Ritz stared at Evander bewildered. What he had just said
stunned the Ixi so much that she almost fell over. As if her life wasn’t as
confusing before, being that she is the princess of Meridell, now there was
some sort of prophecy made about her. Her eyes furrowed into confusion as she
waited for the white Draik to explain himself.
“Ritz, if you tell me your true story, I promise
to explain everything to you,” Evander said softly. This wasn’t going to be
easy. He expected the worst from the Ixi. There was a long silence before Ritz
spoke again. All that could be heard was the rain from the storm outside that
continued to beat down on the earth. A strike of lightning sounded and the entire
“I am Princess Ritzalina of Meridell,” she said
cautiously, not believing what she was saying. “When I was born, I was cursed
by the Dark Faerie, Phaedra. She gave me a dark nova, and when I took it, everything
changed. I ran away from home after a terrible fight, and I am never going back.”
Evander didn’t seem surprised at all. He almost half expected to hear this.
He could see it in the Ixi’s eyes, hidden behind fear and disbelief.
“Ahhh,” he breathed. “So you chose to live here
is shame while your country falls to pieces? Princess, look outside, don’t you
see what is happening?” Ritz peered out the edge of the cave to see outside.
Already the storm had spread to the far corners of Meridell and there was no
sign of stopping. Dark clouds swirled above the castle and suffocated the last
bits of light so that the land was engulfed in total darkness. What once were
beautiful fields of spring blossoms and lush trees, was now a wasteland of barren
deadness. It was no longer the home the Ixi had known.
Suddenly, Ritz’s eyes darkened with anger. “So
what about you?” she spat towards Evander. “You’re the one who is living here
in shame! If you think that you’re such a great knight, then why don’t you
save Meridell?” She wanted to take off and leave, but there was nowhere
to run. She was trapped inside the cave unless she wanted to brave the harsh
weather outside. She stayed put and grunted at the Draik, kicking up bits of
rocks and throwing them towards the walls so that it splintered on the floor.
Flutter and Firenza, who had fast become friends, stopped playing and stared
at the angry Ixi in shock.
“You’re right Ritz,” Evander whispered. “I should
stand up for myself and return to Riverence instead of hiding here in this cave.
It’s been so many years… that well…I guess I’m just scared,” he finished sadly.
“Evander, I-I’m s-s-sory,” Ritz stuttered. “I
d-d-didn’t mean w-w-what I just said,” she cried.
“It’s okay, Ritz. I think I just needed to hear
that after all these years. But I have a plan. If I help you lift the curse
of the dark nova, can help me return to Riverence?”
“Absolutely,” she shouted with joy. “Let’s do
“Good. We’ll start tomorrow.”
For the first time since her life had changed, Ritz felt truly happy. She was
safe and sound in the cave with her new friend, Evander. She lied on the stony
floor awake while everyone else was sleeping. A chilly breeze flowed into the
cave and the Ixi pulled her blankets tighter. The storm outside had stopped
but left a cold stillness in the air. The crescent moon reflected off of the
dark cave walls and looked so real that Ritz thought she could touch it. But
it wasn’t the moon that she wanted. It was the dark nova. A sudden urge for
the shiny black star overcame her that she felt forced to get up and take it
out of her sac to hold. She could picture it in her mind, the sparkling edges,
and the smooth twinkling surface. Ritz couldn’t control herself any longer;
it was as if something was overpowering her. The Ixi reached her hand into the
sac, rummaging around for the dark nova… but it wasn’t there. Then she remembered
how she left it at the cottage, never to be seen again. The Ixi let out a little
cry of displeasure. When the sun rises she would have to venture back to the
cottage to get it.
“Ritz, are you awake?” muttered the Draik. Ritz
suddenly realized how much noise she was making.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” she apologized.
“No it’s quite alright. Well, we better all rise,
as it is only a few hours before dawn. We’ll need a head start for today.” Ritz
was surprised by how much time had passed. She hardly got any sleep with the
dark nova on her mind all night. Flutter and Firenza stirred from their dreams
and yawned. The Faellie flopped into the air and landed with a hop on the floor
again while the Dragoyle stretched and blinked its eyes. Everyone was tired
until the warm aroma of pancakes filled their senses. Evander lit a fire and
started cooking. It reminded Ritz of the warm breakfast Kallisto made on her
birthday. She didn’t think she could possibly eat it… with all those memories.
Ritz sighed as her eyes welled up in tears. Evander didn’t seem to notice.
“You look tired. Did you sleep well?”
“No not really. Actually the dark nova was on
my mind all last night.”
“Well now, lets see it. I promise to be careful
“You see that’s the problem. I don’t have it.
I left it at the cottage the night Kallisto died.” Evander gasped and started
to choke on the pancakes.
“Ritz this can be bad, very bad. We’ll need to
go and get it,” the Draik said solemnly. With that he cleared the fire and started
“You get enough to eat?” he asked.
“Yeah, plenty,” she lied.
By the time the sun rose, everyone was ready
to go. Evander looked back at the cave and sighed. Everything was packed away
and it looked like no one had ever been living inside the cave for all those
years. He was ready to move on.
Outside the weather had cleared a bit. The sky
was still dark and gloomy but the rain had stopped. The ground was drenched
with water and some of the blades of grass froze to form strings of crystals.
As Ritz, Evander, and the two petpets hiked down the side of the mountain, the
sting of cold wind filled their ears. They climbed over the large boulders at
the foot of the mountain and gazed ahead. Meridell was just over the horizon.
They could make it there by the afternoon.
As the day progressed, the air didn’t get any
warmer. It was still spring, yet it felt like the middle of winter. The clouds
spat out flutters of snow and rain every so often and it was hard to tell what
the weather was going to be like. But at last they had reached the entrance
to Meridell. The kingdom was very strange, no one was out and about and everything
was deserted. There was no bustling activity in the town where bread shop owners
and petpet sellers were usually busy selling items. Ritz, Evander, Flutter,
and Firenza were the only ones there. The Ixi shivered from the strange feeling.
In no time at all they had reached the cottage.
There was an eerie feeling about the place, something was not quite right. Not
that Ritz had expected anything to be normal after the tragic event. They stepped
inside to find a cold house just like the world outside. Everything had been
ripped and torn to shreds. Books, furniture and other belongings had been damaged
or misplaced. The couch was turned over and the wall punched in. Someone had
obviously been looking for something…
“It’s gone,” screeched Ritz. “The dark nova!
Someone took it!” She frantically ran around the room looking between every
corner. The black star was nowhere to be found. Just then a wild cry erupted
from the two petpets.
“And just be glad that we don’t take you next,”
said a voice. That was definitely not Evander. Ritz whirled around and pulled
out her sword in a flash second. A Darigan Techo stood by the door, his bony
claws reaching for his dagger.
“Take one step and your friend here dies,” he
said with a sneer. He pointed his dagger towards the Draik’s neck. Evander tried
to struggle but he was un- armed. Ritz couldn’t lose another one of her friends…not
“Don’t you touch him!” cried Ritz. She flung
herself towards the Techo and aimed her sword for his side. But unexpectedly
a Darigan Lupe was behind her and threw a net over her head. She was trapped
in a net sac and it was difficult to breathe.
“Got her,” the Lupe said. He tied the net up
and threw it over his back. Ritz didn’t try to escape, if she did it could mean
the death of her friend… or herself.
To be continued…