Family Secrets: Part Three
I could have slapped the kid. I couldn’t believe he killed the atmosphere with his insipid sob story about Calliope. Really? She’s sick? Quite the little con man, I must say. And I had just gotten to the climax of my story, too. Now I needed to wait for Calydia to calm down enough. Bah.
But I had to hand it to him. The kid, Felon or whatever his name was, was acting it quite well. His little sobs were rather effective. But it didn’t matter. I would get to finish my story soon enough. I just needed a little time. So I quietly began eating the main course, a nicely cooked Blumaroo steak. That’s one thing I did miss on my travels—Calydia’s chef, Perian, was quite skilled.
I watched Calydia carefully in order to gauge when it would be okay to resume the story. Everyone was quiet, save for Father’s rather loud eating habits. He was a disgusting eater... but that was never one of his best manners. The kid just stared at his plate, which was fine with me. The less he spoke, the better.
Alright. Two minutes was time enough. “So, maybe if I finish my story, I can get our minds off all these unfortunate thoughts,” I said tentatively.
Calydia smiled as best she could. “Oh, Swin, that would be so kind. I would love to hear you finish your story.”
Wonderful. “Very well then, my dear. As I was saying, we were becoming rather cold, rather fast without our guide and her wonderful spell. In fact, one of the crew, the chill really got to him. He had to be sent back to the ship, before he was injured. It turned out when we returned to the boat after the expedition was over that he never made it back. He disappeared somewhere on the way back. So unfortunate.”
Calydia gasped. “Why, that’s terrible! And you never found him?”
I shook my head sadly. Perfect... just lay on the grief, I told myself.
“Anyways, the rest of us managed to press on. We continued mapping the area, and routinely collecting samples of the plant and animal life there. It was quite fascinating to see how different everything was there. Petpetpets never known to the world were discovered.”
Calydia sighed with glee. “How intriguing!”
I nodded with a grin, as an idea occurred to me. I hesitated for a second. Go on; it’s brilliant, I reasoned.
“Naturally, I named one of them after us—the swinicus calydium.”
She squealed. “Oh, Swin! That’s so kind!”
I noticed the kid stare at me incredulously. Shrugging him off, I returned my gaze to my sister. “Yes, and I have a specimen with my belongings. I’ll show it you once dinner is finished; how does that sound?”
My sister nodded vigorously. This was priceless; I couldn’t have planned it better. She was perhaps the easiest con I had ever pulled. And I hadn’t even thought of the details to my story before this morning. I was truly on the top of my game. Now... now I had to sell it.
“Anyways, as we were mapping the continent, well, that’s where the expedition really went south. Figuratively, I mean.” I chuckled at my own pun, while Calydia almost fell off her chair laughing. Calydia giggled far too much. That’s one thing that always irritated me about my sister; she was always pretending to be way more interested in something than she ever really would be.
“You see,” I continued, “despite all the extensive mapping we had done, we... uh, we got lost. It had been nearly two months of traveling at this point, and almost five of those weeks were spent in the cold. We were down to barely any food left, and being the southern continent, there was obviously not much natural food there. And so the crew members began dying off. After a few days more, I was alone.”
Calydia gasped again. “Swin! That is so awful! How in the world did you endure such a harrowing experience?”
I looked down for a second. I could feel three pairs of eyes on me, and I knew I really needed to sell this moment. So I conjured up the most terrible image I have ever seen. With the thought of an empty bank account on my mind, I let a tear roll down my cheek and looked back up.
“It was... so hard. I was so hungry, and so, so cold. Every bone in my body must have been frozen. The chill got to my mind, I couldn’t think straight for days. But somehow... somehow I managed to find the ship. Words cannot describe how I felt when I laid eyes on my wonderful passage back to safety. Except... well, it seems in my absence from the ship that the Faerie passed as well. It seemed that her strength simply failed, and her little flame of life flickered out.”
