A guard, breathing heavily, burst into the royal dining room. “Your Majesty,” he gasped between breaths, “we have a situation.”
Barely glancing up from his turkey dinner, King Narbo said, “If there is a problem, Flaxton, then fix it. That’s your job, not mine.”
“You don’t understand!” Flaxton, a skunk Tonu, said frantically. “Princess Evimbla is gone!”
The tall royal Kyrii stood up abruptly, his chair falling over backward and peas from his meal sent flying. “She’s gone? You fools were supposed to watch her tower day and night so she wouldn’t escape! Do you know what this means for my kingdom, for all of Sakhmet?”
The guard cringed. Everyone knew what would happen if there was no princess in the kingdom. According to a prophesy given by an old wizard, the day the princess leaves the tower, riots will start, the king will lose power.
“No no no, this won’t do at all. We can’t have riots in my kingdom.” King Narbo muttered, now pacing across the room. ‘More importantly, I can’t lose my role as king of Sakhmet,’ he thought silently. Narbo was a greedy king, and had only gained his title through his immense wealth.
Flaxton shook his head sadly. Princess Evimbla was a blue Kyrii, and had been rebellious from the start. She had hated being cooped up inside all day long. It wasn’t surprising that she had managed to get around the guards, and it was highly unlikely that she would be coming back any time soon.
Suddenly a servant appeared through the door to the kitchen. After giving a quick bow to the king, she said, “I couldn’t help overhearing, but if his Majesty would be so gracious as to listen, I have an idea.”
Narbo quickly turned toward the servant. “I really don’t have the time to listen to the fantasies of petty servants,” he said proudly, “but, being as kind a ruler I am, I will allow you to speak.”
“Well, my king,” the servant began, “we might be able to find a replacement...”
“Get out of the way, sludge ball, or I’ll move you myself.” A Kyrii gave the pet in front of her a shove, then quickly walked away, pretending not to notice him. The assaulted pet soon started arguing with the pet he believed had shoved him, not realizing it was the thin Kyrii standing not far away that had given him the rude push.
While the two were distracted, the Kyrii stepped in front of them in line for soup at the Soup Kitchen. Sniggering gleefully and receiving strange looks from others in line, she accepted a warm bowl of soup from the Soup Faerie and sat down at the edge of the sidewalk. She loved when her plans worked. She could have easily waited in line a few minutes longer instead of sneaking in front of the other pets, but she had decided that tricking them would be much more fun.
The Kyrii was called Lori, though her full name was Loranigh. Thin and relatively tall, Lori had thick and dirty fur. Her belongings consisted of the potato sack on her back, the thin quilt she wore over her shoulders like a shawl, and the tattered blue hat on her head. Although she lived on the streets of Neopia Central, she wasn’t unhappy. In fact, she loved it. Every day was a fight for survival; only the smartest survived.
Lori leaned over her soup, letting the steam warm her face. After savoring its scent for a few more moments, she ate, finishing the soup in less than two minutes. She then discarded the disposable bowl in a trash can and decided to wander; something she did when she was looking for some way to get into trouble.
After about an hour, she made her way up to the Money Tree. She didn’t plan on attempting to get anything from it; she had tried once and found it terribly boring. But she used the friendly tree as a landmark to help her remember where she was. Deciding to take a short rest, she sat down at its roots.
Soon, Lori saw something quite peculiar. About twenty feet away from her was a skunk Tonu wearing what looked like armor, and he seemed quite lost. With a smirk, Lori walked up to him. “Excuse me, sir,” she said, putting on a sweet face, “are you lost?”
Flaxton was quite lost indeed. For some reason, King Narbo had chosen him to find a princess stand-in. He had been heading to the Pound, but then had managed to get hopelessly turned around by a sudden stampede of petpets being chased by an Usul.
“Yes,” he muttered to the Kyrii as he tried to get his bearings, “you wouldn’t know how to get to the Pound, would you?” Turning around to face the girl, he suddenly stopped in his tracks as he saw her. A blue Kyrii; tall and thin, with thick fur.
Just like Princess Evimbla.
Lori frowned at Flaxton, who was now gaping at her. Dropping the sweetness in her voice, she asked, “What are you staring at?” He seemed to be shocked at her for some reason.
