The Legend of Vasnia: Part One
A long time ago, in a forgotten land deep in the depths of Neopia’s ocean, a land of great turmoil existed. It resided hundreds of miles away from the famed Maraqua, and its residents had not seen the water’s surface for centuries. The kingdom was called Vasnia.
Vasnia was ruled by the wise king Phenes, a just and mighty leader who had brought his people to great prosperity. This era—the time of King Phenes’ rule—came to be known as the Age of Crystals. It came to an abrupt and shocking halt, however, when Phenes died suddenly. Luckily the great king had produced two children before the gentle Queen Nareth had passed away: the eldest was a daughter, Isolde, and the younger a son, Castor. Castor, being the next male in line, inherited the crown and became ruler of Vasnia. The Vasnians had confidence in him—he was Phenes’ son, after all. But he disappointed them. He imposed high taxes, imprisoned anyone that questioned him, and was altogether lazy and greedy. His sister, seeing the new king’s wrongdoings, tried pointing out his flaws on several occasions, causing the fickle Castor to promptly banish her from the royal palace.
Years passed. Vasnia had slipped into a dark era—one that was utterly miserable. But however terrible it was, it was looked back upon with envy after the Invaders came.
The Invaders raided with a sudden fury and, worse yet, they had a detailed plan for Vasnia. Their leader, Lias, bribed King Castor with precious minerals and worked out an agreement. The king became no more than Lias’ puppet, serving his every whim.
They called themselves Trekkans, using the Vasnian word for “superior” to instill a feeling of inferiority in the citizens. The Vasnians slowly began to have their rights taken away and were considered incastes—“scum.” First they could no longer buy, sell, or trade as they used to: they could only do so through the Trekkans. Several weeks later they were required by law to perform certain tasks without pay. After just a few months they became full-time servants to the Trekkans, relying wholly on those fiends for food and shelter. Life was worse than it had ever been for the Vasnians.
All hope was not lost, however. The long since banished Princess Isolde had not completely disappeared. She began to secretly organize rebel groups whose only goal was to overthrow the Trekkans and restore power to the Vasnians—and to Isolde. She was often referred to by the rebels as the True Princess, the One Who Belonged. The rebellion was risky business; anyone suspected of being a rebel was immediately imprisoned or executed. But to the Vasnians it was worth it. Too many children and innocent citizens had lost their lives to the Trekkans. It was time for change.
A cloaked figure glided down a set of crumbling stone stairs that led to a dark passageway. This passageway could only be seen from up-close, as it was hidden by a mass of red and orange seaweed. The figure was gone in the flick of its pale blue tail.
Through a series of tunnels the figure swam, never swaying from its path. It finally reached its destination: a circular chamber that held an annular ivory table, around which several worn out, official-looking Vasnians sat.
“Good, you’ve arrived,” said a strict-looking Maraquan Elephante. He peered down through his round spectacles at the newly arrived individual, raising an eyebrow. “The council is ready.”
The figure finally pulled off its—her—cloak, revealing a stunning pale blue royal Peophin’s face—a royal Peophin without any embellishment, any ornament, or any accessory that marked her as royalty, except for a simple medallion on a chain worn around her neck. She had inherited it from her mother, Queen Nareth, because she was Princess Isolde—the True Princess. She was the princess who had been banished from her castle, stripped of all wealth, and lost all royal entitlements; who had followers that were risking everything for her. She had lost everything, her spirit had all but broken, and yet here she was, illuminating the room with hope in a time of hopelessness.
Princess Isolde took her seat and glanced around the chamber.
“Let us begin,” she commanded, her voice smooth like velvet. “Hektor, the report.”
Hektor, the Elephante who had spoken first, cleared his throat and pulled out a slab of stone on which his report was recorded.
“First, our palace spy has disappeared. We suspect he was discovered and imprisoned, or worse.”
The princess barely flinched at this news; she had grown numb to this type of news. It was commonplace for the rebellion, after all. She simply noted, “we will need a new spy at once.”
“Yes, Your Highness, we are in the process of training one. His name is Philon. He is a Gelert who grew up as a peasant and was taken in as a servant boy in your father’s palace years ago. He fled when Castor took the crown, so Castor never knew his face. He knows the ways of the palace and will work as a cook starting next week. Servants generally hear everything that occurs in the palace, so he will discover information through his coworkers.”
