Royally Educated: Part One
“Dad, do you mind if we stop lessons short today?” Lira asked. The Royal Zafara slumped on the dining room table. “I’m just too tired to keep studying.”
King Hagan looked at his daughter quizzically. Lira knew that her father would never be too tired for lessons, and she doubted that he would let her off completely.
“I’m afraid not,” he said. “We still have the Tyrannian War to get through before lunchtime.”
Lira looked at the clock; it was ten-thirty.
“Just for five minutes,” she pleaded. “I won’t be gone long; I’ll be right in the backyard. You can come find me if you need to.”
The Skeith looked at his daughter resignedly, and then at the mass of books on the table. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor.
“All right, five minutes,” he said. “Don’t go too far.” He watched as the Zafara leapt from her seat and out the door.
Lira had found her way into the royal family shortly after she was born, and she couldn’t remember anything from her previous life. She simply knew that her parents had adopted her when she was a baby and raised her in the castle. She’d grown up in Brightvale since then; she didn’t know if she could even recall the famed battle between her father and his brother.
The Zafara wandered near the edge of the castle boundaries, and stared at the gaping hole in the ground that separated the castle from the rest of the kingdom. To either side were dense forests; she assumed that beyond that lay Meridell. Or maybe Meridell was to the East. After all these years, she had almost forgotten where it was situated...
The young Zafara crouched in the shadows of her doorway, and felt the ground tremble with the strength of her father’s voice.
“I’m not doing this, Skarl,” he was saying. “I’m not giving it up to you – you have your own land already.”
“And a very prosperous land, too!” her uncle said. “I doubt that you’ll be able to have the same success. Look at this pigsty we’re in.” He gestured around the desolate castle. As he did so, another beam fell with a crash. “Your structure is falling apart.”
“The structure is fine,” his brother said. “What’s more important is how I’m going to handle this land. Soon enough people from your kingdom will move into mine; we’ll take your subjects away from you.”
“I’ll see about that,” Skarl said. “My subjects would never leave me; they are too loyal. You’ll have nothing.”
“You just watch me,” Hagan answered. “You just watch me.”
Lira drew back as she heard her father’s footsteps approach; they paused near her door and then continued on down the hall. She heard her uncle sigh as he walked down the opposite stretch of the hallway, and then everything fell silent.
Lira snapped out of her reverie and found herself at the edge of the forest. She suddenly realized how long she’d been out; she turned around to see her father’s face at the window. He was scowling. In response, Lira picked up the hem of her dress and rushed quickly inside.
“Some urgent business has come up,” King Hagan told the Zafara once she walked in the door. “I’ll be out for the rest of the day, so Kaylie will be teaching you. Once you finish your lessons, you’ll have dinner in the main hall. I think the cook is picking up something from one of those places in town.”
“Fruits of Brightvale?” Lira asked.
“Yes, that’s the one,” Hagan said hurriedly.
“Wait, Dad, I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Why don’t we ever... order from anywhere else?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, we have only one food shop in town, and all it has is – fruit. I’m beginning to get tired of Grenannas.”
“Lira, I’ve told you this already. We don’t order from any outside sources.”
“You mean Meridell?”
Her father wouldn’t answer her. He put on his boots and made steps to the door.
“Lira, I have to go,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” He swept out the door.
Lira sat down with Kaylie after she had dinner.
“Was your meal good?” Kaylie asked.
“Yes, it was wonderful,” the Zafara said. “There’s nothing like a new batch of Grenannas to get my mood back up.” She didn’t think that Kaylie detected the sarcasm.
“Well, we’re going to study Tyrannia today,” Kaylie said. “I think that we’ve gone over the basics, but we’re going to be learning more about the natives and the concert hall. The main bands in Tyrannia are Yes Boy Ice Cream, The Twisted Roses, and Jazzmosis.”
“What’s the point of learning about them,” Lira said, “if you never actually get to GO there?”
The Lenny blanched. “Well, I don’t know,” she said. “My friends and I go each month, but it’s not a big deal if you miss out on it. It’s really not,” she confirmed as she noticed Lira’s expression. Lira knew that Kaylie was simply trying to make her feel better, but she appreciated the gesture.
“Kaylie, I think we know enough about Tyrannia,” Lira said.
“We still have the Giant Omelette and the cave paintings to go over!” Kaylie said.
“Yes, but... could we possibly learn about Meridell instead?” Lira asked.
Kaylie looked shocked. “You aren’t allowed to study Meridell,” she said. “The king gave strict orders to keep it ‘off the map’, so to speak.”
“Just this once?” Lira pleaded. She pulled her feet up onto her chair. Kaylie’s expression softened. The Lenny looked around the room to check that no one was there before leaning closer to Lira.
“Well,” she began, “Meridell was founded a long time ago. It was the greenest place in all of Neopia, and had the best soil. Farmers flocked there, and soon afterwards the village was created. There were many attractions in Meridell – from Turtle Racing, to Cheese Roller, and to Shape Shifter. It was hard to keep yourself bored.”
“Are they still there?” Lira asked.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Kaylie said. “Just last week I was playing Ultimate Bullseye-”
She stopped at the look on Lira’s face.
“I think that’s enough for now,” she said. “Unless you want to hear about the Darigan vs. Meridell war. I bet you can’t guess which side I was on!”
“That’s okay,” Lira said. “I’m kind of tired. I think I might... go to bed.”
She organized the books on the table before waving goodbye to Kaylie and trooping up the stairs. It took the work of a couple of minutes, as her room was in the tallest tower of the castle. She crawled into bed without brushing her teeth, and stared at the sky-blue ceiling above until she drifted off to sleep...
She was so close to it... she could see it...
Lira was almost at the bottom of the hill when she rolled over and felt herself slam against the grass. She saw the cheese fly past her as everything slowly began to spin back into place...
She woke up shivering. The room was now pitch black; Lira assumed that it was past midnight. She heard her father snoring below her, and the floor shook.
Lira looked across the room at her disheveled clothes. A thought struck her mind.
She got up quickly, without making any sound, and crossed the room. In one fluid movement, she thrust most of her belongings into a bag and slung it over her shoulder. She grabbed a handful of neopoints that were lying on her desk, and picked up a bunch of fruit next to them. With one glance around the room, she left.
Lira held her breath as she crept down the stairs; she paused by her parents’ room for a second, and then made it to the front door. She heaved to open it, and the pressure weighted against her like a heavy stone. When she finally made it outside, she realized that it was pouring. With a whimper, she covered her head with her paws and made for the nearest tree. As she was running, she felt her neopoints slip out of her pocket; she turned around to retrieve them, but they’d already disappeared in the mud.
She made it to a small rock underneath a tree, and wiped water from her eyes. Rain dripped from the tree overhead and onto her dress. She looked down at the ruined fruit in her hand.
A thunderclap sounded overhead, and the Zafara shivered deeply. She couldn’t even figure out why she had left, and she entertained the thought of crawling back into her warm bed. The rain was falling mercilessly now, and even the trees didn’t provide enough cover.
Lira was about to get up and go home when she saw a shadow approach her. The shadow, once it was almost in front of the Zafara, spoke.
“What’s a pretty pet like you doing here?” the voice said.
To be continued...