Also Known as Ettie: Part Two
The next day we spent planning. Since Natha knew the prisoners better, she was the one sent to talk to them. We decided that the flying pets would carry the rest out.
“Natha,” I said, “when I came in, there weren’t many people. Not many guards, servants. I think they all went off to fight.”
She nodded. “This could help us. We’ll tell anyone who wants to stay and take down Darigan that they can, and the rest can come with us to warn the king and fight in the battle.”
I decided that I was definitely going to be one of the ones going to King Skarl.
The next day, we were ready. It was my job to convince the guards that I needed to speak to Lord Darigan and that I had to be let out immediately. As a young pink Acara, I looked convincingly sweet and harmless.
“Sir Guard?” I said, getting the guards’ attention by addressing someone that could be any of them. They turned. “I have seen the error of my ways. I have information that would be useful to Lord Darigan during his attack of Meridell.” One guard raised an eyebrow. “If you would let me talk to him, I’d be in your debt forever,” I continued, batting my eyelashes at the one who had raised his eyebrow, a Darigan Nimmo. His ugly face softened. I knew the plan was working. “Please, oh please, may I speak to him?”
The Nimmo took a step forward and unlocked the door. I kicked him in the shins and then pushed him over and took his sword. Natha attacked the other, a fire Buzz, and disarmed him as well.
“We used to be friends.” Natha spit in the face of the guard. “He was the one who told Lord Darigan about my mother. I’ll never forgive him. In a way, he killed her. If we had been back home, she would never have gotten sick. It’s all his fault.” I saw the pained look on her face, and pitied her. Even if Father was sometimes cruel and arrogant now that he was a knight, at least my parents were still alive. I grabbed her paw and the Nimmo’s keys and we unlocked all of the other prisoners we knew we could trust.
While most stormed up to Darigan’s chambers, Natha, about ten others, and I stayed. We would be the ones to travel to the king. I climbed onto Natha’s back and we flew away, out of the fortress, off the Citadel, and back to Meridell.
Natha had agreed that we could stop at Father’s mansion before going to the castle, as it was on the way. When we approached it, I put a hand on my stomach, suddenly queasy. Natha and I would go in while the rest waited outside.
I knocked on the door. Milltrue, a blue Usul who worked as a maid, answered the door. “Mercy me!” she exclaimed. “Mistress Etinla has returned!” She ran off, leaving the door wide open. She had most likely gone to tell all of the other servants about my arrival.
I walked very slowly to my father’s study, Natha trailing behind me as she took in all the finery. When I reached the door, I didn’t even bother knocking.
“Etinla! You know you are to inform me of your presence by knocking. And who is this stranger you have brought into our home? Where did you go? I want answers, young lady! Tiraglo’s future depends on it,” Father yelled, eyes narrow.
I decided it was best to tell the truth. “I ran away, Father, as you very well know. I went to Meri Acres Farm and stayed with Del, Clem, and Claire. You do remember them, don’t you?” Here I glared at him before continuing. “When I heard of your threats to my petpet, I decided to come home immediately. I was captured by Lord Darigan’s soldiers.” I ignored the shocked look on his face. “They threw me in jail. Natha, this lovely faerie Gelert you see before you, helped me escape. We have come to warn you of the army that will soon attack.”
“Etinla, how can you expect me to believe this nonsense?” asked my father, stroking his mane. “Lord Darigan isn’t attacking Meridell. We would know if he was.”
I felt tears coming to my eyes. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it never occurred to me that he’d think I was lying. “That’s just the thing, Father. It is to be a surprise attack.” Seeing no change in his expression, I burst out, “Fine! Let your mansion be the first he strikes. I hope it burns to the ground. Natha and I must leave. We are going to see the king.” As I stomped out of the room, I added, “Give Mother my best.”
Natha walked just behind me. Suddenly, I heard a shout and a squeal come from behind us.
I turned around and hugged Clem and Claire as they rushed towards me. “What are you guys doing here?” I asked, surprised to see them.
Clem looked down at his hooves. “I snuck out after you, and Claire followed me. I knew you’d take the long path, so I went that way. Then we lost your trail. I thought you had probably decided to hide out in the woods, but Claire said you’d never abandon Tiraglo, so I was forced to believe you had traveled through the night. When we got to the mansion, you weren’t here, so we got jobs as servants. Claire and me both.”
