Secrets in Shenkuu: Part Three
Lunara had been wandering about the palace aimlessly. She had merely gone through her thoughts, but came up with no conclusion. Her pacing had led her to the kitchen. She peered inside and saw that no one was there. Unlike King Skarl, the emperor had few chefs working at a time. Lunara entered the empty room and examined pieces of food that had been left of the counters. She saw that at the edge was the emperor’s teapot. It was painted more magnificently than any other pot in all of Shenkuu.
The Cybunny looked at its contents and muttered, “Oh, this will not do.”
Instead of the usual bronze tea that the emperor loved, the pot was filled with an inky blank tea. Lunara took a sniff and covered her nose; the smell was noxious.
“This stuff cannot be healthy for Father,” she declared to herself.
So she poured it out and open window and began to brew some normal tea. She put in the water and tea leaf and left it in the sun to get warm. Her keen hearing picked up footsteps approaching. She immediately exited the door. Just as she left the room, she bumped into Lord Barrion.
“Princess Lunara, what are you doing in the kitchen?” he inquired. “This is a place for servants and chefs, not princesses.”
“I’m so sorry,” apologized Lunara. “I was just on my way out.”
As she left she asked, “If this is a place for servants, what are you doing here?”
“I am getting some tea for my brother,” answered Lord Barrion. “A cup a day is supposed to help him heal.”
“Right,” said Lunara, who was doubtful of what Lord Barrion was saying.
She did not want to irritate him further, so she left.
Lord Barrion picked up the teapot that was sitting on the windowsill. He noticed that it was still cool, but decided that it must have been the cloudy weather. He carried it with both hands as he carefully walked into the hall. As he passed a window, something caught his eye. Hanging outside the window was a pink Acara.
She mouthed to him, “I’m ready.”
Lord Barrion quickly found a free servant and ordered him to deliver the tea to the emperor. He then hurriedly walked to his throne room. Waiting for him in the centre of the room was the Acara. She wore a pitch black outfit and had an evil look in her eyes.
“I have continually put powdered tiknus room into the emperor’s tea,” she declared. “After he finishes this pot, he will never open his eyes again. I have done as you asked; now give me my money.”
“Actually, there is something else I would like to ask of you,” said Lord Barrion. “I’m sure that you could finish this task by tonight. If you complete what I ask, I will pay you what you desire.”
“Fine,” answered the Acara, “I’ll do it.”
Solara did not know what time it was when the Mynci opened the door for her. She had had a restless sleep, always falling asleep, then waking up some time later.
“What do you want?” she asked sleepily when she saw the Mynci waiting for her.
“Cap’n says that ye’ve got to learn to do somethin’ useful,” said the Mynci gruffly.
Solara followed him pretending to be helpless, but she actually was forming a plan. The Mynci didn’t have a sword at her neck at every second. She only needed an opportunity. The Mynci led her back to the upper part of the ship where Solara saw that it was midday. She continued to follow the first mate as she passed the other pirates. Captain Dread was nowhere to be seen. She looked out to the ocean and realized that they had already travelled a great distance. She could still see the mainland, but it was disappearing as they moved. Once she arrived near the edge of the ship, the Mynci handed her a rope.
“This is how ye tie a knot,” he explained to her as if she were an idiot.
Ropes had been Solara’s specialty when she had been training to be a warrior. Instead of watching the Mynci tie a knot, she gazed over the side of the ship. Attached to the cracked wall was just what she needed, a small escape boat with its own sail. Now she just had to get rid of all of these pirates.
“Now ye tie a knot,” ordered the Mynci.
This was Solara’s perfect opportunity. No weapon was more dangerous in the princess’s hands than a rope. She skilfully tied a large knot and began to spin the rope.
“Wot do ye think yer doin’?!” shouted the Mynci.
Solara kept her firm grip on the rope as she tossed the knotted end at the Mynci. The knot hit him directly on the head and he tumbled to the ground, unconscious. The pirates had yet to notice Solara’s outburst and she wasted no time. She quickly changed her knot to a lasso and tossed it around a yard. She grasped the rough rope in her hand and swung into the middle of the ship. She transformed her swing into a flying kick. Her foot made contact with a clueless Skeith and she landed on the wooden floor. Two other pirates were beside her, a Blumaroo and a Nimmo. She swung the rope in the opposite direction and delivered an uppercut to the Blumaroo. He collapsed in pain, but the Nimmo was drawing his blade. Solara just smiled as the rope swung around again and banged the Nimmo on the side of the head.
