Braving Brightvale: Part One
The white stones of Brightvale Castle seemed to glitter in the mid-morning sunshine, catching Kinsley’s animated eyes. The pink Xweetok’s eyes then drifted upwards, examining the intricate emerald roof on the castle’s towers. They drifted up even further to the majestic flag of Brightvale flourishing in the breeze, which reminded Kinsley what she was supposed to be doing in the kingdom’s capital.
She took a deep breath, straightening out the classic white skirt and shirt she had worn for the occasion and made her way up to the grand drawbridge. The bridge was only open from dawn to dusk, and she had truthfully only been here once in her life while the bridge was down, for a school field trip.
Kinsley had bigger plans today, however. Lately, she had spent many an hour poring over maps and books of the intricate hallways and decadent rooms of the castle. All in preparation for today, of course—the first day of her apprenticeship with the King’s royal advisor. Brightvale was known throughout the world as the shining gem of knowledge, where even the poorest Neopians were able to read and everyone attended free public schooling.
So, as part of the King’s scholastic achievement plan for the kingdom, the all-knowing and wise King Hagan devised an Apprenticeship Program to help young Brightvale students learn about future careers. After careful consideration and hours of studying, Kinsley had successfully been accepted into the prestigious program and was placed as the intern to the king’s highest advisor.
And—today was her starting day. The petite pink Xweetok was downright nervous, and her shaking paws were witness to that. On any other day, such a trip to the castle would be as simple as picking berries for a pie or reading her younger sister a book with the alphabet. But these next few weeks could decide her future, and her experience here would ultimately depend on the impression she made on the first day.
Kinsley tried to shake off her nervous thoughts. At last, she mustered up the nerve to walk through the splendid stone archway, navigated the route she had memorized from the maps, and arrived at her final destination: Mr. Mufflecrump Merridew’s office.
Mufflecrump Merridew, the King’s royal advisor, was the type of fellow who no one could imagine as a youngster. Such a stern, civilized, well-read Acara could never have been a joking, gormball-playing schoolboy. As evidenced by the many piles of paper parchment stacked neatly on his desk into groups—papers headed for Meridell, others headed for far-off places like Virtupets Space Station and Shenkuu—Mufflecrump was all work and no play.
After having awkwardly knocked on his door and being instructed to sit in a large gray chair across from his desk, Kinsley merely sat there while the advisor launched into a speech about rules. “You will arrive at nine o’clock sharp each weekday. You will wear professional attire at all times and you will... oh, drat.” The elderly advisor of King Hagan peered out the window into the courtyard, interrupting his nearly half hour long explanation of the rules. Kinsley had no idea the castle was such a strict place. From outside the walls, it had always seemed so free and full of bountiful knowledge.
Her ears perked up at the thought of an interruption. Perhaps she would be able to see some action, a sword fight between a disgruntled knight and a court jester... or maybe a foreign advisor, one from Shenkuu dressed in oriental robes...
Mufflecrump sat down at his antique wooden desk, adjusting his glasses slightly. “The gardening merchants have arrived early from Neopia Central and I have yet to inform Helen, the head maid. She will need to prepare bedchambers for the visitors, of course,” he explained, crushing Kinsley’s hopes of any excitement. She tried not to pout, instead simply sighing quietly.
He glanced at the short pink-haired neopet from the corner of his eye. “I apologize, I am being terribly rude. I never did fully introduce myself, did I? Nor did I catch your name.” He paused and cleared his throat. “I am Sir Mufflecrump Merridew, Highest Royal Advisor to King Hagan the Wise.” The aged, emerald colored Acara stood and offered his hand to her.
“My name is Kinsley Cabot, daughter of Frederick and Daisy Cabot. As you may know, I’m your apprentice for the next six weeks...” She trailed off, shaking his hand and quickly sitting again.
The advisor nodded. “Ahh, yes. Well, for the first week I suppose you can simply follow me around. Eventually I will find you some work to do, but for now you will just have to be content watching me.” Just then, a large Elephante in a white and blue work dress appeared at the door with a cup of tea.
