Issue 400: A Confession - Part Three
Also by sariphe
Unlike in books and Neovision shows, lies do not unravel in the blink of an eye. No one suddenly cries 'aha!' and carts you off to the dungeon; all the pieces of the puzzle don't suddenly fit together. So no, Zylaa didn't report me right away. She seemed rather startled by my candid reply to her question, but she didn't go running to the nearest guard. She simply raised an eyebrow, cocked her head, and then let out a small noise as somebody unexpectedly banged into the room.
It was Patcheye, flanked by two other pirates - a Lupe and a Shoyru, both of whom were smirking. From his place at the head of the table, Wrigilet heard them, and he only had to look up briefly before bolting to the nearest door. To his despair, and my amusement, it happened to be a shallow pantry, which he squeezed his considerable bulk into and then tried, unsuccessfully, to shut the door. Without skipping a beat, Patcheye's companions approached the blubbering Wrigilet, grabbed him from the impossible perch, and then dragged him out of the room. As they did, Patcheye plucked the tarnished crown from the Cybunny's head - as had just been done to him a few hours ago - and then bade him an overly-cheery goodbye. Zylaa and I could hardly contain our amusement, and we both giggled inappropriately.
Patcheye was not amused.
Turning to us, he growled, "Ye'd best be holdin' yer tongues." It was his most practised pirate voice, and after proceeding to give us the stink eye, he clomped out of the room, stroking the rough crown as he walked.
The moment he was gone, Zylaa and I burst out laughing, all dignity forgotten. She howled so hard that tears began to appear at the corners of her sunken eyes, and I thumped my fist on the table. My short-sighted blunder seemed forgotten now, and our mirth only ended after we were in too much pain to keep up the hysterics. Then, we sat in jittery silence for a while, and when none of the other royals or Patcheye returned, we decided that the dinner had been canceled, said goodnight to each other, and went our separate ways. I was all but positive that my thoughtless statement had been completely overlooked. I was convinced that I was in the clear.
So as I retired that night, I was happy.
If only I knew how sour things would go come morning. Maybe then, I would have fled while I still had the chance.
Oh well. Can't dwell over these things. After all, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Plus, angsting doesn't make for much a confession. So here we go, onto the wild blue yonder, over to the next morning, when I awoke bright and early in the tiny bedroom I'd claimed for myself, to the sound of a bell clanging down the hall. I blinked, yawned, and sat up stiffly. Then, I smoothed out my day old clothes (I hadn't brought any pyjamas to the ball), finger-combed my hair, and walked out to the corridor and into pure mayhem.
The hallway looked similar to a war zone. Royals and attendants and courtiers and retainers ran up and down it, conferring with each other, spreading rumours and generally making a ruckus. I pulled a passing servant aside and asked him what was going on.
"We're under attack!" he blurted. I was so stunned that I let him go, and he darted away before I could question him further. I followed the general tide until I came to the reception room where we had first met before the catastrophic dinner last night. Most of the important guests had gathered, mingling and trying to piece together an idea of what was going on. Everyone seemed to be panicking, and yet no one knew why.
"Good morning, my Lords and Ladies. We will begin the day with a brunch and then together, we shall move outdoors for some entertainment provided by our new jesters," said a calm voice. Everyone turned to see an unknown pirate Lupe, who stood calmly in the center of the room.
"Who are you?" asked Prime Minister Bristleboff of Neopia Central in a huffish manner.
"I am your host," replied the Lupe. "King Bragalot."
The word seemed to pass around the room like a whisper on the wind until King Cyrus of Terror Mountain, utterly fed up, said what everyone else was thinking.
"Not another one," he groaned; Bragalot pretended not to hear.
"If you would all like to move into the banquet hall, your brunch will be served shortly."
Brunch was relatively quiet compared to the rest of the gala. The royals sat and muttered to each other about the abrupt changes in the monarchy and how very inadequate this whole thing seemed to be. I sat directly across the table from Zylaa, who said little to me save for a quick greeting, though she did spare me the occasional glance. I didn't notice most of them until she had looked away. I should have suspected something then, but I put it down to the shocking state of my clothes and hair, something which was being discussed almost as much as Krawk Island's numerous kings.
Bragalot spent the meal talking quietly with his neighbours. After seeing him behave normally for the duration of the meal, most of the royals proclaimed him better then the last two scumbags, though certainly not up to their standards. They wanted a quality royal, one without blemish. Basically, a prized product. They didn't seem to understand that no one of this description existed on Krawk Island.
When the last of the diners had finished their meals, Bragalot stood and instructed that we all move outside and gather on the lawn in front of the palace. "You will find the entertainment to be of a royal standard," he said.
I followed Chief Umvula of Mystery Island out onto the lawn and took my seat next to Zylaa, greeting her as the others joined us and waited patiently. Bragalot stood before the seated crowd of nobility, looking far less scraggly then his predecessors, and raised his arms for silence.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, our new jesters," he said with a flourish. Two figures were shoved out from behind a makeshift curtain and knocked against each other as they tried to maintain their balance on the slippery lawn. They were garbed in bright blue and red pants, a dark blue shirt, and ridiculously large, pointed shoes that curved upward at both ends. The ensemble was topped off by a traditional jester's hat with four bells hanging comically from four red and blue points.
Patcheye and Wrigilet burned with shame as they stood in these clothes before the royals of Neopia. They didn't look angry so much as mortified, their cheeks flushed red, their fists clenched. As Bragalot watched on, they gave each other uncomfortable stares, and then began a lopsided, macabre dance. Their feet beat against the weathered lawn like rubber stamps pressed upon paper, and the bells on their hats jingled in tinny unison as they moved. While some of the royals seemed quite amused by the spectacle, I found it rather difficult to watch, so I averted my eyes. A seemingly innocent motion, but it ended up costing me dearly.
"Can't bear to watch your cousin humiliated?" Zylaa whispered into my ear, but just as the words escaped her lips, a funny look came over her face. She leaned away from me and bit down on her lip, then glanced quickly over to the row of guards surrounding the royal audience.
My breath caught in my throat, and I was half-convinced that I'd be hung out to dry right then and there, that Zylaa had suddenly remembered my queer proclamation and now was ready to have me apprehended. But she didn't. Instead, the Zafara bent back towards me, cautious but not yet panicked.
"You did say he was your cousin, yes?" she prompted, her words quiet so that no one but the two of us could hear them.
"Yes." I felt like someone had stuffed a live, croaking Mortog down my throat.
"But then when he was removed as king, you said--"
"I wasn't thinking," I interrupted, but then I quickly realised that interrupting was the wrong move. It came across as too defensive, and a whole new look of uncertainty registered on Zylaa's face.
"What did you say your title was, again?"
"Lady uh... Lady Elizabeth Branson."
"And your relation to that bloke up there..."
"Niece," I said, and then my blood ran cold. No. Not niece. Cousin, cousin, it was cousin! Cripes, how could I be so foolish? I might as well be the jester up there, hopping to an invisible beat. I was no better out here on the lawn.
"Niece," Zylaa echoed, her hands balled into tiny fists. I hoped briefly that she didn't remember my statement the day before, but the tone of her voice said it all. She knew I was a liar, and now I was done for.
So I did what any logical person would do: I ran.
To be continued...