Secrets in Shenkuu: Part One
Princess Lunara gazed out of her window as another flying ship pulled into the dock. The Cybunny adjusted her red robe and hair pins in her black ponytail.
“We had better welcome the tourists,” she said to her less enthusiastic sister, Solara.
“What’s the point?” moaned the tall skinny Gnorbu. “They don’t really care about us.”
Solara was a warrior in training, so she was still wearing her mountain climbing clothes. Her headband held back her lush green hair. Solara did not like to socialize with tourists as much as Lunara and as a result few knew her name.
“I’m sure the people will be thrilled to meet a real live princess,” argued Lunara with a smile.
“Alright.” Solara sighed as she got up to go.
The two princesses walked down the halls majestically. Eventually, they exited the palace and let the sunlight shine over them. They both wore smiles, although Solara’s was obviously fake. They stepped up the stone stairs that led to the docks. When they got to the top, they saw a group of Neopets disembarking from the ship.
“Welcome to Shenkuu,” Lunara greeted them joyously. “I am Princess Lunara and this is my younger sister, Princess Solara. We hope that you enjoy your stay at Shenkuu. Feel free to ask me any questions.”
An Aisha yelled out, “Is it true that it is impossible to succeed at Bonju’s Cooking Pot?”
Princess Lunara started to answer, “Well, I can’t-”
“Of course, it’s possible, idiot,” scoffed a Hissi at the Aisha. “It’s just something really expensive like a paint brush.”
“What if it’s something really cheap and no one’s ever thought of that,” blurted out a Bruce.
In no time all of the tourists were arguing with one another as they dispersed into the mystical city.
“You see?” said Solara when the princesses were alone. “They don’t care about princesses; they just want to see the sights then get out of here. I remember when Shenkuu was a land of mystery, not a tourist attraction.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” came a deep voice from behind them.
Both princesses whirled around to face the ship and saw a red Kougra stepping off. He was tall and majestic. He wore a look of disapproval on his face. He had a cape and a draping robe; both were black.
“Uncle!” exclaimed Lunara. “What are you going here?”
“I will not have you calling me ‘uncle’.” The Kougra sniffed. “You are to call me Lord Barrion. As to why I am here, your father sent me a letter a few days ago stating that it was urgent that I come immediately.”
“Is our father alright?” gasped Solara.
“I don’t know,” answered Barrion, “but I suggest you take me to him.”
“Of course,” answered Lunara as she gestured for Lord Barrion to follow her.
The three made their way through the palace. They walked up stairs until they came to the Emperor’s chambers. Lunara gently opened the large, scarlet doors and entered her father’s room. She saw the emperor, a bearded rust-coloured Gelert, lying in his king-sized bed. Lunara thought that he looked weaker and unhealthier than usual, but it might have only been a trick of the light.
“Ah, Barrion, thank you some much for coming,” said the emperor in a rasped voice.
“It is no problem at all,” replied Lord Barrion gentlemanly.
“Are you okay, Father?” asked Solara cautiously.
“Let me explain,” started the emperor. “I recently wasn’t feeling well, so I summoned Anshu the doctor. The old Buzz said that I was ill, but I should heal quickly. I didn’t want to worry anyone so I didn’t mention my illness. However, I seem to be getting worse and spending more time in my room. As a result, I cannot rule our city. I have asked my brother, Lord Barrion, to fill in for me temporarily. He is a ruler of another nearby village, so he should be a good emperor.”
“I will try my best,” declared Lord Barrion.
“Okay,” said Lunara uneasily. “I hope you get well soon.”
Solara was a bit more sceptical as she asked, “Isn’t Lunara old enough to take on your duties?”
The Emperor smiled as he answered, “She will make a good empress, but she still has a lot to learn. I do not know how long I will be sick, so it will be best to have someone who has had experience.”
“Don’t worry,” said Lord Barrion, “I will make decisions for the good of our city.”
Solara nodded, but she still looked suspicious as she departed.
