Your majesty, I apologize for the brash behavior of my companion; we hail from a northern land with green in its fanion."
"So Brightvale thinks it's funny to send mere peasants to deliver such artifacts, then? I wouldn't be surprised if you two decided to steal it."
"Where is Princess Amira? King Hagan told me to expect her." I whispered to Calder.
"I beg your pardon sir, but we were expecting Princess Amira as my companion will concur."
"Princess Amira is currently unable to attend to her duties due to an – illness. As her uncle, Prince Aten, I am currently ruling as her regent." He pointed at a guard. "Fetch the wooden box for me and make sure nothing has besmirched my-- the precious item."
It took a little force for the guard to pull the box from my paws; my gut feeling told me not to trust this Prince Aten.
He opened the box. "Sir! It's empty!"
Rage flew across Prince Aten's face. "Guards take these incendiaries to the dungeon!"
Blindly and without thought I shouted, "Prince Aten, you are a fraud! I demand to know what has become of Princess Amira. She's not really ill, is she?"
"Guards, I will not have an arrogant child making a fool of my court! Take him and his friend to the dungeon immediately!"
"M'boy, stop it, use your wit!" Calder's whispered voice was harsh.
Unfortunately, I was unable to listen. As two guards grabbed me, I continued my rant. "I'm glad the box is empty! You don't deserve to have whatever was inside anyways! The artifact belongs to Princess Amira!"
I continued to shout almost to the point of losing my voice, long after the guards had locked my cell and left.
Different emotions swirled in my head. I was lonely, scared, angry, and sad but those were nothing compared to the sense of failure I felt.
I had failed King Hagan. I was given one very simple task: to watch over a simple wooden box. I was sure I hadn't let the box out of my sight and my only traveling companions were Calder and the Brightvale guards.
Could Calder have stolen the artifact? I pushed the thought out of my mind. He was my friend; he wouldn't have it in him to hurt me.
As I imagined King Hagan's appalled face when he heard the news, tears welled up in my eyes.
I pulled my squishy friend from my pocket. "Cap'n Jellie, I wish we could go home! I wouldn't care if I was picked on everyday for the rest of my life!"
I laid my head down on the icy cold cell floor, quietly sobbing to myself.
Suddenly, the menacing prison bars flew open. Oh, how I thought Queen Fyora was smiling down on me. All I saw before me was freedom: blissful, wonderful freedom; I was painfully unaware that no guard had unlocked my cell.
One step into my freedom, I was suddenly transported to into a beautiful, green lush forest. It had to be Faerieland; I had heard stories of its glory, but never was able to visit for myself. Oh, the adventures I could have!
I began to run forward as fast as my Lupe legs would carry me, but suddenly my surroundings changed again and I found myself in what I believed to be Mystery Island. The palm trees waved in the cool, ocean breeze as the waves crashed happily on the golden beach. It would have been a dream to stay there the rest of my life, but within seconds I was gone again.
This time my surroundings weren't quite as pleasant. The landscape was dark and barren, it sent chills through my spine; my best guess: The Haunted Woods. Zombie Neopets crept out of their dirt beds, heading straight for me.
It's – it's – it's going to be okay, right Cap'n Jellie? In a few seconds we'll be moved again...
But this time, nothing happened. The zombies approached slowly, menacingly; I turned to run, only to find my feet stuck in the ground.
"Someone – anyone, please help us! We just want to go home!"
Upon hearing my plea, the zombie Moehog began to glow, transforming before my very eyes. His skin became a dark brown color and his tattered clothes mended themselves into the finest gold. His eyes turned a terrifying, glowing red and a magnificent scepter appeared in his hands.
"I can grant your wish, young Lupe."
"Who—who a—are y—y—you?" I asked, terrified.
"I am The Bringer of Night; I wield the powers of dreams in my staff."
"So, I'm only dreaming, then?" I sighed, disappointed. "I knew it! I'll be stuck in the dungeon forever!"
"Doubting my abilities is something you will regret. I said I will grant your wish and I plan to hold myself to that promise. I only ask one simple favor in return: bring me the lost artifact that you were to bring to Princess Amira. Accomplish that, and I will even grant you one more wish. Is there anything else you have been wishing for?"
"Well... I always thought it was unfair that a lazy, joke-demanding king ruled –"
"Say no more. Return the artifact to me and you and your family will become the greatest rulers Meri- no Neopia - has ever known."
I fancied the thought of ruling Meridell; Tunac sure wouldn't be able to laugh at me anymore. "But, Bringer of Night, sir, where can I find the artifact? I have no idea who stole it."
"The ridiculous, rhyming jester..." The Bringer of Night and The Haunted Woods began to fade away.
"Wait, you can't mean Calder! He's my friend!"
I found myself in the lush, green, rolling hills that I called home. I could see my ragged cottage – a mansion compared to the dank dungeon - in the distance.
I looked down at my paws; I was so scared that I was sure I accidently squeezed Cap'n Jellie into juice. But to my surprise, he wasn't injured at all; in fact, he was no longer even half-eaten. "Cap'n Jellie, sir... I need advice... my friend Calder, could he have really stolen the artifact? I shouldn't doubt the Bringer of Night's power. He brought us home and even repaired you, but it's hard to believe that Calder is the thief."
Upon hearing no response from my friend, I scanned the horizon once more. On a nearby rock, Calder lay, sleeping peacefully.
The Bringer of Night's words echoed in my mind, "The ridiculous, rhyming jester..." He had to have meant Calder. It was hard to comprehend that my best friend had stolen from me; I couldn't believe that he would hurt me.
I have to get the artifact back no matter what.
I never wanted to see the inside of a dungeon again – ironic, seeing my current situation – and The Bringer of Night had promised that my family would become the next grand rulers of Meridell if I retrieved it for him.
I took a few cautious steps toward my now former friend. Confronting him wasn't going to be easy.
I looked in his pockets, careful not to wake him. I hoped I could easily just steal the artifact back and never see him again, but luck wasn't on my side. He had probably hidden the artifact away, so Prince Aten wouldn't be able to find it. My only remaining option was one I dreaded; confronting my former companion.
"Calder..." my voice meekly whispered. "Calder," I said again, still receiving no response.
"Calder!" I repeated with a stronger resolve.
The yellow Chia yawned and blinked. He sat up, clearly surprised that the sun warmed in face, when he had fallen asleep in a cold dungeon.
"Oh m'boy, thank Fyora, we are free! What a happy day, wouldn't you agree? Why the somber look, I see? You look like you have seen a banshee!"
Nervously, I began, "Calder..."
To be continued...