Shine Like a Star
All eyes were on the stunning Xweetok as she made her elegant entrance from behind the heavy velvet curtain. For her first appearance in the Beauty Contest, she was attracting quite a bit of attention. The crowd gasped in amazement as the light reached the translucent wings folded upon her back. The striking Faerie Xweetok smiled proudly as her admirers looked on. She slowly flapped her wings and glided gracefully to her position among the other contestants. As she glanced at the judges, they huddled together to begin reviewing the different entrants. The contestants fidgeted and exchanged nervous looks as they anxiously waited for the judges’ decision. After the longest time, one of the judges finally stood up and cleared his throat, ready to declare the winner...
The Xweetok jumped out of bed, startled by the sudden noise coming from below. Shelby must have dropped something again, she thought with a giggle. Her owner was always knocking something over or falling clumsily. The Xweetok grinned and turned to prance down the stairs, but stopped as she caught her reflection in the mirror. As she did so, the memory of last night’s dream came flooding back...
Her smile disappeared. The Xweetok staring back at her was nothing like the one from her dream.
The mirror showed an unhappy Xweetok with faded blue fur and drooping ears. The pale glow that surrounded her seemed to dim as her large crimson eyes began to well up with tears. She shifted her head so she would no longer see her haunted reflection.
The beautiful Faerie that she aspired to be had been used by her mind as a cruel trick. In her dreams she was the lovely Faerie Xweetok, but in reality she was nothing but an ashen Ghost.
Was it really so wrong to want to be beautiful, to want to be admired? she wondered to herself sadly.
Deep in her thoughts, the Xweetok was unaware of the Kougra sneaking up on her from behind.
“Boo,” the Kougra whispered in her ear.
“Ahhh!” yelped the Xweetok, springing back. “Nallia, you scared me!”
Analliah laughed as she sauntered downstairs. “Hey Kiana, you’d better come eat breakfast before Shelby and Rhys eat it all!” she teased before disappearing completely.
Kiana couldn’t help but smile at her sister’s taunt. Somehow, even though Analliah was just an ordinary blue Kougra, she didn’t mind not being painted. Maybe it’s because she’s younger... Kiana thought to herself.
Well, whatever the reason, one thing was for sure: if Kiana didn’t get downstairs soon, there wasn’t going to be any food left for her!
After breakfast, Kiana headed back upstairs to her room. The door squeaked as it opened, and she heard a shuffling noise.
Not again... Kiana thought with a groan. Of all the things Nallia had to teach Rhys...
The Xweetok shuffled over to her bed and sat down. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for the intruder. Finally, she spied several plushies a few feet away from the pile of plushies in the corner of her room, where they usually remained. And then one of the plushies blinked.
Kiana laughed as she pounced on the plushies. “Nice try, Rhys!” she teased as she picked up a Baby Zafara.
“Aww, how’d you know I was hiding, Kiana?” Rhyspen asked with a frown. “I thought I was getting better at hiding...”
“Next time, don’t leave any evidence,” the Xweetok said as she pointed to the group of scattered plushies.
“Hehe, oops,” giggled Rhys.
“Come on, help me pick these up,” Kiana called as she started gathering the plushies.
“’Kay, sis!” The Baby Zafara stumbled over to a plushie and scrambled to pick it up. He hurried over to the pile, set the plushie down, and stopped to look at his sister. “Um... Kiana?”
“Yes, Rhys?” Kiana questioned patiently.
He turned his face away, but not quickly enough for Kiana to miss the shade of pink it had turned. “Do you think we could go to Mystery Island today?”
Kiana glanced at her brother in surprise. Although Mystery Island was Rhyspen’s favorite place to visit, he was usually too shy to ask her anything. When he did, it meant he really wanted to go. “Sure, Rhys, but you’ll have to clear it with Shelby first!”
“I already did,” he explained with a grin.
“Well then, let’s go!” Kiana exclaimed.
Rhyspen beamed at Kiana and ran out of the room, his sister close behind.
An hour later, the siblings found themselves relaxing at the beach on Mystery Island. They had planned on taking a Tiki Tour, but it was such a clear, sunny day that it was impossible for them to pass up a trip to the beach.
But even the bright sky couldn’t clear Kiana’s cloudy mood. The island’s beauty only reminded her more of the haunting dream she’d had last night.
Kiana sighed involuntarily. Rhyspen shot her a concerned look and opened his mouth as if he wanted to ask her something, but closed it quickly and turned his face away.
Kiana noticed her brother’s reaction. She wanted to say something to him, to reassure him that he didn’t do anything wrong, but she couldn’t seem to find the words.
“I think I’ll just go play some volleyball then...” Rhys mumbled quietly, standing up.
The Ghost Xweetok frowned as she watched Rhyspen walk off to play. She saw him join a Red Lupe and a Pirate Shoyru who were already playing volleyball and groaned. Great, now Rhys is mad, Kiana brooded.
“Ugh,” she moaned as she flopped back onto the warm sand. Kiana’s head hurt, and all she wanted to do was sleep. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem in the soft sand.
When the Xweetok finally awoke, it was so dark she couldn’t even see the giant palm trees just inches behind her. She could only hear the sound of waves crashing onto the shore in the distance.
That’s why she nearly screamed when she felt someone poke her.