I hugged them again, touched that they’d taken the long journey just to see me.
“Who’s that?” Claire asked, pointing at Natha. I explained what had happened to me after leaving their home. When I reached the end, Natha and Clem each grabbed one of my paws, and Clem grabbed Claire’s.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Clem. We raced outside.
We met up with the other former prisoners outside. Clem, Claire, and I each climbed onto a pet’s back. We departed at once.
The flight to the capital didn’t take very long. Soon we were approaching the castle. When we landed, two guards greeted us. One, a red Techo, spoke to Natha and me, as we were at the head of the group and apparently the leaders. “Who are you and what is your business here?” he asked, scowling.
I jumped off Natha and curtsied. Perhaps it was overdoing it, seeing as he wasn’t royalty or anything, but I’d have to use flattery to get to see the king quickly. Some had to wait for days. “We are here to see the king,” I said. “I am Etinla, daughter of Sir Tarleton, and I demand to see him immediately.” They’d have no idea how much it pained me to tell them my real name.
To my surprise, they allowed me to enter. My friends tried to follow, but the guards barred their way. “Only the girl,” said a blue Tonu.
“Awww, Metil, at least let her bring two or three,” said the red Techo.
The Tonu grudgingly nodded. “Only two,” was all he said.
Natha and Clem stepped forward. No one argued. Not even Claire, much to my surprise.
We stepped into the room.
King Skarl was seated on his throne, glaring at us. I decided I’d let Natha do the talking this time.
“Sir,” she said, taking a tentative step towards our king, “We have found evidence that Lord Darigan is coming with an army to attack Meridell.”
“Why should I believe you?” asked Skarl, still glaring.
I strode forward, in front of Natha. “I am the daughter of Sir Tarleton. Remember me, your highness? Remember when my father saved your life? I was captured by Darigan’s army after stumbling upon their camp. I was locked up in the Citadel, as they thought I was a spy. Natha and I organized a rebellion. You must believe us, King Skarl. Your kingdom depends on it.”
I thought his stare would scorch my fur. While Lord Darigan had ashes in his eyes, Skarl had fire.
“You are mere children,” he decided at last. “Guards!”
Instead of the guards I expected, a faerie Xweetok glided into the room. I caught my breath. She was beautiful. Wearing a simple silver gown with a tiara perched on her head, she seemed ethereal, as though she was from a dream. Behind her stood another Xweetok, this one yellow. I knew at once this was the fabled Princess Melody of Brightvale and her friend, Triello. They had saved their homeland from our king a couple of months ago, and already they were legendary. They must have come for a visit as a sign of the newly found peace.
“Who are these people?” she asked. It didn’t seem unkind, though, like it might’ve from someone else’s mouth.
“Please, miss,” I said, before Skarl could object to her hearing my version of the story. “Darigan Citadel is planning to attack Meridell, but your uncle won’t believe us.”
She turned to the king and frowned. “Uncle, I advise you to send out your troops immediately. She is telling the truth.” She turned to me and winked. I smiled.
The king nodded, albeit hesitantly. “I shall order it at once,” he said, and stalked from the room.
The princess turned to us. “I’m sorry if my uncle was nasty. He was quite mean to me, too, when I first came. Gradually he started to warm to me, though he doesn’t like to show it.”
“He never started liking me,” said Tri, he was trying to pretend to be mad, but he couldn’t keep the stern look on his face. He just kept smiling.
“Now,” said Melody, looking carefully at each of us in turn. “Do you want to fight in the battle?” Clem, Natha, and I nodded vigorously. Tri didn’t. I remembered how he had been forced to stay in Meridell against his wishes.
“If we are going to, your highness, we had best be leaving now.” I turned to go.
“Wait,” said Melody. “Call me Mel.”
We reached the battlefield. Apparently Darigan’s army had caught wind of the news of their upcoming attack, as they were already there. My companions and I decided to wait for Meridell’s army. Otherwise, as Clem so nicely put it, “We’d be crushed like a petpetpet under a boot.”
The sight of my homeland’s army approaching was an amazing sight. The flying pets hovered above the rest, shining in their silver armor with vests showing their rank and the symbols of Skarl and Meridell.
When they passed where my friends and I were standing, we joined the swell, mingling with the rest of the pets. Mel had provided us with armor and weapons back at the castle. I drew my sword. It felt good in my hand.