“Good,” Isolde replied. “I will want to see him before his departure.”
“As you wish, Princess.”
The meeting proceeded in a similar fashion for the following three hours, until all loose ends were tied, all plans made, and all mysteries solved. The rebel council was extremely effective.
As the circle of councilors dispersed and Isolde pulled her hooded cloak on once again, she was stopped by a light tap on her shoulder. She turned and found herself looking into the face of Akios, a Maraquan Shoyru who was the newest and by far the youngest council member.
“Your Highness, I apologize profusely for this inconvenience, but I’m afraid I have a proposal that must be dealt with immediately.”
“Excuse me? Why was this not brought up during the meeting?”
“Er... I doubt the council would even consider it...” the Shoyru mumbled, blushing copiously. “You see, I have received a message from a... a... Well, a foreigner, Your Highness.”
“A foreigner? From where?”
Akios seemed extremely reluctant to answer Isolde’s inquiry, but as she was royalty he simply had no choice. He worked up his strength, took a deep breath, and answered.
“From the Above.”
Isolde froze. Strands from her white mane of hair fell into her eyes, but she did not bother brushing them away. The room grew a little hazy.
Isolde finally fell out of her stupor and looked into Akios’ eyes, not fully comprehending.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Akios replied. He plodded on in the hope that if he told her everything quickly it would not be so shocking. “Her name is Alodia. She is a Lutari, and she has heard of our cause. She wants to help. She is currently living in hiding just outside of Vasnia, waiting for your response.”
“H-how did this happen? Where did she come from?”
“Above, Your Highness.”
“Yes, but how did she discover us? No Vasnian has had contact with the Above.”
“I am not sure, Your Highness. She is rather mysterious, but I fully trust her honesty. She wants to meet you more than anything.”
Princess Isolde fell back upon her stone seat, breathing hard. She had heard stories of the Above, not all of them pleasant. It was a place of strange creatures that breathed air and walked on a land without water. It was not somewhere she wanted to either visit or even think about. The closest she had come to understanding these creatures were the Maraquan Vasnians, who had ancestors from the faraway kingdom of Maraqua. These Maraquans, in turn, had ancestors who supposedly were land dwellers, and had somehow transformed into sea creatures. Akios himself was Maraquan, as his great-great-great-grandparents had immigrated from Maraqua eons ago.
“Akios, I don’t know if I have the courage—”
“Your Highness, if I can meet a land dweller, you certainly can. You’ve dodged death how many times now? You are certainly the most courageous person I have ever met, and I am not saying that simply because you are my princess and my queen. You are a hero. You have the courage. I know you do.”
As Isolde finally stood up, Akios noticed there were tears of fright in her eyes. She certainly has heard awful stories of the Above, he thought. This is her only fear, it seems.
“All right, Akios. Take me to this Alodia. I must meet her after all.”
“Akios? Is that you?”
“Yes, it is I. And I come with Princess Isolde.”
Akios and Isolde were outside of Alodia’s makeshift hideout, a rusty, sunken anchor covered with coral and seaweed. It made a nest of sorts, and it was surprisingly comfortable. Alodia popped her head out of the tiny hole that served as an entrance.
“Thank goodness you’re here!” she cried, suddenly approaching the princess. “It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve last eaten.”
“Alodia! That is no way to address the princess!”
“Er—Sorry, Princess. Isolde, right? M’names Alodia. I’m from a much colder—and drier—land than this, but I do love the water.”
Isolde stayed completely silent; she feared she could not make a sound. The creature was a pink Lutari—she was completely covered in fur, which was baffling. Her paws had black claws that looked deadly, and she had a round, black nose. Her underbelly was white, while the rest of her body held a mixture of dark and light pink fur. She had no fins, flippers, or even a proper tail. How she managed to swim, Isolde had no idea.
After a long silence, Akios cleared his throat and spoke up.
“As I mentioned earlier, Your Highness, Alodia has heard of our predicament and is here to help in any way she can.”
“How could you help?” Isolde finally blurted out, staring hard at Alodia. “How can you even survive in our environment?”
“Well Ma’am, I have other friends who live on land. Ones who also breathe water and swim—more Lutari, some Acaras... You get the idea. They are willing to help fight if called upon. I also surely have ideas that would aid you—ideas that have not yet reached Maraquan or Vasnian ears. With me, Ma’am, you are sure to win.”
