A Mysterious Heir: Part One
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Syri, happy birthday to you!”
The young red Xweetok slowly closed her eyes and blew out the candles on her small chocolate cake while her family cheered. She opened her eyes and looked triumphantly at the sixteen smoking candles sitting in front of her. Syri’s eyes wandered from the delicious looking cake to the small pile of presents a few feet away. It consisted of a new pair of shoes, cloth for a dress, and a piece of copper wire with a dark polished stone hanging on it. At that moment, the young Xweetok felt like the luckiest Neopian in the entire kingdom of Mysica.
“Um, Syri?” a high-pitched voice said curiously.
Syri blinked and glanced down at the blue Wocky to whom the voice belonged. “Oh, hey, Kora.”
A huge grin crossed Kora’s face. “Welcome back, your highness.”
Syri rolled her eyes. “I thought I told you to stop calling me that! Just because it’s my birthday, you don’t have to treat me like I’m a prin—”
She stopped as her friend began to skip around in circles. The Xweetok couldn’t help but laugh as she heard her friend sing a made up song about Syri being a princess.
“Make that up all by yourself?” Syri mused once she was finally able to stop laughing.
The Wocky stuck out her tongue. “Oh, ha ha ha. Look who’s making fun now!”
“Let’s save that for later, girls. Right now, we’re having cake!” Naola, Syri’s mother, announced as she strolled into the room with four small plates and mouthwatering chocolate cake.
Although Kora beat Syri in their race to the table, it was Syri who got the first piece. “It’s only fair for the birthday girl to have the biggest slice!” a deep voice said.
Kora faked a grimace and stood back to let Syri through. “Thanks, Dad,” she whispered to a great yellow Lupe as he winked back.
“Lerom, it looks like these two don’t remember what else is happening today,” Naola said playfully as she padded across the room.
Confusion clouded Syri’s expression as she looked inquisitively up at the graceful green Gelert. “There’s something else today?”
Lerom and Naola exchanged knowing smiles and waited for their daughter’s curiosity to get the best of her. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait very long.
Syri scowled and gave in, “Okay. What else is today?”
“Why, their majesties are coming to Risel, of course!” her father added with a chuckle, as it was common knowledge that they visited once per year.
The Xweetok blinked her large golden eyes. “Oh... right. I knew that...”
“No you didn’t!” her friend added with a little shove.
Now it was Naola’s turn to laugh. “What’s gotten into you two today? Maybe I shouldn’t let you have any more sugar,” she added, beginning to pull the cake back.
“Aww!” Syri and Kora protested in unison.
“Don’t worry, I won’t do that on your birthday,” the kind Gelert reassured her. “But you’d better hurry if you want to see King Tobaar and Queen Danae—they should be here any minute!”
“Bet I can finish my piece before you can!” Kora challenged.
Lerom listened in amusement as the two friends argued, while Naola laughed quietly and mumbled something that sounded like ‘too much sugar...’
Sure enough, Kora was the first one done, and was halfway out the door before Syri finished. The Wocky shouted another challenge over her shoulder, as was her nature. Even though Syri couldn’t hear her, she assumed it would be something along the lines of who could reach the village entrance first.
Oh well, it’s not like Syri was in any hurry. She’d let Kora win this one too; Syri just wanted to get the most out of this day. Slowing her pace down to a trot, the crimson Xweetok looked around her small village as if seeing it for the first time. Somehow, everything seemed brighter today... more alive.
Pride swelled up within the young Neopian as she gazed back at her small house. It wasn’t even a house, more of a hut—one of the sixty-four identical huts that made up the village of Risel. Despite the villagers’ living conditions, which were... less than perfect, to say the least, everyone here was always full of hope. It didn’t matter how much you had or where you came from, these people lived life to its fullest.
Syri wondered why she was suddenly having all these deep thoughts; it was so out of character for her. Not that she wasn’t smart—she just didn’t usually think about the happiness that having nothing brought.
Might as well get used to it, she thought. This must be what happens when you turn sixteen. Syri nodded. Yep, that must be it.
Now she was beginning to hear the villagers’ cheers and applause. That could only mean one thing—the king and queen were already here! She raced ahead to catch up with Kora.