Quickly gaining his composure, he introduced himself. “I am Flaxton, royal guard to King Narbo of Sakhmet.”
Smirking, Lori crossed her arms and looked the Tonu over. “Yeah? I’m Loranigh, guard to nobody but myself, and from wherever I feel like being.”
She walked up to a flag pole and started swinging around it, holding on with one hand. “Guard to a king, you say? What kind of cash would a job like that make?” She stopped swinging and looked over to Flaxton with an innocent face. “You wouldn’t happen to have a few spare Neopoints for a poor little Kyrii, would you?”
Flaxton suddenly had an idea. He could take this young homeless pet off the streets and let her be the princess stand-in. He would be able to complete his mission, and give a pet the dream life as royalty at the same time! Grinning at the Kyrii, he said, “Even better, I have something worth more than a million Neopoints.”
Now Lori was the one doing the gaping. What could possibly be better than a million Neopoints? “What? Ooh, please tell me!” she begged, becoming more excited by the second.
“How would you like to be a princess in Sakhmet?” said Flaxton. “You would be pampered, get to wear royal clothes, and live in the princess’s tower. You would even get any food you can possibly imagine.”
Loranigh looked up at the Tonu with wide eyes. She vaguely remembered a song some of the other pets would sing teasingly toward her. ‘Queen Loranigh, sitting on high, for all the pets to see. But as it turns out, poor Lori will pout, ‘cause her throne is really a tree.’
To live in a castle, to get all the food she wanted, it was too good to be true. Throwing all sense of caution aside, she nodded vigorously.
Flaxton smiled at the girl, feeling proud of himself. “Let’s go then. You’re going to love being royalty.”
One ride on a helpful Eyrie later, they were in Sakhmet. During the trip, Flaxton explained why they needed a new princess, and told her about the prophesy. Still in shock, Lori didn’t really listen. All she cared about was being able to live the dream.
Once they landed, Flaxton showed her up a large set of stairs to the castle. Inside, they were greeted by a busy looking servant, who took them to the king’s chambers. While walking to see the king, nervous ideas flowed through Lori’s mind. What if the king didn’t like her? What if she didn’t look enough like the previous princess? She was very dirty and her fur was matted, how could they possibly get her clean enough to look like royalty?
Giving Lori an encouraging pat on the shoulder, Flaxton led her into the king’s room, then left to wait in the hall. Seeing the king sitting at a desk, she curtsied awkwardly.
King Narbo stood up and looked the Kyrii over. Flaxton had been right; under the dirt and those awful clothes, she really did look like Evimbla. “Greetings, dear girl,” he said to Loranigh, “I am the great King Narbo, ruler of Sakhmet.”
Lori swallowed nervously. “I-I’m Loranigh, but everyone calls me Lori,” she stuttered.
Narbo shook his head. “Since you are to be a... replacement for the princess, you will be called Evimbla. None of this ‘Lori’ business.” He called a servant, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. “Have Princess Evimbla taken up to the tower and put in some suitable clothing, and tell Flaxton to guard her room.” Wrinkling his nose, he added, “Give her a bath, too.”
Lori looked at the king confusedly. She wouldn’t be allowed to be called Lori? And why did Flaxton have to guard her room? Before she could ask, though, she was swept away by the servant, who took her up a long set of steps into what she could only describe as the most elegant and frilly room she had ever seen.
Her new bedroom was light blue in color, and seemed to sparkle. In the middle of the room was the biggest bed she had ever seen, covered in pillows and surrounded by wispy drapes. There were also several bookcases full of books and games, a table, a chair, and two doors. One of them led to a sparkling white bathroom, and the other to a large walk-in closet filled with clothes of all shapes and colors.
The servant took her into the bathroom and shampooed Loranigh’s fur. She had never had a bath before, and it took a long time to get all the dirt out. When she was done, the servant helped her get dressed in a beautiful gown the same color as the bedroom. At first Lori thought it was silly to need help getting dressed, but she soon realized it was a complicated process. It took nearly twenty minutes to get into the outfit, complete with gloves.
The last step was for the servant to tackle Lori’s fur. It was very tangled, and it took an hour and a full bottle of hair spray to get it to lie nicely. Once they were done, she looked in a large mirror and gasped. She didn’t recognize herself. The Kyrii’s fur was a much lighter blue without the dirt, and was very shiny. In addition to her heavy blue gown, white gloves, and the tiara on her head, she looked nearly the opposite of the dirty street pet that she had been just a few hours ago.
