Once Upon a Time: King Altador
The young White Lupe, a Neopet of about eleven, twirled a stick, dodging imaginary enemies. His fur was wet with raindrops, and streaked with mud, but he didn't care.
"Take that!" he shouted, flicking out with his stick and performing a neat roll as he ducked under a make-believe sword. Mud squelched under his paws.
"Altador, come in before it begins raining harder!" his mother, a Pink Lupe, called from the doorway of their simple Meridellian cottage.
The young Lupe sighed, but made his way towards the cottage. He discarded the stick when he reached the door, stamping mud off his boots.
"Altador, you're filthy," his mother, Kae, said scoldingly. "Come along. We'd better get you into some clean clothes."
"I was fighting enemies, Mother!" Altador said excitedly.
"Oh?" Kae smiled.
"Yes!" the young Lupe cried. "Someday, I'm going to be a great explorer and warrior."
"Just make sure you visit," Kae answered, wiping away a tear before her son could see it.
"Go easy on that oatmeal, son." Vherbert the Blue Lupe Farmer chided his son, watching in amusement. Kae laughed, coming into the room. She wore an apron tied over her simple dress.
"Leave him be, Vher. He has a good healthy appetite."
Altador swallowed the last bit of oatmeal, putting his spoon on the table. At fourteen, his shoulders were growing broad, his muscles hardening from work. He stood up and hugged his mother, before turning to Vherbert.
"Right," he said, "What needs doing, Father?" Vherbert smiled at his enthusiastic son. He finished his breakfast, collecting the bowls and handing them to Kae.
"The potato harvest is ready to come in," he answered. His son leapt towards the door.
"I'll help," he decided. Kae smiled.
"You're so helpful, Altador," she said, carrying the dishes away from the table and into the tiny kitchen.
"Thanks, son," Vherbert said when she had left. "Don't know what I'd do without you."
"I've packed my things. I'm ready to go. I'll be an explorer and a warrior, like I always wanted."
"Stay safe," Kae whispered, embracing her son. "Come and visit. Don't forget."
"I won't," Altador promised. "I'll never forget." He turned to his father. "Good-bye, Father."
Vherbert smiled at the white Lupe, so different now from when he was 11, broad shouldered, tall, and strong. He came forwards.
"Stay safe," he said. "Be careful. We'll miss you."
"I'll miss you, too," Altador said, putting a satchel over his shoulder. "I'll visit!" He added as he began walking away.
Finally, he was going his own way, making his own story, leaving the protection of his parents. He looked over his shoulder at his parents, standing in the doorway, waving, and his heart twisted. He shook the feeling off, waving back.
"I'll visit!" he called. "I'll never forget!"
Altador drew his sword, stabbing it into the rich, fertile earth.
"This is my kingdom," he said, looking up at the cloudless sky. "This land will be ruled with kindness, peace, love, wisdom, and joy." He clasped both hands over the sword hilt, closing his eyes.
"I will care for my people, I will protect them." He promised. "I will try my hardest to rule with justice."
He pulled his sword out of the earth, and sheathed it.
This is my kingdom.
He smiled, feeling the soft breeze through his fur, the lush grass underpaw. A never ending expanse of blue sky stretched overhead.
This is my home now.
King Altador stood at his window. A soft touch at his elbow made him look down at a small blue Aisha.
"Jerdana," he said. There was no need to say anything more. They stood in silence for several moments.
"What are you thinking about, King Altador?" Jerdana asked softly. The King shook his head, and the Aisha seemed to understand. She nodded, and they again lapsed into silence.
Stars twinkled in the velvet blue sky like diamonds in dark silk. Down below was the City of Altador, the city he had founded that year that seemed so long ago when it was really only a few years gone.
Altador closed his eyes, leaning heavily against the windowsill.
Mother, I haven't forgotten my promise. I haven't forgotten. I'll come back yet.
The Darkest Faerie's hands blazed with magic as she lobbed dark fireballs at those who were once her friends. Altador drew his sword.
