Loyalty and Yooyus
Illiley stared out the window and sighed. Spring in Mystery Island was, as always, beyond compare. Flowers and plants of every shape and color were exploding from the earth, finally released from winter’s clutches. The scent of the lush vegetation was bewitching, hanging on the warm humid air of the island. The trees and flowers vibrated with the sound of buzzers flitting from flower to flower, plant to plant, busy as always with their single minded urgency. The transition from spring to summer was nearly complete.
Illiley was in the most beautiful place, at the most beautiful time of year, and it depressed her.
Late spring and early summer did not make Illiley think of lush vegetation, warm ocean waves, picnics, or anything else that Illiley’s family cared about. Illiley thought only of one game: yooyuball.
The end of spring and the start of the hot summer season left the thought of the deeply competitive game in Illiley’s head. When she inhaled, instead of smelling the scent of flowers, she smelled sweat, the leathery scent of a professional yooyu ball field, and the scent of burnt ash and smoke from the firey and exploding yooyus. When she closed her eyes, Illiley did not hear the buzz of buzzers in the trees, nigh she heard the stomping, screaming, and clapping of the crowd cheering their favorite players to victory.
But Illiley could not openly admit to her family her passion. Illiley was a delicate island Peophin. Her family expected her to spend her days splashing with her friends in the shallow island streams, braiding garlands of flowers to wear to that night’s bonfire picnic extravaganza, collecting sweet fruit from the trees. If Illiley had ever been so rash as to dare letting her father see her in a tight protective uniform, he would be shocked and then storm off to the Master of the Training School on the island, and persuade him to watch over Illiley.
And so, Illiley guarded her secret and stared outside in a state of utter gloom.
Illiley could not even confide in her friends her despair. It wasn’t just that her father would never approve, her friends would consider Illiley a traitor if she admitted the truth.
A normal yooyu obsessed Mystery Islander like herself could have run away, asked her friends for help, and auditioned for the team. Illiley’s proud Mystery Island friends would consider Illiley to be a hero. They would tell people, “I’m friends with Illiley, you know, she’s a leading scorer on Mystery Island’s yooyuball team. I’ll introduce you to her when she’s back from Altador.”
No, Illiley did not want to be a leading scorer for Mystery Island.
When Illiley was a young Peophin, she had been very ill. All the experts in Mystery Island had tried their best to treat Illiley, mixing remedy after cure after potion after tonic in the mixing pot. They analyzed predictions in an attempt to discover a message on how to cure Illiley. But it was all in vain.
Fearing for her daughter, Illiley’s mother took her to Faerieland and begged the faeries for help. They too tried to help, to no avail. Finally, after nearly every faerie had tried to help Illiley, Fyora herself examined Illiley.
“Illiley, I am sorry,” Queen Fyora said. Her voice was sweet and musical like chimes. “It is not within my power to banish this illness from you. However, I believe one of my sisters can help you. I will give you a potion, take it and this scroll to Illusen in Meridell. I think she will be able to fashion a cure.”
And with that, Illiley and her mother went to Meridell. When they arrived, Illiley was shocked. Meridell could not have been more different than home! Sure, both places were lush and green, but where Mystery Island was an uncontrolled burst of color and glee, Meridell was calm, green, soothing. The people there were friendly, but controlled and refined. The Knights Illiley encountered treated her with such kindness, and yet they seemed so powerful and in control of everything around them.
Fyora had been correct, and Illusen was able to cure Illiley. Illusen advised Illiley and her mother to remain in Meridell until Illiley was stronger, cautioning that the long return journey to Mystery Island might cause Illiley to fall ill again if she attempted it too quickly.
The season that Illiley stayed in Meridell was the happiest she had ever been. She loved to curtsey, she loved being greeted as “milady” and she laughed at King Skarl’s jesters. Once, she was even treated to a royal feast by King Skarl for making him laugh by telling him silly and nonsensical stories.
At the royal feast, Illiley met someone who changed her life forever. His name was “Wizard” Windelle, and he was the talented captain of the Meridell yooyuball team.
The Wiz was so gentle and kind, for all of his celebrity. He could have anything he pleased, and yet he took nothing. He exemplified the calm strength and morals of Meridell that so appealed to Illiley. At the feast, he treated Illiley with respect and kindness, rather than treating Illiley like an invalid. For once, Illiley was treated like a living being with intelligence, not just some young sick thing. Wizard asked her questions, and listened to her answers with seriousness. For the rest of the time Illiley spent in Meridell, she spent as much time as she could around the yooyuball genius.
One day, he offered to let Illiley watch one of the team’s practice sessions, against a team that was trained to think like Darigan’s yooyuball team. He made Illiley take an oath that she would never discuss what she saw with anyone else, and when she swore her oath, she saw nothing but trust in the Wiz’s eyes. When the Wiz trusted Illiley, it wasn’t just a person trusting her, it was all of Meridell.
From that day on, Illiley was not only determined to secretly become a yooyuball master, but that one day she would permanently be a part of such a solid and trustworthy society. Illiley was obsessed with Meridellian customs.
The day that Illiley left Meridell, Illiley felt crushing despair. She had found a home that matched her personality, and that refined home filled with knights, and lords, and oaths, and ceremony was being ripped from her life.
As Illiley and her mother left Meridell, Illiley whispered, “One day, I shall return. I swear that to you, Meridell, land of my heart.”
By Meridellian standards, such an oath was unbreakable. With all of her honor, Illiley had chosen to commit to Meridell.