Two days had passed since Lord Barrion had taken on the duties of emperor. The first day had mostly been defining him as temporary ruler of Shenkuu. Now he was calling an assembly to announce his changes to the city.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” declared Solara as she walked with her sister to the great hall.
“What’s wrong?” asked Lunara, who was trying to stay positive, but having difficulties.
“Why is Lord Barrion making changes? Shouldn’t he be just working on maintaining the peace?” asked Solara.
“I don’t know,” answered Lunara.
The two princesses arrived at the great hall and saw the population of Shenkuu seated and waiting for Lord Barrion to begin his speech. Lunara and Solara found a few seats at the back of the room. The large Kougra entered on a stage and approached the podium.
“Welcome,” he greeted professionally, “Thank you for all coming to my assembly. I have decided to make a few changes to our city. As you all know by now, the emperor is currently ill and cannot make any decisions. But I assure you that he would approve of all the following adjustments.”
The numerous people seemed to be pleased to hear this. Lunara felt reassured, but Solara still stared at Barrion.
“The first change is that tourists will no longer be allowed to visit our city,” announced Lord Barrion.
A collective gasp filled the room at this news. Lunara and Solara were as surprised as the rest of the population.
“Do not panic,” said Barrion calmly. “We have only allowed outsiders to visit for a few years. It will be no big change for us. Transportation ships will no longer journey out to the rest of Neopia and the current tourists will be asked to leave.”
“But tourism is one of our main money sources,” shouted out Lunara, much to her surprise.
“I do not think that our ancestors intended for Shenkuu to be a place for others to spend their money. No, our city is a place of mystery, wonder, and tranquility. We are a hidden piece of nature. All of our mystique has evaporated into commercialism,” shouted Lord Barrion, who was getting more intense as he spoke. “When we are forgotten by the rest of the Neopia, we can truly return to our state of enchantment. And do not worry; if this is the wrong choice, then your true emperor will restore things to the way he sees fit.”
The reaction of the crowd was mixed. Some were outraged at Lord Barrion, while others were nodding in agreement, and some just sighing in confusion. Both Solara and Lunara did not approve of Lord Barrion’s decision.
“You may return to your homes now,” declared Lord Barrion.
The crowd left the great hall, leaving Lunara and Solara alone with Lord Barrion.
“How can he make such thoughtless choices?” hissed Solara.
“I thought that you were against tourism,” pointed out Lunara.
“I wish there were less inconsiderate tourists, but I understand that they are important for our economy,” corrected Solara.
Lord Barrion was approaching the princess now.
“Hello, girls,” he said formally, “I want to talk to you about your clothes. Lunara, what you are wearing is acceptable, but I would prefer if you found something more majestic. As for you, Solara, you must not wear that hideous outfit. You look like a commoner.”
“But I’m training to be a warrior,” protested Solara. “If I wore a dress, it would be ruined in the mountains.”
“A proper princess takes part in no such activities.” Lord Barrion sniffed. “In fact, neither of you should ever leave the palace. You must stay elevated above the peasants.”
“What?!” shouted Solara. “You expect me to just sit around all day?”
“I’m sure that you could find some more civilized activities,” the Kougra assured her. “Now, I cannot discuss any more, because I have some business.”
Lord Barrion hastily left the room. Solara tried to follow, but Lunara thought better. She held her back, realizing that Barrion was final on his word.
It was night now and the princesses were in their room. Lunara was stroking her Kazeriu gently. She was still trying to remain optimistic, but it was getting difficult with Lord Barrion’s new rules. Solara was pacing the floor deep in thought.
“I want to ask Anshu about Father’s illness,” declared Solara. “I think that there’s something else behind it. He should be getting better by now, not worse.”
“I guess that makes sense,” agreed Lunara, “but Lord Barrion said not to leave the palace.”
The Cybunny was fully aware that that wouldn’t stop her sister.
“It’s time for my training to pay off,” declared Solara, who was pulling out her grappling hook.
With that, she opened their window and climbed down into the night.
Before she was out of earshot, Lunara called, “Be careful.”
To be continued...