By now, other pirates had pulled out swords and were approaching Solara menacingly. The princess grabbed a sword from the unconscious Nimmo and aimed rapidly. She tossed it and pinned a progressing Kyrii to the mast. Behind her, a Kacheek was diving at her with a club in his hand. Solara moved to the side and the Kacheek clumsily tumbled to the floor. The three other pirates were getting nervous of Solara now; she used that to her advantage. She charged at a JubJub before he had a chance to defend himself and tossed him into a Zafara. They both crashed into a pile of barrels.
The last pirate, a Pteri, merely cried out, “I surrender! Please don’t hurt me.”
Just then the doors to Captain Dread’s room swung opened and the Kiko demanded furiously, “What in blazes is going on out here?”
Once he caught sight of Solara and all of the defeated pirates, his rage tripled.
“I’ll teach ye to mess with Captain Dread,” he snarled as he advanced on Solara with his cutlass in his hand.
He wasn’t as out of shape as the rest of the pirates. He slashed and swung at Solara with skill. She tried to dodge his attacks, but she felt his blade pierce her skin several times. She kept moving backwards, trying to avoid his relentless attacks. She realized that this was what Captain Dread wanted as she was forced onto the plank.
“I warned ye,” said the Kiko with an evil grin.
Solara had to think fast. Captain Dread was approaching her menacingly and below her the waves thrashed dangerously. Suddenly she had a crazy idea. She grabbed the flimsy plank with both of her hands and jumped off the edge.
“Ha, bad move,” said Captain Dread.
“Guess again,” shouted Solara as she wrapped her feet around the figurehead.
She then pulled down on the piece of wood. It cracked easily and sent Captain Dread into the harsh waters. Solara had trouble staying in place with only her feet holding her up and splinters of wood showering her eyes, but this was what she had trained for.
“It just goes to show that ninjas pwn pirates,” taunted Solara as she pulled herself onto the ship.
Captain Dread seemed to be causing steam with his fury as he howled, “I HATE ninjas!”
Solara quickly dashed past the recovering pirates and to the escape ship. She jumped in and cut the ropes suspending it. As if the winds were on her side, a huge gust then blew her in the direction of Shenkuu. As for Captain Dread, he was a skeleton already and therefore didn’t need oxygen. He would be fine as soon as one of his crew fished him out of the water.
As Solara soared along the water in her boat she declared, “I’m coming for you, Lunara.”
Lunara decided to check on her father. It really was the most logical place to start searching for anything suspicious. She thought of what Solara said about there being more to her father’s disease than what appeared. She passed guards and servants until she came to her father’s doors. She opened the doors and stepped into the dimly lit room.
She gasped as she saw a pink Acara holding a knife at the emperor’s neck. The Acara looked up at Lunara as if she had been expecting the Cybunny to show up. Silently the Acara tossed the knife handle first at Lunara. The princess caught the knife on the handle. As the Acara climbed out the window, Lunara chased after her, but she couldn’t catch her in time. She turned to face her father and saw an empty teapot. It was the same teapot that she had made tea in earlier.
Suddenly Lord Barrion darted into the room and gasped, “Princess Lunara, you were trying to assassinate your father?”
Lunara looked at the knife in her hand and protested, “No, there was an Acara.”
By now a couple of guards had entered the room and were ready to take away Lunara.
As they took hold of her, Lord Barrion sighed, “I always knew that you wanted the throne, but I never thought that you’d go so far as to murder your own father.”
“I swear I didn’t do anything,” screamed Lunara frantically.
“You were standing over his body with a knife,” pointed out Lord Barrion. “I suppose I could investigate this Acara, but in the meantime you will have to stay in the dungeon.”
Lunara stopped struggling when she realized that it was futile. She had lost her sister and now she was losing her father; she had nothing more to hope for.
Solara arrived at the same place that she had been abducted by the pirates. She traveled with great speed thanks to the wind that constantly pushed her to her home. The Gnorbu quickly jumped out of the boat and onto the rocky land. Soon she had the city of Shenkuu in view. As she came closer to the palace a guard approached her.
“Princess Solara, you are back!” he exclaimed cheerfully.