“And why do you want to help so badly? What could you gain, when you don’t even live in the sea?”
Alodia’s expression darkened. “I have my reasons.”
Isolde abruptly turned around and began swimming back in the direction of the Vasnian kingdom. Akios, caught by surprise, immediately hustled to catch up with her.
“You Highness! What—?”
“You should have addressed the council,” Isolde snapped.
“But you know they would not have approved!”
“Really?” Isolde stopped and faced Akios. “And why would that be? Could it be because this creature is a monster? That she doesn’t belong here, and she has secret reasons for helping us? That she is from the Above? Everyone knows Abovians are never to be trusted—why should this, this Alodia be an exception?”
“Please, Your Highness, simply consider it! It could change our entire strategy—for the better, of course. It could make the difference between winning and losing, which, for most of us, is the difference between life and death. I sincerely believe we need her and the other land dwellers more than any other source of help!”
“I will explain the situation to the council tomorrow,” Isolde simply replied before turning and swimming in the direction of her secret home. She had never needed rest more than tonight.
The next day Isolde held a spontaneous council meeting. She and Akios explained the situation to the council. At first the council reacted with outrage and horror, as Akios had predicted, but then Hektor wisely pointed out that they should perhaps meet this Abovian before deciding whether or not she was a monstrosity, which was a label several councilors had rashly used out of their indignation at the proposal.
Alodia acted extremely polite when meeting the councilors—she realized that Isolde’s first impression of her was not at all positive, and she wanted to assist the rebellion more than anything. She couldn’t lose this chance. Surprisingly, the majority of the councilors found themselves rather liking the strange Neopian, and they ultimately agreed to let her help their cause, despite Isolde’s reservations.
Alodia began sitting in during the council meetings, chiming in once in a while with her strange Abovian ideas. The council eventually decided to promote her to a full councilor position, and actively participated in the discussions. Her ideas helped to improve the rebellion’s armaments and battle strategies, and the council felt much better prepared to defeat the Trekkans than they had a week ago.
Isolde accepted the fact that the council had accepted Alodia, but she privately wished the Lutari had never shown her face. She didn’t belong. To the princess, Alodia was as bad as the Trekkans. Of course the princess mentioned her secret feelings, seeing as the majority of the council adored the newcomer.
A week later Isolde was scheduled to meet with the new palace spy, Philon, who was an enthusiastic Maraquan Gelert. She had to check over his credentials and assist with his plans before giving her approval. He acted quite taken with the princess.
“All right, Philon,” Isolde said finally. “I will permit you to go through with this mission. Stay in touch during the duration of your time in the palace.”
“Princess, I promise to correspond with you daily during my time in the palace,” he proclaimed proudly. “I won’t let you down!”
Isolde smiled at the young man.
“Thank you, Philon,” she said, shaking his hand before he swam away to the palace. Vasnians like him were keeping the rebellion strong.
Things were looking bright. The council was beginning to make detailed preparations for an attack that would take place within the year. The plan was to first annihilate the head Trekkan, Lias. Once that Maraquan Skeith was out of the way the other Trekkans would have no leadership and chaos would ensue. Alodia’s Abovian comrades would then enter the battle and help chase out any remaining Trekkans. If worse came to worse the Vasnian’s second army, a militia made up of women, young boys, and old men, would bring out their weapons and would finish off the battle. Hopefully this would not be necessary; the second army was a last resort.
More and more Vasnians were joining the rebellion, which of course meant that more and more were being discovered by the Trekkans. Almost daily Isolde heard news of another rebel being taken to the dungeons of the royal palace, never to return again. All in all, however, the rebellion was stronger than ever, and there was real hope of winning the fight against the horrid Trekkans.
Yet one evening everything changed.
Princess Isolde had received a note from the council—a written request to hold an emergency meeting. Isolde had no idea why it was necessary, but she trusted her comrades and hurried across the ocean floor to the underground headquarters.
No one was there when she arrived, and the council room was completely dark. Confused, Isolde took off her cloak and began looking for a glow-shell so she could see. She finally stumbled upon one and shook it to trigger its light. As soon as it was lit she looked up and gasped—a grinning Skeith face leered less than two feet in front of her. It was Lias, the Trekkan leader.
To be continued...