“Your midmorning tea, Sir?” she inquired.
“Yes, yes, Helen. Now, tell me. Did you prepare the sleeping quarters for the merchants from Neopia Central yet?” He stirred the steaming tea, the porcelain spoon clinking against the cup musically. Never had Kinsley seen such fine china, as her family was far from having the money to purchase such things. Her family owned a pawn shop in Brightvale, because they were originally farmers from Meridell. Due to Kinsley’s thirst for knowledge and her above-average intelligence, the family moved to the neighboring kingdom so that her education could continue—yet their budget suffered because of the move.
The maid merely smiled and nodded, turning to the Xweetok now. “Would you care for anything, miss?”
“No, thank you,” Kinsley stammered, never having been waited on before. Helen just kept smiling and left the office, leaving the apprentice and her master alone again. Kinsley decided it would be a long six weeks.
After she watched Mufflecrump file tax reports and write up letters to important world dignitaries for another hour or so, he decided it was time for the two of them to take a lunch break. They traversed the courtyard and re-entered the castle, this time in a cozy meeting room with several elegant large tables and chairs.
Kinsley was soon introduced to the entire castle’s staff of advisors—which, she found out, was quite expansive. Among them were Sir Greco, the crazed Advisor of Sciences, Madame Alexander, the stern Advisor of Mathematics, and the Chief War Advisor, Sir Gifford. She found that there was an advisor for everything at the castle, including food, entertainment, and even landscaping. Truthfully, there were far too many for her to remember the names of.
Well, with the exception of one name. During lunch, Kinsley met a fellow intern, a green Bori named Percy, who was the apprentice to the war advisor.
“So, how do you like the castle?” Percy asked Kinsley, once their advisors were heavily involved in an argument about court politics.
“Well...” She thought for a moment. She hadn’t really seen much of the castle, other than Mufflecrump’s office and what she had seen during their brief walk to lunch. “I haven’t actually had a formal tour yet so I can’t answer that truthfully.”
“You haven’t?!” the young Bori exclaimed in disbelief. “Well, why don’t I give you a tour? I started my apprenticeship last week, you see. And Sir Gifford says that my job will eventually be to welcome and give tours to any foreign war advisors who visit. Maybe I should practice on you first?” He smiled anxiously towards her.
Kinsley perked her ears up. The prospect of walking the palace grounds with Percy sounded much more interesting than sitting in Mr. Merridew’s cramped office for another three hours. She turned to the advisor with a hopeful look. “Sir, would it be okay if Percy gave me a tour of the castle? It’s just that I’ve never been here before and I don’t exactly know where I’m going, so a tour could be very beneficial!”
The Acara sat back in his chair to ponder the idea. “Now, hold on there, Kinsley. An advisor does not simply make a decision without first thinking of the consequences. You must consider the choices and carefully plan out what you will say before you make a decision or a statement. And by the way, you can call me Mufflecrump.”
She nodded in agreement, half smiling, trying to put a serious look on her face. “I was thinking perhaps if I were to go on a tour, it would give you more time alone in your office for work...”
“Yes, yes. That sounds like a lovely idea, now that you mention it.” He turned to the also-elderly war advisor, a brown Grarrl who looked like he’d weathered more than just a few battles. “Sir Gifford, what do you have to say about this plan? Do you mind letting young Percy show my apprentice around the castle grounds?”
The Grarrl harrumphed, and growled out an answer without having time to ‘ponder the consequences,’ like Mufflecrump said all advisors must do. “I suppose that would be fine. Do not go into the King’s private quarters and do not go into the King’s court. He is having a hearing with some advisors from Meridell, and does not want to be interrupted.”
Percy and Kinsley nodded in unison. They excused themselves from the crowded room and quickly made their way into the green carpeted corridor before Mufflecrump or Sir Gifford could change their minds.
“Let’s start our tour off with the courtyard...” the green Bori began.
To be continued...
Coming up Next: A taunting sister, countryside twigs and someone named Muffinsmoots? Stay tuned!