A Princess Finds Her Quest: Part Two
She woke up to the ground trembling beneath her and the sun rising in the sky. She poked her head out of the tree and saw flashes of red through the trees in the direction of the path. Her heart leapt into her throat; red was the color of the royal guards' uniforms. There wasn't a doubt in her mind. They were looking for her. With that knowledge, she decided that no matter how tempting the path was, she was going to have to stay off it. Otherwise, the royal guard might find her and then she'd be returned back home under even tighter watch with no adventure to even remember.
Being careful to be able to see the path but not be seen, she didn't want to get lost, she began to make her way through the forest yet again. It wasn't nearly as scary now that the sun had risen, but it was still new and full of unknown threats. Every noise made her jump and she was painfully aware of how out in the open she was. Before she'd gotten very far, she had to duck into a bunch of bushes because the ground began to tremble. The ground thundered only moments before the red coated royal guard marched over the hard beaten path, but she was able to hide before any of the guards saw her.
After the sound of their advance had passed, she continued on her way, listening carefully for any further search parties. Making her way through the bushes, she became aware of her hunger. She was about to take a break and get into her food that she had packed, but then she caught a whiff of fresh berries. The fragrance was heavy and ripe upon the air, sweet luscious berries, and Airy couldn't resist the urge to find them. With her nose in the air, she ventured forward until she found herself in a clearing where bushes laden with dark red berries grew. Unable to control her hunger, she gobbled up berry after berry until she felt fat with their sweet deliciousness. After she'd had more than her fill, she started to leave the clearing when the bushes in front of her rustled.
Suddenly a Yellow Yurble, bristling and snarling, leapt out of the shrubbery and stood in front of her with his claws extended.
"Please don't hurt me," Airy cried and threw her hoofs over her face in terror.
The Yurble growled, "Why have you eaten my berries?"
Shyly, she peeped out around her hoofs, "Your berries? I'm sorry; I didn't know that they belonged to anyone. I thought they were wild berries and I was hungry." Her explanation did little to placate the snarling fury of a neopet standing before her and she was terrified that he was going to take it upon himself to teach her a lesson.
"What did you really think? That those berries just magically grew in a magically created clearing? I've been working day in and day out trying to make sure these berries grow well and you just plow through them without any regard as to how they came to be." He was still fuming but beginning to calm down. His fur was even beginning to settle back against his body.
"I honestly didn't think," she confessed and the look he gave her made her want to cower even further.
"Clearly, you didn't think. I could have figured that out on my own," he scoffed and began checking out the damage she'd done to his precious berries, "So, what is a well dressed Ixi like yourself doing out in the woods anyway?"
For a moment, she wasn't sure what to tell him. Then an idea came to her, "I'm searching for a village where a Scorchio is apparently causing some trouble. I plan on making him stop."
The Yurble looked at her as if she were crazy then replied, "You? You're going to stop that Scorchio? How do you possibly plan on doing that? What's your name anyway?"
"Um, uh, I hadn't really thought about how I was going to do it. I just figured a plan would come to me when I got there," she sputtered and then hesitated before adding, "I'm Airy."
"Well, Airy, the Scorchio is not a game for some little girl playing dress up to undertake. He's vicious, cruel, full of fire and all about destruction. If you're serious about defeating him, you've got to have a plan. Are you serious?" He eyed her with all the wisdom of an aged Yurble who had survived the forest.
His words made her knees shake and she once again had the urge to go back home. But she'd come so far and it seemed silly to turn back around without having done anything. She'd only be proving the idea that princesses couldn't go on quests and she wasn't about to that. So, taking a deep breath, she nodded her head and explained, "I am very serious; I've just never done this before."