Syri quickly searched the crowd for the competitive blue Wocky. She spotted her at the front of the crowd. How Kora managed to force her way through the entire crowd, Syri would never know. She snorted softly at the thought and managed to receive several dirty looks.
Kora caught sight of her friend a moment later and quickly motioned for her to come over. Syri consented and slowly made her way over, attracting even more glares with each villager she bumped into. It was a good thing Syri was already red. That way, no one could tell how scarlet her face had become because of all the attention she had drawn to herself.
“Great place to stand, Kora,” she muttered darkly as a palace official began to speak.
“It’s not my fault you’re so slow!” Kora exclaimed, ignoring the official altogether.
“Oh well, it’s not like your two wins even counted anyway. Since today’s my birthday, I’m pretty sure I automatically win,” Syri said as the official announced it was time for everyone to bow in respect for the king and queen.
“No way!” The Wocky’s loud voice boomed over the crowd as everyone gasped and exchanged alarmed looks.
It didn’t take long for Syri and Kora to figure out why everyone reacted the way they did. Between the palace official’s last words and the whole crowd on their knees... Panic crept onto Syri’s face as she realized what the crowd assumed Kora meant by ‘no way.’ Her golden eyes grew wider by the second. King Tobaar and Queen Danae were standing only a few feet away...
At that thought, she found herself looking up involuntarily. Her eyes were drawn to Tobaar’s face first. The Royal Kougra’s face was surprisingly calm for what had just happened. His didn’t even seem upset! After closer inspection, Syri noticed his eyes dancing with laughter. She felt her shoulders relax a bit... Until she looked at Danae’s face, that is. The expression she discovered there was almost the exact opposite of her husband’s.
Her majesty’s normally lovely face appeared bewildered the very moment her eyes met Syri’s. Something resembling shock traveled across the Royal Zafara’s face as she made a sudden lunge for the spot where Syri was standing.
Terrified, the meek Xweetok fled from the scene and hid behind an unfamiliar hut to catch her breath. There she sat, awaiting Kora’s return.
It took a good twenty minutes for her friend to finally return. She took one look at Syri’s face and sank to the ground beside her.
“...Kora? What happened after I, er... left?”
The exhausted Wocky took a deep breath and launched into an explanation. “Well, the guards were ordered to keep Queen Danae under control, so each of them held of one of her arms. After that, she began screaming hysterically. Nobody knew what she was saying, though, so the king had her taken to a doctor to be examined. By the time her examination was over, about half of the crowd had already gone home in disappointment. His majesty told the rest of the crowd that her highness would be just fine, that she just needed some rest. I turned to walk home, but then King Tobaar grabbed a hold of my arm and asked me to join Queen Danae and himself for a talk in a nearby hut. Once I was inside, he told me not to worry, that I wasn’t in any trouble. He understood that we meant no disrespect by my sudden outburst and wanted me to pass that message on to you. He also apologized for his wife suddenly springing at you and has no idea what got into her.”
Syri let this sink in for a few minutes. “Well that’s... interesting,” she answered in a slightly disappointed tone. She had been hoping for something a bit more exciting.
“Wait, that’s not all,” Kora told her. She smiled when she saw Syri’s ears perk up a bit. “I also did a bit of... investigating afterward. By standing around outside, I happened to overhear the queen speaking to one of her guards about why she behaved the way she did; meaning of course, why she lunged at you. Here comes the weird part... She said it was because of your eyes.”
“My eyes?” Syri asked in surprise.
The Wocky nodded. “That’s what she said. Her majesty noticed their color... gold. The exact same color as hers. The exact same color that her one-year-old daughter’s eyes were when she disappeared on her birthday exactly fifteen years ago.”
Syri’s eyes lightened to a shade of amber, finally understanding what Kora was getting at. “You can’t honestly believe I’m the missing princess?”
“It makes sense, doesn’t it? Think about it: your eye color is identical; you’re exactly sixteen years old, just like her daughter would have been... Oh, and there’s one more thing.”
“What’s that?” the Xweetok asked, a note of panic in her voice.
“King Tobaar and Queen Danae were planning to announce their daughter’s name to the public the very next day, as is tradition in Iscalle castle. The perfect timing of your disappearance almost makes you think that someone planned it.”
“Wait. Don’t tell me their daughter’s name was...”
“Their daughter’s name was Syrietta.”
To be continued...