"Why are you doing this?" he shouted. Beside him, Jerdana formed orbs of magic. Sasha, the dancer, dodged a fireball.
"I am doing this because I want to control Altador!" the Faerie shrieked. "I want to be the ruler! I don't need you and the council!"
Altador's heart swelled with betrayal and grief.
"Traitor!" Jerdana screamed.
The Darkest Faerie kept firing.
Wraiths crowded in on every side. Altador twirled his sword like he had once twirled a stick, long ago. Skillfully ducking and weaving, he slashed at the enemies.
King Jazan was beside him, fighting furiously. The others were there. Friends fighting together, maybe for the last time.
It was too much, too many. He could make out Xandra, and Hanso and Brynn. He could see Faerieland inching towards the ground, falling.
There was a blinding white flash. Altador could feel his limbs freezing up.
What's going on?
Altador couldn't move. He was a statue.
He didn't know what had happened. He only knew that suddenly he was frozen. He couldn't hear anything. He couldn't see anything. Darkness flooded his vision.
Vainly, he tried to force his way out of his stone prison, his fist still clenched around his sword hilt.
Where was Xandra? Where were Hanso and Brynn? Was Jazan still beside him?
He fought. He struggled.
Nothing happened. He was as stuck as he could be.
Brynn was sitting completely still. Behind her, Altador and the others stared solemnly at the thief who had saved them.
Only, the thief was a statue. And Xandra loomed towards him, hands outstretched, also a statue. Brynn covered her face with her hands, trying to hide her tears. Altador glanced at his companions. All looked sad. Even Jazan looked subdued.
Suddenly, wreaths of purple smoke filled the air.
They bowed, sadness slightly muted by their relief. The Queen was here. She was alright, and would make everything alright. The Faerie Queen nodded. She went to Brynn, who stared sadly at the statues.
"He died saving us," she whispered. Fyora stepped to the statues.
"Ah, Xandra," she said. "My student. I knew this day would come. If only I could've helped you more." She placed a hand on on the statue's head before turning to the stone Hanso. "As for Hanso, my magic has been greatly weakened. I have not had time to recover it, but I think I can help." She closed her eyes.
And there was Hanso. Brynn looked shocked.
And they smiled.
He smiled at the Blue Kau and handed the young pet a small, purring Altachuck.
"Thank you for coming," he said. "Would you like to hear the story of Altador?"
The pet nodded. Jerdana began.
"I think you know the Betrayer, know to some as the Darkest Faerie? Well, she got free from her prison and gained control of the city. She tried to remake Altador as she dreamed it to be. She intended to destroy all the history books in Altador, and then make the citizens believe she was the true founder.
"We found out just before she began. We had to stop her. It was King Altador's idea, but I preformed the magic..."
Altador watched as the Kau was absorbed into the story. He remembered how his mother had told him stories, and his heart wrenched.
Altador donned some traveller's cloths, packed a small satchel of food, and stole down the palace corridor. He had told Jerdana he was going somewhere. She had not questioned him.
He pushed open the door of the palace, and stepped into the night air.
He began to walk.
Kae the Pink Lupe sat on her rocking chair on the porch, creaking back and forth. Her wrinkled, work worn paws were folded in her lap. It was late evening, and she had a heavy shawl about her shoulders. Her husband, Vherbert was in their small cottage. Who knew what he was doing.
She was nearing ancient, a tiny, shriveled thing, though she still possessed some of her childhood beauty.
"Hello, mistress. 'Tis a grand day."
Startled out of her thoughts, Kae looked up. A rather old looking white Lupe stood on the path. He had a fine beard, and he stood with a stateliness. He was dressed in traveller's clothes, and carrying a satchel. There was something about him...
Kae did a double take. Was this..? Could it be..?
Levering herself up on the arms of the rocking chair, Kae sobbed out, "Altador!"
"Hello, Mother," he said, and held out his arms.
"Vherbert, come quick! Altador's come back! He's home. Altador! Altador..!"
And Kae the Pink Lupe ran down the path and towards her son like she had never run before.