Once more, he looked at her, discerning what she was feeling, and it made her feel awkward. Finally he replied, "I do believe that you're serious. I also think you'll be successful. So, to help you out, I have a gift, but you must promise to never give it away. You must value it as if it was an extension of your body; can you promise to do that?" She nodded her head and he disappeared into the vegetation again. Unsure of what to do, she stood there, looking around at the trees overhead and the bushes around her. The berries still gave off their desirable aroma, but after her feast, she was no longer even remotely tempted. Suddenly, the Yurble was there again with something clutched tightly in his clawed paws.
"This was stolen many, many years ago from a wicked witch who wanted to wage war against a fire faerie who had pushed all of her buttons. As long as you wear it, you're invincible to fire." He held out a dark red jewel glistening in a intricate silver chain. In the center of the ruby was a delicate engraving of a flickering flame that seemed to move when the jewel was turned in different directions. Airy ducked her head down so that he could slip the necklace around her throat.
"Thank you so much. I have no words to describe my gratitude," she whispered, awed by the gift.
The Yurble shrugged his shoulders. "I have no use for it and if you can stop the Scorchio, well, more power to you. Just keep in mind that there may come a day when the witch seeks out her necklace and then you will have to face her too. However, I believe its power will get you through the quest you've decided to undertake. Also, for future reference, don't just eat berries that you find growing in the wild. Even if they don't belong to someone, there's always a good chance of them being poisonous and of all the ways to be taken out, you don't want it to be poisonous berries."
It was an interesting dilemma; she didn't want to have to face a witch, but being able to resist fire was a wonderful thought. She'd be able to face the Scorchio without fear of him roasting her to perfection and then having her for lunch. Well, she still had to worry about him having her for lunch, but she wouldn't be cooked. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each situation, she was on her way with the jewel resting firmly around her neck. If she could take on a flaming Scorchio, she could take on a witch.
As she traveled, two more sets of guards tramped down the path, looking for her still. She couldn't help but wonder what her parents were thinking, if her father even cared that she was gone. A pang of homesickness struck so suddenly and sharply that she almost threw up. All of a sudden, she wanted to curl up into a ball and cry hysterically. Why was she out here? What made her think that a princess could battle a Scorchio? The Yurble thought she could but he was an old critter that lived all alone in the forest; his mind wasn't necessarily the best to trust. Why was she doubting herself? So far, she'd done just fine. Gritting her teeth with fresh determination, she continued to plow through the underbrush.
Presently, she began to catch whiffs of smoke and then the air became heavy with it. She crouched low to the ground and pressed forward, for she figured that she must be getting near the village that the Scorchio was harassing. Bit by bit, she became aware of heat from a nearby fire, but it didn't slow her down a bit. Then she heard the most pitiful, sharp mewling she'd ever heard. It was all she could do not to cover her ears. Suddenly she came into a clearing where the fire was burning on the other side. As close to the fire as she dared, a Pink Kadoatie was running in circles and screaming piteously at the fire.
"Stop, stop," Airy begged, and the Kadoatie did, but her cries becoming silent made the tiny, matching cries somewhere from within the fire audible. Airy didn't even think about what she was doing; she just bolted into the raging flames. Following the sounds of the tiny Kadoatie cries, she found herself near a tree whose limbs were on fire. At the bottom, nestled in a hole were three tiny baby Kadoaties, mewling desperately for their mother. The Ixi placed each of them on her back and told them to hold on tight. She didn't know if they understood her or not, but she hoped that they did. When she emerged from the fire, the mother Kadoatie almost bowled her over in her excitement to see her children. After she had checked on her children, she twined herself in and out of Airy's legs with gratitude.
"You're very welcome." Airy grinned and slowly took down the babies from her back. One, a blue one, dug its claws into her cape and began mewing when she tried to lift him off. Again and again she tried, but the tiny Kadoatie had a tight grip and refused to be pulled off. The mother Kadoatie watched the whole going on with an impassive face. Suddenly, she nosed the other two and they began to walk away.
