A Mysterious Heir: Part Six
Syri closed her eyes and waited to be thrown in a cell for the second time today. Much to her relief, the guards rushed past her and headed instead for the other Xweetok, Vyroske’s fake Syrietta.
She made no effort to fight back, just stared straight ahead with no trace of emotion on her face. It was so strange, almost like she was in some kind of trance. The guards brusquely held her down and were about to take her away when Syri cried out in a loud voice, “Wait! She’s not the one you want—he is!” The Xweetok pointed to Vyroske, who was done playing innocent.
He threw back his head and let out a maniacal laugh. The king nodded to the guards, who were waiting for orders. They immediately darted over to where the evil Pteri was standing, but it was too late. Vyroske had already disappeared in a dark cloud of smoke.
Syri knew that Kora’s eyes must be the size of Draik eggs by now and could almost hear her gasp in surprise as the villain vanished. At the same time, movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. It was Vyroske’s fake princess—she had collapsed! Against her better judgment, Syri ran over to the Xweetok to make sure she was okay.
Suddenly, the Xweetok’s fur began to change color! The crimson red that matched Syri’s fur was turning purple. The others seemed to notice as well, for it grew silent. Syri continued to watch this change occur, as the other Xweetok’s fur was now changing from purple to a shade of blue. Just when the princess thought this transformation would never end, it did. The red fur that had been there only a moment before was now a deep blue.
The Xweetok opened her eyes and looked around in confusion. Syri sprang back in alarm as she did so—her fur wasn’t the only thing that had changed color! The golden eyes that Syri knew so well were gone. In their place were beautiful blue ones that reminded her of the sky on a bright summer day. The Xweetok got to her feet and swayed unsteadily. Her eyes darted around the room as she tried to make sense of her surroundings. She obviously had no idea where she was or what was going on.
“How did I get here?” the Xweetok asked in a timid voice.
Syri took it upon herself to help her fellow Xweetok out. “An evil Pteri brought you here and forced some kind of spell onto you. He planned to use you in a plot to take over Mysica.”
The blue Xweetok listened quietly. “I see...”
“I know it must be hard to understand all this, but please believe me. Can you tell us your name?”
“My name is Reina,” the Xweetok answered.
“Well, Reina,” Syri continued with a smile, “would you like to be escorted back to your home? I’m sure your family misses you.”
Reina shifted uncomfortably. “Um... I don’t have a home. Or a family.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...”
“No, it’s all right—you didn’t know any better,” Reina reassured her. “I can tell you all are going on some kind of journey, though... do you think it would be okay if I came with? I promise I won’t get in your way...”
Syri look back at King Tobaar and Queen Danae, her mother and father, who both nodded. Tobaar studied the Xweetok carefully and added, “That would be fine, Reina. I wonder, however, if you remember who put that spell on you?”
Reina looked like she was in pain. “It was a Dark Faerie. There were two of them, actually—sisters. One of them, Nyx, was nothing but evil—she was the one that put the spell on me. The other one, Zyr, tried to reason with Nyx not to put that awful spell on me. But when Nyx threatened her, Zyr was afraid and went along with Vyroske’s plan.”
“Thank you, Reina. You have helped us out more than you know,” said the king.
Kora cleared her throat, as if to remind everyone she was still there. “Well then, should we begin our search?”
“Wait... I’d like to explain myself first,” Ezra murmured. She was standing in the corner of the room and looked quite apologetic.
“By all means,” said King Tobaar, observing her as she came forward.
The Bruce waddled over to Syri and placed a fin on her shoulder. “Please forgive me for saying you were the false princess. Vyroske told me he would remove me from the palace if I told the truth. As much as I wanted to let your mother and father know you’re the real Syri, I had to think of my family. Without a job... I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened.”
Vio, who was still in Syri’s arms, growled. “Shhh, Vio. It’s okay,” the Xweetok comforted him. “Don’t worry, Ezra. We’ve all made mistakes.” She smiled at the motherly Bruce, who looked like she was going to cry.
Without warning, Danae ran to her beloved daughter. “My dear Syrietta,” she cooed, embracing her. “I’m so sorry I’m doubted you.”
