She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a doll.
"Here, hold this, Uncle Skarl," she said, passing it to him over the fire.
Skarl inspected the doll. "What is this? Are you trying to embarrass me?" he asked.
"Don't worry, Uncle Skarl, I’m not," she replied. "You’re going to use that to lure them. That's a Collectors Edition Usuki Doll, by the way. It fetches quite a lot of money. They wouldn't bother about who they stole it from since it will soon belong to them, isn't it?"
Skarl contemplated her words and nodded. He looked at the doll with disgust though.
Seeing that her uncle gave consent, she continued, "now, we've got to give you a makeover, Uncle Skarl. I’ve got some clothes in my bag."
The king's jaw dropped instinctively. Roberta giggled as he closed his mouth and scowled. "It better be good, Roberta," he said sternly.
"Oh, it will." She proceeded with the makeover and soon, Skarl was in a new set of clothes and trinkets. He looked like any other ordinary Skeith.
When she was done, she stood back and took a good look at her uncle. "Something doesn't look right," she commented. "Hmmm ... ah, that's it. You've got to smile, Uncle Skarl. Smile!"
Unwillingly, Skarl forced a hideous grin. Lucius couldn't contain his laughter and choked in his effort to hold it in; it was a funny and uncommon sight after all. Skarl glared at him but maintained his smile for the sake of his niece.
"That's better," she remarked. "Now, I know that it's the middle of the night but ... do you want to -"
"Hagan's my brother!" Skarl interrupted. "Of course I should go as soon as possible!"
"Great!" Roberta clapped her hands. She picked up a thick branch and lighted it using the fire. "I'll follow Uncle Skarl in case he gets into trouble too -"
"- and Lucius, please send a letter to Rex to inform him of our situation."
"Certainly, Princess Roberta," Lucius said and bowed.
Skarl and Roberta exited the cave and ventured into the forest once more. The Acara led the way and her torch illuminated the forest, giving the tree trunks an orange glow. It was eerily quiet - their footsteps echoed loudly in the noiseless woods.
They wound their way around the trees for quite some time before Roberta stopped and put her paw to her lips. She pointed at an old hut nearby with her other paw.
Skarl nodded and started moving but was stopped by his niece. She shook her head. Picking up a stone from the ground, she hurled it at the door and it bounced off with a loud 'pock'.
After a few moments, someone opened the door and Roberta quickly extinguished the torch. Skarl couldn't make out the figure standing at the door.
"Who's there?" a voice spoke.
Skarl and Roberta turned to look at each other, bewildered. They recognized that voice!
"Who's there?" the voice repeated and a shadow stepped out from the hut. The moonlight shone on the figure and sure enough, the voice belonged to Hagan!
"It's us, Uncle Hagan!" Roberta shouted gleefully, coming out from her hiding spot. "Roberta and Uncle Skarl!" She ran to her uncle and gave him a big hug. "Thank the faeries you're okay!"
"Hi Roberta," Hagan patted her on the head.
Skarl frowned as he too, stepped out from amongst the trees. "What is the meaning of this? Weren't you kidnapped, brother?"
"I was, Skarl. They wanted to steal this emerald of mine," he lifted up a pendant from his neck, "but fortunately, I had a Slumberberry Potion with me and used it on them. They'll be sound asleep for days. The higher-ups in this guild aren't here though."
"Thank goodness!" Roberta squealed and hugged him again.
"Where do we stay for the night?" Skarl asked, yawning.
"It's safe here. We can rest here till the morning arrives," Hagan replied.
The three of them entered the hut and fell asleep on the chairs and tables along with the rest of the guild members who were under the effects of the potion.
They woke up the next morning to the sound of the door knocking. Roberta looked slightly alarmed as Skarl walked over to the door and opened it.
"Good morning, your majesty. Rex and I have readied the horses for your departure."
"Lucius!" Skarl exclaimed. "How did you find us here?"
"Rex and I searched since dawn, your majesty. We reached here and peeked through the window to see all of you sleeping. I must say we stumbled upon this place by sheer luck," he answered, smiling a little.
"Rex," Hagan called out from inside the hut, "inform the guards to escort these thieves to prison once they're awake."
Rex walked in. He bowed and said, "yes your majesty," before going out again.
The rest of them exited the building, climbed up on their horses and bounded for Hagan's castle.
Skarl enjoyed the party very much. Lucius hadn’t followed him to Brightvale as the previous week’s events had tired him considerably. Except for the gross food originating from the Haunted Woods, everything tasted delicious, although he still believed that Meridell food was the best.
When the party had ended, Skarl approached Hagan who was at the stables outside the castle. "Thank you for the party, brother."
"There's no need for thanks, Skarl. It's your birthday," said Hagan heartily.
There was an awkward silence as the two siblings looked at each other. Hagan made a move first; he stuck out his paw. "Till next time then. You have to head back to Meridell now."
Skarl took his paw and shook it. "Till next time, brother." He mounted his horse and left, waving one last goodbye to Hagan.
Mounting and dismounting a horse sure has given me some exercise, Skarl thought to himself as he travelled back to his homeland.