"Wait, one of your babies is still with me," she cried out and tried desperately to detach the blue one, but it clung stubbornly to her cape. The other Kadoaties vanished into the forest, leaving her with the Blue Kadoatie still stuck to her. She understood then that the mother was leaving the baby in her possession. "Great, I don't know what I'm going to do with you. But since you're here to stay apparently, how about I call you Velcro." The Kadoatie mewed appreciatively then curled up for a nap in her cape. Airy sighed, shrugged her shoulders, and began to go around the outskirts of the fire. It wasn't as big as it looked and soon she was around it but hadn't found the village yet.
And then, she was there. She emerged from the line of the forest to find a small village with smoldering huts dotting here and there. A Yellow Kacheek was leaning lazily against an unburnt cottage, his hat pulled down over his head as he snored softly in his sleep. It looked almost normal, except for the charred remains of homes here and there. Suddenly Airy ducked behind one of the cottages and strained to hear what the red coated guard was saying.
"If you see Princess Airyeadrop, be sure to alert the king right away. He is offering a hefty reward for the return of his daughter," the guard was explaining to a villager. Airy's heart was pounding in her chest fiercely and she was terrified that the guard would sense her hiding from him.
Suddenly, there were sharp screams and cries of terror, including, "It's coming back, it's coming back." A shadow passed over Airy and she looked up to see the outline of a Scorchio in flight. It wasn't nearly as big as she was expecting, in fact, as she stared at, she realized that it was about the size of a baby. The village was being tormented by a Baby Scorchio? Surely not. Forgetting about the guard, she followed the flying Scorchio to the outskirts of the village. It landed and began blowing streams of fire at the nearby huts without any provocation.
"What are you doing?" she shouted and the Scorchio paused to stare at her. She took that as a good sign and continued, "Why are you blowing fire at this village? You're a baby; shouldn't you be off playing or something?"
Tears filled the Scorchio's eyes and his lower lip began quivering. He burst into tears and sobbed hysterically, "I just wanted their help. I've got an ouchie and can't fix it and they won't help me."
"Maybe I can help you," she offered, inching a couple of steps closer to the unhappy Scorchio. Velcro was panicking, digging his tiny claws so deep into her cape that she could feel them pricking her, but she wasn't about to back off. This was why she had come and she had every intention of finishing her quest.
The Scorchio spun around and pointed to a patch on his back, right below his neck. It was riddled with lots of tiny little spines and she could understand why he was so unhappy. "What happened?" she balked as she began to pull out the spines with her teeth, one by one. The Scorchio grimaced with each spine pulled out, but he didn't cry out. Apparently the burst of tears had been it.
"I was playing around by a cactus patch and I think I must have brushed up against one. It felt like someone had lit a fire on my back and I tried to find help. I came here and they all ran away, screaming and stuff so I decided that if they weren't going to help me out, I was going to give them a reason to scream." The Scorchio dug a claw into the dirt as she pulled out a few more. Velcro was still mewing at her, but his claws had retreated somewhat and were no longer causing her little pin pricks of pain.
"Well, that wasn't very nice of them, but it wasn't very nice of you, either. You've got to stop, okay?" The Scorchio nodded and she continued, "I'm Airy and Velcro's the Kadoatie on my back. What can I call you?"
"Towsier," the Scorchio shyly replied, and she smiled. Her first quest looked like it was complete as she pulled out the last spine.
"Towsier, you want to stay away from those cactuses." She grinned and then heard from behind her, "There she is, that’s the princess." "Oh no, they're going to get me," she cried out.
"On my back," Towsier instructed and she scrambled up, trying to be careful of his freshly despined area. With a heavy fluttering of his wings, he rose into the air and caused clouds of dust and ash to rise with him. She caught a glimpse of red coats as the guards charged at them but they were too slow. Towsier soared into the air with her and Velcro clinging desperately for their lives, but Airy felt more exhilarated than ever before. She'd completed her first adventure and she knew that there were many more in her future, perhaps even adventures shared with both Towsier and Velcro. Finally, she was living the life that she had always dreamed of.