When the two armies met, I let out a war cry. I think it was something like, “For Meridell! Aiiieeeeee!”
I never was able to recall the exact events of the battle. Only bits and pieces stayed with me. The clang of swords. The clatter of feet and paws and hooves hitting the ground. The screams of the fallen.
I also caught glimpses of my friends. Natha, fighting a Buzz I recognized as the guard who had reported her mother to Lord Darigan. Clem, battling Lorthwrath. Claire, defending herself against a pet much larger than her.
Somehow I managed to work my way to the middle of the battle. I saw two fighters that were given a wide berth, despite the crowded conditions. I stood on the tips of my toes, trying to make out who they were. I gasped. One was Lord Darigan. And the other was my father. Father... He must have realized that I was telling the truth. Maybe he had even forgiven me. I knew that I forgave him. And Darigan. He must have escaped the Citadel when the prisoners rebelled. I thought all of this in one second. The very next, Lord Darigan shoved a sword into Father’s side.
I think I screamed. I do know this. I charged Darigan and managed to get the tip of my sword at his throat. “You,” he rasped.
“Yes, me,” I answered. I disarmed him, keeping my sword at his neck. I used his to fend off anyone who came near us. The entire time, my father lay at my feet. I could hear his shallow breaths. I knew that he was dying.
“We surrender!” came a shout, piercing through the rest of the sounds of battle. I saw Captain Gigonziss being hoisted onto the shoulders of some of his men. “Darigan is held at sword point, we are losing, so I say we surrender!” Murmurs of assent came from the rest of the Darigans.
Skarl came to me. “Good job, girl,” he said gruffly. I smiled sweetly. “Tie him up, you two,” he said, pointing to a red Quiggle and a yellow Lenny.
I dropped to my father, smile gone.
I didn’t take my eyes off Father. Clem came and knelt next to me. Claire came and sat on my other side. Then someone I thought could actually help walked by.
“Kayla!” I squealed, launched out of my misery. “Make my father better! Please? I’ll do anything!”
She glanced at him, then started, probably at the look of his wound. “I can help, but it’ll cost you,” she said. “This kind of potion, it’ll cost around ten million neopoints.”
I started crying. Even Father didn’t have that much money. The only way would be to sell his mansion.
“As the only conscious member of my family present as of now, I give my father’s mansion along with four million neopoints to Kayla, potion master of Meridell,” I said, looking up at her. Four million to her would leave us about one million, enough to buy back the farm and the necessary equipment. “Now please help,” I squeaked out.
She smiled, took out a small vial, and lifted it to Father’s lips. His cut healed immediately, not even leaving a scar.
“Etinla,” whispered my father, holding my paw. I told him what I had done to save his life.
“Thank you,” he said, eyes watering. He was still a knight, I reminded myself, just a rather poor one in comparison to others.
The next few days were rather tedious ones, with little to do. Lord Darigan was thrown in the dungeons to serve a sentence of one year. Father was resting. People were letting their wounds heal. Natha had a pretty nasty gash on her forehead, but it would heal without the aid of magic.
On the fourth day after the battle, I was called to visit the king. The throne room was empty when I got there, saving Scarl and Mel. She nodded her encouragement. I spoke. “Why am I here, your majesty?”
He grumbled something inaudible. “Beg pardon?” I asked, trying not to laugh.
“You have shown great courage and, err, strength on the battlefield, girl.” Here he paused, either looking for something to say or trying to make a dramatic effect. “I think I should knight you.”
I laughed. A girl as a knight? I only knew of it happening in Brightvale. Did I want father’s life? I curtsied. “Yes, that would be wonderful, so long as I can stay a farmer. Thank you.”
At dinner that night I sat between Clem and Mel. Ever since the conversation with the king in the throne room and the one with her that followed, she had been treating me like a sister. I hadn’t told anyone of being knighted, so I believe the only ones that knew were those who were informed when I was. Three people, including myself.
“Etinla of Brightvale, please come forward,” growled the king.
With a toss of my head, I walked up. And I was knighted.
I wished I could have saved the look on Clem’s face, his mouth in that “o” or the huge grin that seemed to posess the faces of both Natha and Claire. They were all so ridiculous that I had to bite back a laugh.
After the official ceremony was over, Skarl said, “I now present to you Lady Etinla, Knight of Meridell!”
“Also known as Ettie,” came a voice from the crowd. My eyes met Clem’s and I let out that laugh.