The queen and princess stood there for several minutes, before Evon coughed quietly. Danae let go of her daughter and took a step back. Syri felt her face grow warm as she kept waiting for someone to break the awkward silence that hung in the air. Sure enough, Evon came to her rescue for the second time that day.
“Excuse me, Your Highness, could you please direct me to Vyroske’s room? Perhaps I could find a clue leading us to him,” the Eyrie suggested.
King Tobaar gave him a praising look and nodded. “Go up to the second floor and enter the first door on your right. Best of luck finding that clue.”
The Eyrie bowed and left the throne room. After he left, the king ordered four of his guards to assist Evon.
Syri’s eyes narrowed as she thought about what would’ve happened if Vyroske’s plan had succeeded. “We won’t let him get away with this.”
No more than ten minutes later, one of the king’s guards ran back into the throne room. “Your Majesty! We’ve discovered something!”
The king stood up in excitement. “What are you waiting for? Bring it in!”
The guard scampered back into the hall and reentered with Evon, who held something small in his paws. He quickly brought it forward to show King Tobaar.
“...An herb? But what does this have to do with my brother’s whereabouts?” he asked in confusion.
“Sire, this herb is found only in Jocire Valley. We found it on one of Vyroske’s cloaks, so he must be hiding somewhere in Jocire Valley!” he glanced over at Reina. “Those Dark Faeries are probably there as well...”
Reina understood what he was getting at, and shook her head fiercely. “No, I’m coming with no matter what. I swear I’ll be ready for them this time.”
Evon gave her a curious look. He could see the sheer determination in her eyes and could do nothing but nod. “I know you will. Just remember we’ll all be there to help out, too.”
The blue Xweetok smiled at him and turned to the king. “Your Highness, we’re ready when you are.”
King Tobaar, who had taken quite a liking to the spirited Xweetok, motioned to one of his guards. “While I am gone, secure the castle and let no one in. There’s a good chance Vyroske might come here if he discovers what we’re doing.”
The guard bowed his head and answered firmly, “As you command, sire.”
Syri had become more excited with every word and was now anxious to leave. Finally, she could hold it in no longer. “Well, what are we waiting for? We’ve got a kingdom to save!”
Anyone witnessing the group’s journey to Jocire Valley would have been dumbfounded. The six Neopians, so different from each other, were quite a sight to see. Even though Tobaar and Danae were wearing simple travelers’ cloaks, they still had a noble air about them that couldn’t be ignored. But strangest of all were the stories hidden behind the resolute expressions each had on their face. Never in a million years would you believe the many different backgrounds these six had come from.
Among them were Syri and Kora, two young villagers who knew so little about the world around them; Evon, who had been raised by gypsies and never had a real family; Reina, an orphan who had been placed under a spell by Dark Faeries; and Tobaar and Danae, Mysica’s very own king and queen.
The walk to the valley had been quiet with the exception of Reina, who tried to keep the mood light. She led the way, deeming herself the leader of their little expedition. The blue Xweetok spoke enthusiastically about the beauty of Jocire Valley, but Kora seemed to be the only one who was really listening. “...and the flowers are just breathtaking this time of the year! When the wind blows, they’re nothing but a sea of color.”
Kora sighed. “That sounds amazing. I can’t wait to see it for myself!”
“Well you won’t have to wait long—you should be able to see it from right up there!” a delighted Reina announced, pointing to a hill just ahead. “Why don’t you run up there and take a look?”
“Yeah!” The Wocky ran off, eyes twinkling. She sprinted to the top of the hill and froze.
“Uh, Kora? Everything okay up there?” Reina asked. She grew worried when no answer came. “Kora! What’s wrong?”
The Wocky swiveled her head around. “I’m pretty sure we have the wrong place, Reina.”
Reina shot her a confused look and ran ahead to join her. “What are you talking about?” she panted.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Kora whispered, looking out over the valley.
It was nothing like the picture Reina had painted in her mind; there were no beautiful flowers, no sea of color, and when the wind blew, nothing stirred. Nothing but charred tree trunks and scorched ground stood before them. Just like that, their only shard of evidence was gone.
To be continued...