When Illiley returned home, she began to carefully acquire all the yooyuball gear that she could. Yooyus were the hardest for her to obtain, so she began crafting her own clockwork yooyuballs in the privacy of the jungle. Illiley became talented at creating clockwork yooyus that reacted (at least in her mind) similarly to real life Darigan, Mutant, Fire, and all of the other types of yooyuballs.
Each year, during the Altador Cup, Illiley pretended to support the Mystery Island team. The matches between Meridell and Mystery Island were easiest, she was able to pretend to be analyzing the opponent instead of analyzing her comrades’ every move. The season always filled her with glee, feeling close to her Meridell family. But the cup also reminded Illiley where she was, and of an oath she had to fulfill.
Looking out the window, Illiley was watching the Mystery Island team file into the boat that would bring them to the main land, closer to Altador. Illiley had feigned having caught neoflu to avoid the farewell and good luck parade.
Gloomily staring outside, the answer to all of her troubles suddenly appeared.
“I can’t just sit here,” Illiley told herself. “If I swim fast, I can grab ahold of the boat and go to Altador. The Wiz would help me train to eventually be on the team!”
Quickly, Illiley threw together her training gear and a bit of food into a waterproof bag. She ran to the beach and dove in, swimming after the boat faster than she had ever swam before. A rush of glee overtook Illiley as she caught onto the rear of the ship. Holding on, she suddenly quivered with fear as she realized what she had done.
Her parents would not know where she had gone. They would be frantic. When they finally learned that she was with the Meridellians, they would feel betrayed. Illiley was a traitor to her family; they would probably never speak to her again. Illiley began to cry, still hanging onto the rear of the ship. It was too late to swim back to Mystery Island, she had used all of her energy just getting to the ship. Now, it was all Illiley could to to hold on. She would have to wait until the boat docked to change plans.
“Wiz will help you,” Illiley told herself. “No matter what you decide, he will help you.”
Hours ticked by, and the sun began to set. Illiley wondered how long it would take for the ship to get to Altador. Suddenly, she heard a shocked voice from above.
“Hey, Bertie! Come and take a look at this!”
Illiley looked up, and saw a face. The face was very familiar, a face that she had seen every year since she was a young Peophin. Leaning over the side and looking straight at her was Teylor Nix, Mystery Island’s left forward. The tall and lean nimmo was astonished.
Quickly, Teylor was joined by the lovely and one hundred percent island native face of Bertie Shurtz, the center forward for Mystery Island’s yooyuball team.
“Well, someone must have been desperate to follow us!” said Bertie with a wry smile on her face.
Illiley panicked. She could lie, and tell them she wanted to play for Mystery Island one day. They would probably send her home, and she would return to missing Meridell. She could tell the truth, and be sent home in disgrace. What to say? What to do? Illiley fainted.
When Illiley came around, she was lying in a hammock, the faces of all of the Mystery Island yooyuballers surrounding her.
“Oh good, you’re awake!” said Bertie. “That was very risky the way you followed us! You have some guts!”
Illiley was shocked. They seemed concerned, friendly. They didn’t seem angry or like they were planning on interrogating her.
“So we’ve talked,” Teylor said. “We need some help. Every year, Big Bird’s cousin acts as our watergirl. But the night before we left she ran off with some Moltaran guard. We didn’t have time to replace her before we left. We would love it if you joined our team.”
Illiley was torn. She was destined to be a great Meridell knight! Not some rowdy flamboyant island dweller.
Bertie smiled. “You don’t have to answer today. We won’t be in Altador for another week; give us your answer then, kid. Get some rest.”
Bertie nudged Teylor and left the cabin, the team taking the hint and following her out.
If she was a watergirl for Mystery Island, she could watch them train, help Meridell beat them. Something deep inside her hurt at the thought, although she couldn’t understand why. Her family might forgive her for running off to be with the Mystery Island team, never for being a traitorous spy...
Illiley dozed off. While she slept, she dreamed of the day Wizard Windelle took her to pick their own berries. He had made her a crown of five leaf clovers, and they had gotten into a food fight with all the berries they had collected. In the dream, she was lying on the blanket they had brought, surrounded by the fields, watching the clouds drift by.
“Wizard,” Illiley said, “I wish I was from Meridell. I wish I was on your team. I just want to play yooyuball with the other Meridellians.”
Wizard smiled. He held a long piece of grass in his hand, and a mootix was crawling along its length. Deep in thought, he was examining his new friend. After a moment, he turned to Illiley.
“Meridell isn’t your home, Illiley,” he told her. “Still, if you want it, you can play for whatever team you wish... you just have to prove yourself in the arena first.”
Illiley shuddered. “Wiz, it’s all going wrong. My family is going to hate me, and I don’t even know if your team will accept me.”
Wizard stared at Illiley with that mysteriousness so often present in dreams. “Illiley, you idealize us knights. Sure, Meridell is awesome. You don’t want to come and live with us. Knights are noble, selfless, and proud.”
Wizard’s words made Illiley think. Her actions had been in her self interest, rash, and extremely foolish. Had she thought that she would hold onto the ship through several weeks of travel?
The realization hit her with a punch.
“I’m not selfless. I am not a knight in character.”
Wizard gave Illiley a sad smile. “You are passionate, outgoing, and rash. Boisterous. It is these characteristics that I appreciate in you.”
Illiley began to wonder. Did she even want to be a knight? The Mystery Islanders had called her gutsy. Anyone else would have called her foolish. Dream Wizard was right, she was not a knight, and that was ok. She was one hundred percent islander.
Illiley smiled in her sleep. Tomorrow, she would give Bertie her answer.