Princess Bones: Part Eight
The next week passed as if it were merely a dream.
Princess Saya was officially crowned as the heir of Brightvale, although it was a few days later than the initial coronation date. The royal family had to make sure Renwick and Milleran were safely detained before they ventured out in public again.
Saya looked absolutely stunning as usual, and Rina cheered her on as she recited the Oath of Brightvale and finally had a diamond tiara placed atop her head.
And then, of course, there were the festivities. All of the citizens of Brightvale took time out of their busy schedules to attend street fairs. They feasted on hearty meals, listened to musical performances, and played a number of games.
Rina took part in most of the festivities, and since she was now a quasi-member of the royal family, she was allowed in on a few more select opportunities. She feasted with the court at the coronation banquet, attended a few dances and got to wear a myriad of beautiful dresses, and, of course, wandered around the castle and grounds, painting to her heart's content.
However, at the end of the week, Rina decided that it was finally time to go home.
"I hope you don't think I'm abandoning you," she told King Hagan on the morning of her departure. "I know that technically I'm a citizen of Brightvale now, but I need to finish my schooling in Middleway first."
"I wouldn't expect you to do it any other way," the King said from atop his throne. He reached down and handed Rina two heavy bags filled with Neopoints. "You've already become a celebrity here, you know, and not just because of the Princess Bones scandal. Two men have already bought your paintings for nice sums. This is your profit from those two pieces alone."
Rina blushed. "I didn't know my stuff was that impressive."
"It is," Princess Saya said from her spot standing beside her father. Now that she was the princess, she seemed to have a new air about her, even shinier than the aura surrounding her before. "I noticed you were working on another painting this week."
Rina nodded. She was actually holding the canvas right now in her arms, the image obscured by a white cloth.
"Do you have any intention of selling that one before you return home? Maybe to me?" Saya asked, eyeing it curiously.
The Zafara shook her head and laughed. "Sorry, Saya. Not this one. I promise you, though, I'll paint something nice and send it your way."
The Xweetok grinned. "Deal."
"Well then," the King said, sitting up straight, "I assume you want to be on your way now." He held out his hand and Rina took it; his grasp was firm, but not too much so. Friendly, almost. "It was a pleasure, Rina," the Skeith said. "And even if you aren't the heir to Brightvale, know that I'll always consider you to be a princess."
Rina blushed. "Thank you, King Hagan." She curtseyed a bit awkwardly, back in her familiar trousers again and then turned toward Saya. "Goodbye, Princess."
"Oh psh," Saya said, running toward Rina and giving her a big hug. "You made life here way more exciting than it's ever been," she whispered into her ear, "and we're like sisters now. Make sure to send me letters. I want to hear about Middleway. Maybe one day I'll sneak out and pay you a visit..."
"Saya," King Hagan warned.
She rolled her eyes. "See you soon, Rina. Thanks again, for everything."
Rina smiled. "Anytime." Then, making sure she had everything, she said her final farewell and left the throne room.
However, before she could head outside and start making her way back home, she had one last thing to do.
She walked quickly through the now familiar hallways of the palace, taking the marble staircase down a few stories, and descending lower and lower into the depths with every step. Finally, she arrived at a wooden door with a large lock barring any further progress. A yellow Techo guard was stationed in front of it.
"Hello, Bennie," she greeted with a smile.
"Rina?" the guard asked, jumping up a bit in surprise. He adjusted his helmet. "What are you doing down here?"
"I came down here to speak with Mr. Milleran."
Bennie frowned softly. "Rina, I don't think the King wants you to be talking with the prisoners, especially the ones involved in this whole... princess fiasco."
"I won't take long," she promised. "Five minutes max. Plus, I want to give him this."
She unveiled the painting for the guard, and his face melted a bit. Bennie nodded slowly, and she covered it back up. "Very well. But not a single word to King Hagan, missy." He reached for a ring of keys, inserted one into the lock, and opened the door slightly. "Five minutes, Miss Rina," he said with a nod. "Go on."
"Thanks, Bennie." And she stepped behind the door.
The dungeon corridor was dim and gloomy. The walls and floors were stone, dripping with condensation, and a few Spyders clung to the uppermost corners, spinning webs of fine silk.
There were a number of cells as she cautiously made her way down the hall. Thankfully, there weren't that many occupants. The few prisoners who were down there were mostly staring into space or taking a nap, blanketed in the darkness.
