The Rebel's Heart: Part Seven
“What is going on?!”
“It’s simple, Princess. I was looking for someone whose life I could make miserable, and I found you. Who’d have thought that I’d catch the Princess in the biggest mistake of her life? Only one thing could make this day better. Unfortunately for me, that happened a little while ago. Remember that light faerie? She can no longer protect you from harm, thanks to you. Now nothing can stop me.”
“Oh Teresh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
“No! You dismissed her! You told me that you did!”
“No. I was just giving her the confidence and determination that she needed. She hardly dismissed me by deciding to follow her dreams even at her own expense.”
“Zeresh, we will always be bitter enemies.”
Amaretta spoke up. “Wait, your names are Teresh and Zeresh? This is going to be confusing.”
Teresh glared at Amaretta while Zeresh stood beside the frightened Uni.
“Go now, Teresh. You have no power over this Uni. She is being protected, so go commit your foul deeds elsewhere.”
An evil smile broke out across Teresh’s face. “Very well. I know some pets who would love the information that I now have.”
As Teresh flew away, Zeresh spoke to Amaretta. “You are now bound to your promise, little one. You will face hardships, but do you now know that you can face them?”
Amaretta spoke with confidence. “Yes, I do. Oh, Zeresh, those cursed Unis, can anything be done for them?”
Zeresh smiled warmly. “Of course. All anybody had to do was ask.”
Before Amaretta could respond, Zeresh vanished in a burst of light.
“Wow, Amaretta, you’ve had quite a day.”
Amaretta groaned slightly. “You could say that again. Father will receive the word within the week. I’m sure that Quiet will stall as much as possible, but there aren’t enough excuses in Neopia to stall long enough. Then I’ll be in trouble. I just have to hope that in the meantime I can learn to fight.”
“You know, Amaretta, I could teach you what I know.”
“We’ve been through this before, Darena.”
“Yes, Princess, but now your father will be coming and a dark faerie knows your secret. Things have changed, and I think that you would benefit from private instruction.”
Amaretta pondered the idea and muttered, “You may be right. I’ll have reached a decision by mid-day. Until then, I’d like to be alone.”
Much to Darena’s surprise, Amaretta didn’t even leave before she had a response.
“You know, Darena, you’re right. I need your help for this. Without you, I’ll never learn how to be a good fighter.”
Days passed and Amaretta’s skills improved immensely. She learned how to use her sword properly and how to use a shield as both a weapon and a defense mechanism.
“Wow, Amaretta. I’ve only been teaching you for a little while and you’re already much better.”
“I know, but I think it’s because you were personally trained by some of the best warriors in the kingdom. That means that you know more than most people here. Probably even more than some of the instructors.”
Darena shrugged. “All the same, you’re getting really good. You could probably join me in the advanced classes now.”
“Wow, 648, you’ve improved immensely.”
Amaretta blushed. “Thank you, sir knight.”
The knight laughed. “You can just call me Freyalise.”
Amaretta gasped, fear clouding her eyes. “Did you say Freyalise?”
Freyalise smiled. “I see that you’ve heard of me.”
Amaretta gulped. “You could say that.”
“Anyway, I see no reason why you couldn’t be in the advanced class.”
“Do we work in pairs, and if so, can we choose our partner?”
“Yes, but you generally get paired up as you join the advanced program.”
“Is it possible that I could be paired with 493? She helped me improve this much.”
“Well, normally I’d say no, but since she did help you get this far, I suppose that I could have her partner re-assigned so that the two of you can work together. Congratulations, 493 and 648, you are now partners in the advanced portion of this training camp.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Freyalise, why are you not at war?”
“I was wounded slightly in battle, so my second in command took over and I was sent here to train the new recruits.”
“Are you the only one who trains the entire advanced portion?”
“Yes. Why, is that a problem?”
“No. I just wondered.”
Freyalise gave a look of disbelief to Amaretta, but she dropped the subject.
Darena and Amaretta joined the assembled pets in the advanced section of the training area.
“Recruits, in just two days time, you will be sent to war. This is what you signed up for, and now you’re ready. You will be given more advanced weapons if you want them. Some of you may feel more comfortable with your original sword and shield. That is your decision. You will begin packing your things tomorrow, and we will leave at mid-day the day after tomorrow. Congratulations, recruits. You are the best and the brightest. You will serve this great land well.”
As Freyalise walked away, the pets stayed in place, talking about this new piece of information. Each pet had already fantasized defeating one of Darigan’s most powerful warriors in some heroic way.
“Oh Darena, I can’t believe it. This is the day that I finally become a full knight!”
“Yeah, about that. I overheard Freyalise talking to a messenger. Apparently we’re just a few from many training camps all around Meridell, and according to Freyalise, we’re the worst! She said that a few of us were good, but the rest of us were little more than farmers with a sharper than usual pitchfork. I don’t think that she meant to be so unkind, but I can’t help doubting that any of us will be ‘upgraded’ to the status of ‘knight.’”
Amaretta sighed deeply and stared at the ground. “I suppose you’re right, but I can still imagine, can’t I?”
Before Darena could respond, Freyalise stood on the platform and faced the entire camp.
“Some of you will be leaving us today as we go to war to defend our great land. Now, those of you who will be leaving know who you are. Please form an orderly line that starts at the entrance of the camp. There you will receive your new weapons and state your name. Please go do so now. May the rest of you know that you will stay here and train for a bit longer or until you are needed. Good luck, recruits.”
Amaretta and Darena managed to be close to the beginning of the line, which was probably because they were at the far edges of the assembled pets.
“I can’t give my name! What am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know, make up a name.”
Amaretta groaned. “Why was I cursed with this lack of creativity? I can’t think of any names!”
“Why not use the names of one of your siblings or friends?”
“Yeah, that’ll go over well. ‘Freyalise, my name is Karalana.’ Can’t you just make up a name for me?”
“Um... how about the name Kara? Just say that you were named after the Queen.”
“That would work, except that my mother married into the royal family; my father is the royal one.”
“Yes, but you were born after she was crowned. It would still work!”
Amaretta sighed deeply. “Fine, but if anything goes wrong, I get to blame you.”
Darena chuckled. “After all the times you’ve taken the blame for me, I think it’s only fair that I take the blame if something goes wrong.”
They approached a bored Maraquan Gelert with a monotone voice.
“Please state your name and fill out these forms. By signing the forms you accept all the duties and responsibilities of a member of the royal army. If you do not sign the form, you don’t join. If you don’t join, then you just wasted a few weeks of your life. Congratulations.”
Darena and Amaretta filled out the forms as quickly as possible, both trying to be done and away from everybody that could recognize Amaretta.
“Well, I guess I should call you Kara from now on.”
“Yes, Darena, I think that would be for the best.”
The rest of the pets meandered until Freyalise, yet again, spoke to them.
“The time has come and you have joined the royal army! I congratulate all of you for your hard work and determination. You will be in pairs of two as we start our journey to the final stop for many of you recruits: the training grounds. This is where you will be tested to your limit and beyond. If you succeed, you will be welcomed into the royal guard; the elite group that sends spies to the enemy territory and personally guards the royal family. The rest of you will join the rest of the royal army. It is not bad to be in the army, it is simply good to be in the guard. Now if you would all follow me.”
To be continued...