Solara did not want to attract attention so she said, “Yes, but I’d rather you not tell anyone. You see, it would be unladylike if somebody else presented me.”
She was just making up rules, but the guard seemed to absorb them. He nodded and let her pass. Solara thought about entering through the main doors, but changed her mind. Other guards may not be as easy to persuade than the one she had encountered. The last thing she wanted was for Lord Barrion to discover her. He was ruthless enough to give her to pirates; who knew what else he might try.
She went around the back of the castle to a small crevice. Originally it had been a used for transporting food to prisoners in the dungeon. Since there had not been a prisoner in years, the crevice had filled up with rocks and dust. Solara dug away the debris until she was able to fit though it. She crawled in though the space and landed into the dank dungeons. She was surprised to see that there was a prisoner sitting in the corner. Her surprise doubled when she realized it was her sister.
“Lunara, what are you doing down here?” she asked as she hugged her sister.
“Where have you been?” asked Lunara who hugged back twice as hard. “On second thought, tell me later. We need to get out of here. Lord Barrion locked me in here.”
“It was Barrion who was responsible for my disappearance,” explained Solara. “This guy will do anything to stay in power; I think that he may have been the one who poisoned Father.”
“We have to stop him,” declared Lunara, “but how do we get out of here?”
Solara held up a ring of keys and said, “I swiped these from a guard outside the palace. I thought that they might come in handy.”
It took the two a few seconds to locate the door in the dark room, but they found it and unlocked it. The halls were no better lit than the dungeon. The sun had long since set and the moon was blocked by clouds tonight so they had little light. This worked to their advantage because they did not want to be seen by anyone. Carefully they sneaked through empty hallways and stayed in corners when anyone walked by.
Gradually they progressed to the throne room. Luckily the guards were on break at the time so they could enter the room without trouble. Inside they saw their uncle sitting at the throne with a content grin. When he saw the princesses, his smile vanished.
“What are you two doing here?” he asked, defensive and confused.
“You’re in no position for asking questions,” spat Solara. “You poisoned our father and gave me to pirates.”
“And it was you who hired that Acara, wasn’t it?” added Lunara.
“Maybe it was,” confirmed Lord Barrion with a suspicious calm, “but who is going to believe you? One of you disobeyed orders and the other tried to murder her father. You will both rot in the dungeons now for harassing the emperor of Shenkuu, me!”
Lord Barrion then called out loudly for guards. Immediately a group of guards poured in though the door.
“Princess Lunara had escaped from the dungeon,” declared Lord Barrion, “and it turns out her sister is no better. Take them away and make sure that they don’t get away this time.”
The guards began to surround the princesses, but then a powerful voice called out, “STOP!”
All eyes turned to the door where the real emperor of Shenkuu was entering. He still looked tired and sick, but a million times better than before. Lord Barrion was aghast.
“You can’t be here!” he shouted out. “I made sure that you were poisoned-”
He quickly stopped speaking, but it was too late. All of the guards had heard him confess to poisoning the emperor.
“You belong in the dungeon,“ declared the emperor as the guards advanced on Lord Barrion.
They dragged him down to the dungeons as he screamed and struggled in vain. Once he was gone, both princesses hugged their father.
“How did you survive?” asked Solara.
“It turns out that I just needed rest and tea,” explained the emperor.
“Of course,” exclaimed Princess Lunara, “That tea that I threw out must have been the poisonous one. So when I made some more it helped you to regain your strength. I guess that Lord Barrion was always feeding you more poison, which is why you never recovered.”
“That’s right,” confirmed the emperor, “and I am so proud of you girls for stopping Lord Barrion. I wish that I had a relationship with him like you two have with each other.”
It was a few days later now. After getting much sleep, the emperor was fully recovered and back to leading Shenkuu. The first thing that he did was allow tourists to return. After that he reemployed Chef Bonju.
“Are you sure that it’s a good idea to return tourism?” asked Solara one day. “I understand that it is good for our economy, but we get so many obnoxious jerks.”
“Don’t worry,” assured the emperor. “Most of the people only come for the Chef Bonju cooking pot. Once they find the secret ingredients, tourists will lighten up a bit, and I have a feeling that they’ll find it soon.”
“Just out of curiosity, what are the secret ingredients? asked Solara.
“Well,” started the emperor, “it’s...”