One of the cells carried the familiar form of a Desert Ruki: Dr. Renwick. He was staring into space, his eyes glazed over, a bowl of food left untouched. Rina shivered and walked by quickly. Has he gone mad?
Finally, at the way end of the corridor, was the Neopet she sought. Mr. Milleran seemed to be the one occupant of the dungeon who hadn't taken his imprisonment as an excuse to slump in to despair. His small cot was nicely made with a Brightvale green bed sheet, and his white pillow was plumped on top. His bowl of food had been eaten and was empty, set off near the iron bars of the cell so that a guard could take it away later. And the actual Draik himself didn't seem too bad. If not looking a little bored, at least he had managed to keep up his appearance.
"Hello, Mr. M," Rina greeted shyly.
Milleran looked up from his thumbs, which he had been twiddling. "Rina?" he asked, peering through the gloom. "Rina, what are you doing down here?" He got up from his bed and looked at her through the bars. "A dungeon isn't the place for a young girl such as yourself."
"It's not the place for you either."
Milleran frowned sadly and shook his head. "We already went over this. But I'm trying to keep myself from going insane. The King has already come down to talk to me. He appreciated the fact that I stopped Renwick from attacking you yesterday. If I keep up the good behaviour, I could be out of here in a few months as opposed to a few years."
"That's really good news!" Rina exclaimed. "When you do, will you come back to teaching?"
The Draik chuckled. "I doubt they'll let me, but we can always see."
There was a moment of awkward silence. Milleran adjusted a crease on his bed. Rina stared at the stone floor for a second. Finally, her teacher asked her, "So why did you come down here, Rina?"
"I'm heading home today," she replied. "And I couldn't leave without seeing you first. Without saying thank you, or goodbye, or... or that I forgive you."
Milleran smiled softly. "I appreciate that Rina, I really do."
"Good." Rina then held out her arms, slipping the canvas through the iron bars that separated her from her teacher. "Also, I wanted to give you this. I was working on it this whole week."
Mr. M took the canvas from her and slowly peeled away the white sheet covering the drawing. His eyes lit up. On the canvas was a view of the streets of Brightvale, of all of the festivities of the coronation. Neopets were dancing, eating, and playing games. The details were exquisite. And centred in the painting were two figures taking in all the sights together: a green Zafara in plain clothes and a blue Draik wearing an argyle sweater.
Rina watched him anxiously. "Remember, last week, before all this began, you gave us an assignment in class? About Brightvalian culture. I thought a painting of the coronation would be the perfect thing." She slipped a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "And seeing as you missed out on all the festivities, I thought you would at least like something..."
Mr. Milleran smiled. "It's perfect. Absolutely perfect." There was a small shelf attached to the stone wall of his cell. He propped the painting up on it, stepped back, and chuckled. "It's like a window to the outside world."
"Exactly," Rina said with a grin. "I'm really glad you like it."
"A Rina original," Mr. Milleran said. "I'll be the envy of all the other prisoners... as well as all the other citizens of Brightvale." He paused for a moment, then looked into her eyes. "Thank you, Rina. This is more than I deserve."
"You saved me."
"After betraying you in the first place."
Rina waved his words away with a flick of her hand. "That doesn't matter anymore."
There was another moment of silence, but this time it wasn't awkward. Mr. Milleran gazed at the painting, lost in the minute brush strokes and detailed splashes of colour. Rina just watched him as he stared. They sat like that for a few minutes, listening to a trickle of water drip from the ceiling and the shuffling motions of the other prisoners. But the sounds didn't matter. All that mattered was the sense of calm, the sense of completeness that had filled both of them and had enough power to overtake the dingy appearance of the dungeon.
Finally, Rina stirred. "Anyway," she said finally, "I have to go home. My mom's waiting for me."
Milleran winced, pulled out of the reverie. "Please tell your mother I'm sorry for what I put her through."
"I promise." Rina stepped away from the cell and waved her hand. "Goodbye, Mr. M."
"Goodbye, Rina," he said. "And thanks again."
Rina nodded, and with a final look toward her teacher, she walked out of the dungeon hall.
Bennie greeted her on the other side of the door. "How'd it go?" the yellow Techo asked, shutting the great door behind him and locking it tight with a silver key. "Everything okay?"
Well, Rina thought, Saya is now officially the Princess of Brightvale, King Hagan has made me an honorary princess, Dr. Renwick is locked up for good, Mr. Milleran seems to be doing all right, and I'm on my way home. Finally.
She nodded her head and smiled gently. "Yeah, Bennie. Everything is just fine."