Issue 400: A Confession - Part One
Also written by sariphe
The thing about the Crown Ball is they say it's practically impossible to crash. Then again, they also said the S.S. Unsinkable wouldn't sink, and we all know how that one turned out.
So it's not that I was a hooligan, or a down and dirty spy. There are simply the facts, and the facts are these: in issue 399 of the Neopian Times, I read about the Crown Ball, which was to be held shortly in honour of week 400. In the text of this article, a nameless author who shall hereby be referred to as 'Carrie Sarnikin' mentioned the impenetrable security detail around the gala and its presently spotless record. And that got me thinking: I have nothing coming up in my schedule. Would trying to sneak into the ball be an entertaining venture? And then the little moral voice in my head said, 'No, Elizabeth, why would you do that?'. And the devious voice, he responded, 'Why not?'. Since you're reading this now as my signed and sworn confession, written after the events of the Crown Ball and my subsequent apprehension, I guess it's fruitless to tell you which voice I chose to follow. Or maybe not. Because what are the ends without the means? Just two hollow stumps, that's what. So I suppose I'll start from the beginning, and not just because the royal guard is forcing me to.
It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, no, it wasn't, because it was painfully light out, and it sure as heck wasn't raining. But things would have been amazingly more dramatic if it had been foul weather, so just humour me here and picture this scene. Nighttime, cold and dreary, the wind biting into you. Zoom in on a lone figure ambling along a deserted lane, bundled up tight, a newspaper in hand. It's a shadow Yurble, hair long and wild, stepping to the beat of the raindrops. (It's me, by the way, if you haven't figured it out yet. Name's Elizabeth. Pleased to meet you.)
So, the Yurble walks, and the newspaper crinkles, soiling in the rain. Acting on the defence, she tucks it underneath her coat, staring down at the runny headline as she does. It's big, bold, an attention-grabber: Krawk Island to Host Honourary Ball. Then below it, in smaller, italicised print: Many Outraged at Choice of Unstable Land. And next to that a picture, in grainy black-and-white, showing off the ramshackle Krawk Island palace - a gauche, rambling building with uneven turrets and a moat out front, its paint peeling, its weathered shutters hanging off the windows like a row of crooked emblems. Then, off to the corner, the beaming king of the moment, Patcheye, staring blankly into the camera. The Yurble admires his crooked stance, even though she knows darn well tootin' that he probably won't be the leading monarch by the time the Ball rolls around. Hence the byline of 'unstable'.
A dark cloud passes over the moon, plunging the Yurble into darkness. She stumbles and almost falls, catching herself on a fence but ripping her shirt. She curses foully, language taught to her by the scumbag pirates down at the docks. Her father had been one of them, had even served under King Patcheye, though not for long. Shortly after a glorified revolution on board, poor Patcheye had been dumped ashore and Captain Glordrop had taken his place.
The Yurble tugs at her shirt absently, not caring for the fabric. She steps carefully around a corner, gazing up at the derelict Royal House where the ball is due to start, where royalty and nobility from every land of Neopia will soon gather to laugh amongst themselves, drink choice ciders, eat exotic foods, and comment on the pitiful state of the common folk. And then each of those families will turn to each other and make the same comments about a noble whom they had just greeted warmly. The Yurble pulls the paper out again and looks down at the lines of print, smudged by the water droplets that sit like little gems on the sopping paper. She makes up her mind in an instant, tugs once more at her clothing, and walks off into the night.
End scene. The Yurble takes a bow and watches her admirers swoon in the audience. Then she gives herself a cold, hard smack on the face and brings herself back to reality, where it is not raining, and it is not dark, and she has just made the decision to try and infiltrate the Crown Ball. There it is, the heart of my confession: I wanted to crash the Crown Ball. I only had two days to think up a disguise and a feasible entry plan, but honestly, I wasn't too worried about it. Even though my primary and secondary and upper school teachers would probably disagree, I'm pretty good at stuff when I put my mind to it. Just say the right things to the right people at the right times, and I'd be good as gold. How hard could it be?
