The Quest to Thorn Bridge Castle: Part One
Also by thropp
It has been said that a hero is born, not made. The seeds of strength are planted in a hero long before they learn to walk or wield a sword. Our story, however, begins a little differently: with a dash of bravery, a pinch of intelligence, and a sprinkle of magic. This is the tale of how three ordinary Neopets morphed into the greatest heroes of all.
It was the second day in the Month of Relaxing, and every inch of Faerieland was decorated. Lavender streamers stretched from the roof of the Poogle Races cottage all the way down to the golden water faerie statue in the Healing Springs. Pink Birthday Balloons hovered in the sky above Jhudora's Bluff. You could not even see the ground in Faerie City, as it was covered with the remnants from the Jeweled Tiara Shower that took place earlier that morning.
From his position perched atop his Uni, Sir Abezil felt sweat begin to trickle slowly down the back of his neck and pool in his armor. His Extra Large Jousting Lance was weighing his arm down and fatigue was coursing through his body. Still, he knew he had to continue in the tournament. It was not every day he had the chance to joust at the birthday celebration of the Queen of Faerieland.
The Mynci was exhausted after seven rounds, but he was determined to win the eighth and final match. His opponent was a burly green Skeith who was so large Abe could hardly find the steed upon which he rode. The only visible parts of the poor Uni were its four small, white and brown spotted legs. The Skeith glared at Abezil through the holes in his helmet and adjusted his lance. Abe's lips quirked up into a smirk and the knight gripped his shield closer as he steered his Uni into place alongside the dividing bar. His mount snorted and scraped its hooves against the ground, ready to charge.
Sir Abezil carefully angled his lance and leaned forward. A trumpet blew and Abe was off, galloping at a full charge toward his opponent. Through a cloud of dust kicked up by his Uni, Abe could see the outline of the other rider. He titled his lance up and pointed it right into the Skeith's hefty belly. Seconds later, the Skeith fell backwards off his Uni and the crowd erupted into a deafening roar that would rival that of a Grarrl.
Abezil dismounted and tugged off his helmet. He ran a hand through his hair and waved to the cheering audience. He was thrilled to have won the joust. The prize was bound to be phenomenal, considering the event and the venue. You do not win in Faerieland and receive a You Did It! card.
While he basked in the glory of victory, a small air faerie appeared on the balcony of the platform where Queen Fyora was supposed to be seated in her throne.
"Well done, Sir Abezil," the faerie commended. "Thank you for entertaining us all today. If you would join me in the castle, your prize shall be given." With that, her periwinkle wings flapped, and away the faerie flew.
Still chuffed from his win, Abezil took his time as he strutted from the jousting pit up to the castle, the applause still echoing in his ears.
Mazeu leaned casually against the tall oak door and glanced down at the tablet in his hands while he pretended to write. It was not that he was nosey, he was just curious. Two totally different things, he told himself. The Mynci knight who won Fyora's birthday joust was meeting with the queen herself. Though it was her birthday, nobody had actually seen Fyora outside of her chambers all day. Mazeu just wanted to know why. What was the matter with her?
Footsteps clicked on the wooden floor on the other side of the door and startled the Kyrii. He adjusted his spectacles and pressed his ear against the wood.
"That was quite a feat, Sir Abezil," remarked a muffled female voice. It was a regal voice, though hoarse, as if the owner had just awakened from a long sleep. "I am impressed. You must be quite brave."
"Thank you, your highness," her companion replied. "I do only what I can."
Mazeu grimaced. Whoever this Sir Abezil was, he sure sounded full of himself. Such a trait was not at all expected from a knight.
"You are too modest, Sir," the lady said again. After a pause, she continued. "As I am sure you have noticed, I did not attend any festivities for my birthday."
Wait a moment, Mazeu thought. The hoarse voice belonged to Fyora? Did she have Neomonia or something?
"I have, Your Highness. I do hope all is well," Sir Abezil acknowledged.
"As it happens, Sir Abezil, I am not well. In fact, I am very, very far from well. Recently, I have developed a serious case of Doldrums. That is part of the reason I have asked you to meet with me.
"You have proved yourself as a very capable knight this afternoon, as strong and brave as any, if not more. I need such a knight to help me. Doldrums is a very rare condition and I am weakening by the day. The cure is Mushroom Ointment, but the mushroom used can only be found in a faraway land. It is called the Glowing Mushroom, and is said to grow only in the gardens of Thorn Bridge Castle. I would task you with locating this castle and retrieving the mushroom for me. I can assure you that you would be handsomely rewarded if you should succeed."
Outside, Mazeu blanched. Thorn Bridge Castle?! He had only ever heard tales of the elusive castle. A cartographer by trade, Mazeu had travelled the world far and wide. He had sailed in Krawk Island and glided over the magma pools of Moltara. He'd seen ancient cave paintings in Tyrannia and even plunged into the depths of the Maraquan Ruins. In all his travels, the Kyrii had never once come close to locating Thorn Bridge Castle.
"Your Highness," Abezil said. "I would be honored to procure a Glowing Mushroom for you. I will do all I can to ensure your safety."
Fyora sighed heavily with relief. "I thank you, Sir Abezil, and I wish you the best of luck."
Footsteps once again echoed on the other side of the door and Mazeu quickly ripped his ear away. When the heavy door creaked open, the young Kyrii pretended to be absorbed in the book he held in his hands, though his eyes didn't quite focus on the pages. Sir Abezil exited the chamber and looked at Mazeu.
"Good book?" he asked, taking a step towards Maz. His armor clanked together when he moved, like some kind of barbaric symphony. Mazeu swallowed hard and nodded, offering the Mynci a small, tight smile.
"What is it about?" Abezil inquired.
"W-w-well, it is about a knight..." said Mazeu. Abezil shifted his helmet from one hand to the other. "And what does this knight do?"
"He, um... He rescues a princess?"
"A princess or a queen?" the knight pressed. "Or a Faerie Queen?"
Maz felt his face redden and a coat of sweat build upon his forehead. Under the Mynci knight's gaze, he seemed to crumble. Could he tell a lie? Of course he could! But the real question was could he make it believable? Absolutely not. Especially when he was standing in a pool of his own sweat.
"It might have been a Queen," Mazeu stammered.
"Did you write this brilliant piece yourself?" asked the knight. "How fanciful you must be to come up with such an original plot!"
"No, Sir, I am no writer. I am only a cartographer," announced Mazeu.
"Ah," the Mynci sighed. "And do cartographers often listen at the doors of Queens, or is it just a habit you picked up?"
"I am so very sorry; it was not my intention to eavesdrop on such a serious conversation!" the Kyrii cried. When in doubt, he thought, skip the lie and go straight to groveling. "Please, forgive my intrusion."
Feeling Sir Abezil's unforgiving gaze upon him, Mazeu was encouraged to continue. How else could he apologize? Polish the knight's armor? Groom his Uni? Volunteer as a target while he practiced his jousting skills? No, he had something better in mind. He would help the knight on his quest.
"If I may, though, I would advise you to go speak with King Hagan in Brightvale." Mazeu lowered his voice and leaned in closer to Sir Abezil. "Thorn Bridge Castle's location is hidden, and nobody in all of Neopia knows more than Hagan."
Sir Abezil watched the strange little Kyrii and weighed his words. "What else do you know of Thorn Bridge Castle?"
Mazeu grinned triumphantly. "Let me go with you and I will share the maps I have drawn and all knowledge I have of Neopia."
To be continued...