“Would you like anything else, Princess Evimbla?” the servant asked.
Lori realized that she was hungry. She was always hungry, but she was royalty now. She could eat whenever she wanted. “I would like something to eat,” the Kyrii stated, trying out a regal voice. The servant darted away, and came back a few minutes later.
The servant appeared carrying a huge platter, which she sat on the table, and promptly left. When Loranigh lifted the cover, she gasped at the pleasant surprise underneath. The platter was covered with food; everything from celestial salad to veggie stew pie to spice cheesecake. There were even foods that she had never even heard of before, but they looked amazingly appetizing.
She sat down in the chair and took bites of everything on the platter, savoring the wide range of textures and flavors. Even though she ate more than her fill, there was still a lot left on the plate when she was done. Out of nowhere, another servant appeared and took the platter away.
Exhausted from the day’s events, Loranigh lay down on her enormous bed, sinking into the silky sheets and pillows. She fell instantly asleep, and didn’t wake up until nearly noon the next day.
When she finally got up, there was a platter with breakfast already on the table. On it were fruit-covered pancakes, eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, and many different kinds of fruit. When she had eaten, she decided to explore her room.
She flipped through a couple of books. They had an aged, dusty smell, and many were filled with colorful pictures. Reading had never been something of interest for the Kyrii, so she soon put those down and went to look at the games and toys. There seemed to be hundreds of them; some spun, some lit up, and some made silly noises. She played with the toys until someone came with lunch.
After eating a lunch of kiwi and cucumber sandwiches and a fresh green salad, she inspected the room more closely. Surprisingly, there were no windows in the tower; the entire room was lit by a large chandelier. She looked around the closet for a while, and soon a servant appeared to give her another bath.
“I have to bathe every day?” Lori asked the servant, who only nodded. While she was being washed, she tried to start up a conversation with the servant, but she would only give short replies and wouldn’t really talk to the Kyrii. When she was dry and put in another large gown, the servant brought dinner.
And so that’s how the days went by. The next day was about the same, as was the day after, and the day after that. Breakfast, books, toys, lunch, toys, bath, dinner, books, bed. Again and again and again. One day Loranigh asked a servant if she could go outside. “Oh no, the princess never gets to go outside.” That was all the servant said.
Lori watched as her fur slowly lost its bright blue color, changing to a dull, lank gray. She believed it was from the many vigorous washings she had received, but she knew in her heart that that wasn’t the case. She was lonely, sad, and really didn’t know what to do with herself anymore. Every day that passed pushed her further into the monochromatic life she was living.
One day, a sudden shot of inspiration hit her. She remembered the friendly guard that had brought her to this awful paradise. He had seemed to only want to help her that day, not knowing what his help would bring. And now she needed his help.
Loranigh stepped over to the door and stuck out her head. “Flaxton!” she called quietly. The Tonu appeared from around the corner. “Yes, Princess Evimbla?” he asked her, using the name he had been told to use. Lori cringed at the use of the name. “Could you come in for a minute? I need to talk to you.”
Glancing around to make sure no one was coming, Flaxton stepped into the girl’s bedroom. He was shocked at the way she looked. She used to be so bright and lively, but now she looked like a shell of her former self. He didn’t understand it.
The Kyrii led Flaxton to the chair, and she sat on the bed. When she turned to him, it was with sad, desperate eyes. “I can’t do this any more, Flaxton,” she whispered. “Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
Flaxton stared at her, flabbergasted. “What do you mean? It’s every pet’s dream to be royalty, to live in a castle!” he said, utterly confused. It hade even been a dream of his own when he was a child. How bad could it be?
Lori shook her head. “You don’t understand. I haven’t left this tower, much less gone outside, in weeks. Everything is brought to me; I don’t have to work for anything.” She stared hard at the Tonu. “Do you know how it feels for someone like me to live the same day over and over again with no change, when my life depended on my actions just a month before?”