I got to work immediately. The second I got home, I dragged my entire closet out onto my bed and separated the contents. Shirts here, trousers there, shoes lined up in a haphazard chain, one after the other, like a miniature army. I was a self-professed tomboy and owned no fancy dresses or skirts, but I figured I could piece together what I already had into a pretty respectable ensemble. Anyway, it wasn't like I needed to present myself as a prim and proper queen. I could pass myself off as a countess or lady, a prime minister's daughter, perhaps, or a rough and tumble baroness. As long as I put on the face of someone who belonged, and acted like I was supposed to be there, then I'd be fine. Especially if I portrayed myself as some lowly Krawk Island royal. After all, no one could really keep all the relationships and titles straight, not when the throne was bounced between different men on a daily basis, back and forth, back and forth, like a ridiculous game.
So I took my best set of clothes and washed them several times, practicing my posh voice as I went. I rehearsed lines, things I knew I should say. I even learned how to strut like I was someone. I knew that I was supposed to talk as if I owned the room, and most likely, I would have to pretend that I did. I gave myself the title of Lady Elizabeth Branson and decided I was a cousin of King Patcheye.
When the morning of the ball came, I readied myself, decked in gaudy strings of fake pearls and diamonds and colours that looked regal but which clashed horribly with each other, and I trotted down to the docks, tucked myself behind a tower of shipping crates, and waited for the first lot of delegates to arrive. When their ship dropped anchor and shored the gangway, I darted out and fell into step beside a courtier who served the blubbery, globule-like King Skarl. His retinue was comprised of several pages, scribes, knights, nobles, and a good number of serving plates just in case he got a little peckish.
"Who are you?" asked the courtier with whom I was walking. His comment went largely unnoticed by the group of royal retainers. I took a deep and calming breath, knowing exactly what I had to say.
"That, pauper, is none of your business. The affairs of nobility are not for your primitive mind to comprehend." I dearly wanted to laugh at the look that crossed his face. It was a mixture of annoyance, bewilderment, and to my delight, fear. He nodded his head respectfully and quickened his pace, obviously keen to be as far away from me as he could without being rude or offensive. I restrained my giggles and contented myself with a smug, twerpy smile. I had passed my first test. Easy as pie.
It wasn't much harder getting through the throng of security at the palace, either. Even if I looked a bit garish in my mix-and-match attire, I think all of the guards were too frightened of the waddling Skarl to heed me any notice. They quivered in tiny packs, heads bowed, careful not to block his lumbering path. How fantastic it must be to send an entire mass of hired intimidators into terror. The portly bloke didn't even have to sneeze. One glance, one footstep, and everyone was cowering. I made a mental note to scare a security peon first chance I got. It wasn't every day that I was in a falsified position of power, after all. I was going to milk this chance for all it was worth, and then some. No holds barred. (Maybe I should have held some bars. Maybe then someone wouldn't be forcing me to write this now.)
Anyways, into the palace. I kept close with Skarl's entourage for a while, but as we entered the main reception room, I broke free from the pack. As I walked, a few 'fellow' royals gave me the once over, and some seemed disgusted by my bargain bin outfit, but no one was concerned enough to summon a guard. No one talked to me, either, writing me off as some barely-on-the-list invitee, not worth the words. Which I'm not complaining about. Maybe if nobody had ever said a word to me, I wouldn't have gotten caught. Then again, I wouldn't have had much fun, either. It's a trade off, you might say.
So I floated around the periphery of the crowd for awhile, trying to keep a confident face, watching as more royals poured into the room. The prime minister of Lutari Island, his hair slicked back neatly; the king and queen of Terror Mountain, decked in colour coordinated clothes; and then last of all, Patcheye, in a torn suit and queer blue loafers, playing gracious host. Except he wasn't looking too gracious. He appeared rather to the contrary, in fact. He stormed in, feet stabbing at the ground, and scrambled to the center of the room, almost knocking over Chief Umvula of Mystery Island as he moved. As the island Kougra glowered, Patcheye ripped off his eye patch and pumped his fist into the air.
"Get outta here, the lot of ye!" he howled, sounding rather like a wounded animal. "This ball is ove--"
But before he could finish his declaration, another pirate pet - a Cybunny - scuttled into the room, flanked by a detail of burly guards who promptly tackled Patcheye and wrestled him to the floor.
"Now, now, don't listen to the disgraced King Patcheye!" announced the new pet, grabbing Patcheye's rough crown from the pirate Kyrii's head and securing it over his own tussled main. "Me name be Wrigilet, and I'm yer new host for the weekend! Incidentally, I also be the new king of Krawk Island!"
I did mention the phrase 'unstable', right? I'm sure I did.
To be continued...
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