Another gasp from Calydia. Too easy. She was wrapped around my finger now. “What did you do next?” she asked.
“Well, it was only me and the other crew member left. So we did what had to be done—we tried to sail the ship back towards civilization.”
“And how did it go?”
“It started out extremely difficultly. Maintaining a ship of that size requires a crew of at least twenty, so we obviously floundered at the start. But soon we worked out a routine that managed to get us pretty far.”
“What took you so long?” the kid asked. He was watching me carefully now. Father was still absentmindedly playing with his knife—we had all long finished our meals and were now just listening to my tale.
“What do you mean?” I asked slowly. If he was going to question me about my story, I wasn’t going to give it to him easily.
“Well, your trip so far must have only lasted three months, tops. What did you do since then?”
“Why, I didn’t sail right home to Neopia Central. No, our journey was far from over. From the south continent, we decided to sail to the nearest destination—Krawk Island. While we were there, we ran into the, ah, wrong crowd, shall we say, while we were refueling. It took us months to get out of that. When we finally did escape, we were able to get a ride home on a small vessel charted for Meridell. We had to walk the rest of the way to Neopia Central.”
He still did not look satisfied, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t trying to impress the kid. Quite frankly, I was still unsure why he was even here. It struck me as odd that Calydia would invite him to dinner when she and Calliope were so angry with each other. I returned my focus to Calydia, who was enthralled with my story.
“So what will you do now?” she asked me. “I do hope you’ll stay for a while, I have so much to tell you!”
“Actually, Calydia, I was hoping you would be able to help me out.”
Father coughed loudly, but I ignored him. Calydia smiled. “But of course, Swin! What do you need?”
“On my travel home, I lost all of the data and information we had gathered on our expedition. I hope to return to the continent and continue the journey that we had started before.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed. I could see she was upset that I wanted to leave so soon, but she hid it quickly. “What do you require of me?”
“I need some funding to secure another ship and crew. Please, dear sister, will you help me?”
She smiled. “Of course I will help you, Swin. It’s the least I can do after your simply awful journey.”
Suddenly, the table shook violently. A glass toppled over, shattering on the velvet tablecloth. Calydia shrieked. At the head of the table, I saw my Father had stood suddenly, his wide wings clasping the edges. I studied his face and found a furious glare in my direction. I could discern no confusion on his expression.
“You... you... I am so ashamed, Swin,” he spat. “You liar!”
“Father!” Calydia screamed with surprise. “Forgive him, Swin, he’s out of his mind!”
“I am most certainly not!” Father said, his voice rising. His maddened glare would not leave my face. “I cannot believe you would con your own sister.”
Calydia stood too, hurrying to her father’s side, embarrassment and fear competing for full control of her expression. “Come, Father, let’s get you to bed!”
“Let go of me!” he roared, pushing her away with a well-placed wing. “I have not finished yet! I still have to deal with my disgusting son’s behavior!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, standing as well. I was angrier more that I had been caught than the fact that he had called me disgusting.
“I have sat here quietly, continuing this act of senility, while listening to your blatant lies. You don’t think I have known about your escapades in Altador? Of your thefts in Tyrannia? No, Swin, I am not as oblivious as Calydia here. I have kept tabs on you since you left. I have let a lot slide, but I cannot stand by any longer, especially when you appeal to use the family’s money for crime. This has gone on far enough.”
I was silent. Had I really been conned by my own father? His act was much more convincing than anything I had ever pulled. To be honest, I was impressed.
Calydia was crying. “Is this true, Swin? Were you only here to get our money?”
I sat slowly, frowning. “I suppose I better tell you. Please, both of you sit.”
My father and sister returned to their seats. I glanced over at my nephew, who had watched the whole scene with shock. He was now sitting up straight, paying close attention, more than I had seen him give all night. I took a deep breath and opened my mouth to speak.
“Wait, Swin,” my sister said, holding up a hand. “If you’re going to tell another story, at least tell it over dessert.”
To be continued...