The Tonu suddenly understood. Even though he himself though it would be great to be royalty, he couldn’t imagine leaving his job as a royal guard. He wouldn’t have a purpose in life if he didn’t have work to do. Slowly, Flaxton nodded his head. “I’ll talk to the king. I doubt he’s cruel enough to keep you here if you don’t want to be a princess anymore.”
“But your highness, I think living in that tower is making her sick. Her fur has gone pale, and she used to be so lively before I brought her here,” Flaxton said to the king. “Now she... well, she has no purpose in life anymore.”
King Narbo pulled a book off the shelf in his study. “Do you think it makes any difference to me whether she’s happy or not? Besides, she should be thanking me for pulling her off the streets.”
Flaxton blanched. “Y-you can’t do this!” he stammered. Was the King really as evil as this? How could he have been so blind to it before?
Putting the book down, the Kyrii turned to Flaxton. “Who are you, a lowly little guard, to tell me, the greatest king Sakhmet has ever seen, what I can or can not do? I won’t let that prophesy come true and lose my title as king. Go back to guarding the tower and making sure that little runt doesn’t escape like you should.”
Eyes flashing, Flaxton left the study. But he wasn’t going to go back to the tower. No, he had a job to do.
Going the opposite direction from the tower, the Tonu headed for the throne room. From there, he went out to a large balcony overlooking Sakhmet. From this balcony, pets from anywhere in the city could hear you. It was often used for making announcements, and letting everyone know of new laws made by the king. But today, this balcony was going to be used in a slightly different manner.
Flaxton stepped up to the edge of the balcony and took a deep breath. “Citizens of Sakhmet!” he shouted, his voice resonating in the walls of the city. He looked down. People were already gathering to hear what important news was going to be announced.
“King Narbo has done something terrible,” he continued. “He has imprisoned a little girl in the tower, just so he could keep his kingship.” Looking down again, he saw that the pets seemed confused. “We have all heard the prophesy told by the wizard long ago. ‘The day the princess leaves the tower, riots will start, the king will lose power.’ Well, Princess Evimbla was fed up with living in the tower, and ran away.”
From there, Flaxton told the story of how he found Loranigh, brought her to the palace, and how she ended up hating being a princess. While he was talking, the pets of Sakhmet started whispering and grumbling angrily, getting steadily louder. They occasionally let out shouts; some went to their home and came back carrying pitchforks and other tools.
“Even after telling Narbo about what harm he was causing Loranigh, he refused to let her free. His own words were; ‘Do you think it makes any difference to me whether she is happy or not?’ Should we allow such a selfish and evil king to continue ruling over us?” The city walls seemed to quake at the overwhelming response by the citizens. Raising his fist over his head, Flaxton shouted: “Let’s make this prophesy come true. King Narbo will rule no longer!”
At this, the pets of Sakhmet shouted as one, and charged at the palace.
Lori paced the floor of her bedroom. Flaxton hadn’t come back to tell her what the king had said. She was worried that he had lost his job, or worse, and she would be forced to live as princess for the rest of her life. What’s worse, she heard shouts outside, even through the thick tower walls. Though she would never admit it, Lori was nervous, even afraid.
Suddenly, the door opened to reveal a grinning skunk Tonu. “Flaxton!” Lori said, surprised, “What’s happening? Did the king agree to let me go?”
Flaxton laughed. “Well, he didn’t exactly agree. Come on, I’ll explain it to you outside.”
Loranigh let loose a huge grin. She was going outside! She ran up and hugged the Tonu, making him blush profusely, and followed him outside. While they were walking, Flaxton explained how the Sakhmetians were in the process of overthrowing King Narbo.
When they got to the gates of the city, Flaxton turned to Lori and put his hands on her shoulders. “This is as far as I can take you, Loranigh. I have to stay and help the pets of Sakhmet choose a new king.” He pulled a bag of Neopoints out of his pocket. “Here, take these. It’s not much, but it should help you find lodging somewhere, so you won’t be sleeping out on the street.”
Lori smiled, but shook her head. “No thank you, Flaxton. I don’t think I’ll try to find someplace to stay.” Seeing the Tonu’s confused expression, she continued. “I’ve decided I’m not one to stay in one place, or call any certain place home.” The Kyrii smirked. “That’s all much too easy.”
With that, Loranigh turned and headed out of the city without looking back. For now, she was free. Free from the monochromatic paradise often called royalty.