King Altador's Substitute
Queen Nera glanced up often from her painstaking work to watch King Altador and their teenage son, Alarick, play a competitive game of Yooyuball. The sport was a popular pastime in the great land of Altador. The game of passing a yooyu around and trying to make it in the other team’s goal excited any Altadorian. Even the king himself grew fond of the game. That same love for the game was passed down to his son, so they often played it together.
The elderly white Lupe and the young Xweetok were playing it out in the grassy fields of Altador, not far from Nera’s bench. The weather today had proven to be sunny as it always was. The nearby trees gave off a bit of shade, casting a cool shadow over Nera. It seemed like the perfect beginning to a hopefully perfect day. The queen kept her fingers crossed that today would be peaceful for once.
The endless fights of defending Neopia from ruthless villains tired even the mightiest of heroes. Every hero dreamed of the day they could retire in peace. Sadly, that may never happen as most villains refuse to change or give up. The biggest obstacle so far for the queen, was her work. It never seemed to stop. Once she would finish one thing, another would take its place.
Currently, Nera had been writing out a opening speech for the Miss Altador pageant. Repeating the same old boring lines every year seemed tiring and repetitive, so the Xweetok would write a new one for each pageant. She wanted to inspire the contestants of the pageant and give them hope for the future. It felt like it was the least she could do for her subjects.
Her royal duties also required her to meet with subjects on a daily basis. Nera had somehow became the public figure of Altador. The council members were busy with their own duties, so Nera kept the public company and talked to them. Each time a Neopian would come to visit Altador, the queen would happily greet them.
"My dear, you should come over play Yooyuball with us" the white Lupe interrupted the queen’s concentration as he walked over to Alarick. Nera knew that her beloved Altador had good intentions, just sometimes they weren't the best. She loved him dearly, but the ancient king was a tad difficult at times.
Nera shook her head and continued to write away in her notebook. "I really rather not, you boys should know that I'm not much of a Yooyuball player."
Alarick snorted, holding the Yooyuball under his arm. "Mom...the entire kingdom knows you aren't good at Yooyuball."
Altador immediately elbowed their son in the arm. "What Alarick means to say...is we know you aren't very skilled at the game, but we would still be delighted if you played with us."
Nera gave the king a soft and enduring smile, "Thank you, but I think I rather watch you and Alarick play. I wouldn't be much fun if I joined in."
The Lupe only nodded, going back to playing with Alarick. The two always enjoyed the outdoors. Nera felt like they enjoyed it too much, especially Alarick. The prince often abandoned his duties as the prince of Altador, just to play a game of Yooyuball. Their days were filled with the king and queen trying to get the prince to do his homework and royal duties. Often Alarick would sneak out to play, or just procrastinate.
Boys will be boys as they always say.
"By the way, I have an important diplomatic meeting tomorrow." King Altador spoke as he tried guarding his own goal from Alarick. The Lupe had much more experience in the game than his son. So the odds were in his favor.
"Oh really, where?" the white Xweetok asked as he threw the Yooyuball at the goal, missing the net. The ball bounced back on the top rim, launching itself over Alarick’s head.
Alarick ducked just in time. He let out a deep breath of relief.
Altador laughed and shook his head at his son’s poor attempt. "The Lost Desert is where I'll be going. Princess Amira called for an urgent trade summit between all the surrounding kingdoms."
The proud and mighty king looked over at his queen. "By the way my dear, you'll be charge. I need you to take my place while I'm away."
Nera opened her mouth to reply, but Alarick burst into a fit of laughter.
"Mom? Mom running the huge kingdom in your place? Dad she can't even play Yooyuball why do you think she could possibly do something like your job?’
Nera closed her work folder and frowned. "Alarick, I am perfectly capable of running the kingdom all by myself. Besides, I have the council members to help me and they have their own duties to do. I don't have to do everything, just your father’s work."
Alarick continues to laugh, suddenly getting hit in the back of the head by the Yooyuball. Altador rushed over to the Xweetok and helped him stand.
"Your mother can handle things herself." Altador looked over his son, making sure he wasn't too hurt. Once he knew Alarick was okay, he relaxed.
Alarick rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah yeah, if you say so dad."
Nera stood up from the wooden bench and tucked the folder under her arm. She walked over to her family.
"Alarick, your father job doesn't seem all that complicated. I'm pretty sure I can handle it, maybe even better than he can."
Altador raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Oh really? So you don't think my job is all that hard?"
Nera nodded. "No offensive dear, but you often are just in meetings and such. It doesn't sound that difficult."
"Believe me, it is."
"Listen, I'm pretty sure it's not as hard as you make it sound." Nera put her arm behind her son and led him inside so she could tend to his injury.
The two Neopians walked down the hallway, their footstep sounds echoing off the marble walls.
"So... you really think you can do dad’s job, huh?" Alarick asked as they walked into the dining area.
Tall windows decorated the walls, letting in mass amounts of light. A large wooden table rested in the middle of the room. Several matching chairs surrounded the table.
Alarick sat down at the table, rubbing the back of his head. It was sore, but not too painful. He noted to be more careful when he played Yooyuball. Next time the injury could be much worse.
Nera sat the folder down on the table. "Yes, I do. Now, I'll go get you some ice for your poor head."
Nera ruffled his light colored hair with her hand, and walked out of the room to fetch some ice. Prince Alarick turned his head, and looked out the large window, watching the clouds float through the sky. He found it hard to believe that his mother could take on the duties of the king.
Was she capable of such a task? Maybe not, maybe she would break down from all the stress. On the other hand, Nera was a strong and independent woman. She dealt with important issues on her own. The light brown Xweetok has spoken in front of hundreds of Altadorians, keeping them calm during emergencies. Nera could easily work with the people of Altador on any issues.
The queen walked back into the dining hall, holding an ice pack. She sat beside her son, handing him the pack. Alarick took it and held it against the back of his head. It eased the pain somewhat.
"Thanks mom." He smiled, appreciating his mother for once.
Part of him felt guilty for being rude to her earlier. She only did her best for the people of Altador and her own family. She deserved a chance to succeed at least.
"You're very welcome sweetheart." Nera gave him a soft smile.
The two sat in silence for a bit, the queen going back to working on her speech and the prince staring out the window. Neither of them spoke a word. Part of them wanted to discuss what they would do while Altador was away.
And the other part of them just wanted to sit there in silence and enjoy the quiet.
Queen Nera thought over what her husband said earlier as she wrote. He seemed irritated at her comment about ‘being king of Altador can't be all that hard’. She could have been wrong and misjudged him.
Was being the king of Altador really that hard? Surely not, he didn't seem to do all that much besides diplomatic and council meetings. Well, besides that one time with him going to Faerieland and finding out all the faeries had been turned to stone. Now that had to be incredibly difficult. And giving out prizes for the Altador plot didn't seem too difficult either.
But the regular day to day stuff? It couldn't be all that hard, right?
Yet, the queen of Altador would find out soon enough, just how hard her husband’s duties were.
To be continued…