“Who...?” Kiana started to ask. She intended to find out exactly who had nearly scared her to death. “Rhyspen!?” she asked desperately, just realizing that he hadn’t yet returned.
“No, I’m just an inhabitant of Mystery Island. I saw you asleep earlier and I remembered that you hadn’t gone home yet,” answered a deep, but friendly, voice.
Kiana‘s heart dropped. “Oh, I’m sorry. Have you seen a Baby Zafara around here anywhere?”
It was quiet for a moment, and Kiana comprehended that the local must be thinking.
“Now that you mention it, I did see a Baby Zafara playing volleyball before. Is he the one you’re talking about?”
“Yes!” Kiana replied loudly, jumping up.
“I saw his friends leading him off before. It looked like they were headed to Geraptiku,” the voice told her.
His friends? Geraptiku?! Oh no... No... Rhys, I’m so sorry! I should’ve been there... Kiana thought, as if Rhyspen could hear her.
Then Kiana remembered that the helpful local was still standing there. “Oh, thank you sir, I’ll go get him now,” she said to him. For some reason Kiana didn‘t want any help, she felt it was her responsibility to rescue Rhyspen from his ‘friends.’
“Of course, let me know if you need any help finding him,” the local said, and Kiana heard him walk away.
Kiana felt a lump in her throat and panic in her heart as she gazed at a flickering light in the distance. Without another thought, she raced off to find her baby brother.
After about twenty minutes of running as fast as she could, Kiana slowed to a stop. Looming before her was the ancient tomb of Geraptiku. It had been deserted for as long as anyone could remember, but only a brave few had been courageous enough to venture in. Unfortunately, those that went in had never come back out.
The Xweetok stood at the foot of the steps, peering up into the tomb’s dark entrance. She knew that this was the only place in Geraptiku that the Lupe and Shoyru would have taken Rhyspen. She knew this, and knew she would have to enter the tomb, and yet something was wrong.
Kiana wasn’t afraid. Well, actually, she was terrified, but not for the reason she had predicted. Instead of fearing for what would happen to herself, she simply feared for the safety of her little brother. It was a strange realization, but she was glad. At least now, even if I never make it out of the tomb, my last thoughts will be of Rhys and his safety, instead of thinking only of myself, Kiana thought. For the first time in her life, she was putting someone else’s needs before her own.
With Rhyspen still on her mind, the Xweetok ascended the narrow staircase leading to the tomb. She wanted to look back, but decided it would be better not to. After a final thought of Rhyspen, Kiana took a deep breath and took her first step inside the sinister tomb.
Before she was even five paces in, Kiana found it was impossible to see, so she paused to wait for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.
It took less time than she’d expected, about thirty seconds to be exact. The moment she could see clearly, Kiana began exploring the room and calling her brother’s name.
“Rhys?” The Xweetok’s voice sounded strange to her, small and abnormal, as it echoed off of the ancient walls surrounding her.
She waited several moments, then yelled again, louder this time. “Rhyspen! Please answer me!” A note of panic could now be heard in Kiana’s tone.
The Xweetok crumpled to the ground in defeat and allowed a few sobs to escape. I’ll never forgive myself, she thought. What kind of sister am I to allow this to happen to Rhys? What will I--
A muffled noise came from just behind Kiana.
She leapt up as her hope suddenly returned. “Rhys! Is that you?!”
The noise returned. Kiana quickly began examining the wall, looking for any levers or switches that might lead to the room on the other side of the cold stone wall. She ran her paw along it until she could feel a tiny indent in the cave wall. Kiana jabbed around in the indent until she found what felt like a small piece of string attached to something... But what?
Kiana was tired of thinking and pulled on the string.
The wall was moving! The Xweetok couldn’t believe her eyes as the hard granite wall split right down the middle to reveal her baby brother!
“Rhyspen!” Kiana cried, tears in her eyes, as the tiny Zafara rushed forward into her outstretched paws.
“Kiana,” Rhyspen mumbled, “I’m so sorry. I never should have--”
“No Rhys, it’s my fault,” his sister cut him off. “If I hadn’t felt so sorry for myself, you never would have wandered off on your own.”
Rhyspen was silent as he thought about what she said. “Well... I guess that’s true, but I still feel bad...” He hesitated, then continued slowly. “Kiana? Why were you so... upset, anyway?”
Kiana shifted uncomfortably and sighed. “Well, you see, Rhys, last night I had a dream that I was a beautiful Faerie Xweetok. It was my first time in a Beauty Contest, and I had so many admirers, so much attention...”
“Kiana,” the Zafara interrupted sharply, “I admire you so much. You must have been terrified to come in here and rescue me, and yet here you are. You must be exhausted from the journey to Geraptiku, and yet here you are... Thank you, Kiana. Thank you for having the courage to come find me.”
Tears spilled out of the Xweetok’s eyes when her brother was done speaking. She suddenly realized how vain she had been. Beauty didn’t matter, not on the outside anyway. Kiana gazed at her little brother with newfound respect.
“Come on, Rhys, let’s go home,” Kiana said with a smile as she shuffled to the tomb’s entrance.
Rhyspen nodded and ran to her side. He and his sister exited the tomb together, leaving the past behind with Geraptiku, their eyes focused on the future.
And as the siblings made their way home, one seemed to shine just a little brighter than she had before.