The Quest to Thorn Bridge Castle: Part Two
Also by thropp
King Hagan was a Skeith as green as the pastures that surrounded his kingdom, with a beard as yellow as the sun that shone brightly through the windows of his study in Brightvale Castle. He was a very practical Neopet. When Mazeu and Abezil told him they were given a mission to Thorn Bridge Castle, King Hagan advised them to go to Thorn Bridge Castle. They clearly had no other options.
"But Your Highness, the location of Thorn Bridge Castle is a mystery!" Mazeu declared incredulously.
"I am not dense, youngin'! I already knew that!" replied the King with a hearty chuckle. When King Hagan laughed, it was a booming sound which emanated from deep within him. It was an infectious laugh; one to which Abezil and Mazeu were not immune. The Kyrii and Mynci laughed nervously, unsure whether or not the wise old King Hagan was going mad.
"The whereabouts of Thorn Bridge Castle are unknown to any one Neopet," the King explained as he wiped tears of mirth from the corner of his eyes. "That is not to say that its location is unknown entirely."
King Hagan gestured to a corner in his study chambers, where a Neopia World Globe stood. The golden stand sparkled in candlelight and cast a shadow against the cold stone wall, where Abezil leaned with his arms crossed. "Legend tells us that the castle is hidden somewhere in Neopia. The exact knowledge of the location is said to be so powerful that a piece of a map was given to each of the rulers of the Neopian lands. Once you have all the pieces, you will be able to find the castle."
"But there are nineteen different lands in Neopia. Wouldn't the pieces be small? How can you know that they have not been lost over the years?" asked Abezil.
"Well, you are not the sharpest tack in the drawer, but that was not too bad," the King commented. "Map pieces were only given to the rulers of the lands you see here." King Hagan whirled the globe around to show Brightvale. "The Kings and Queens of this continent have map pieces, since their kingdoms are closest to Thorn Bridge Castle."
"So we would need to travel to all these places?" wondered Mazeu aloud, tracing his finger from Meridell over to Roo Island and then across to Shenkuu. "How many pieces are there in all? Do you know who has them?"
King Hagan smiled cryptically. "Is the sky blue?" The Skeith picked up a roll of parchment and laid the tip of a quill against it. "Meridell. Roo Island. There are two in the Haunted Woods; the Brain Tree was given one of his own, and he also holds one for the Esophagor. Altador. Shenkuu. Six map pieces for six kingdoms. I will warn you, though. The rulers are not likely to just hand over their map pieces to you. You may be asked to prove your worthiness."
"What about the Lost Desert? Or Faerieland?" asked Sir Abezil. "Do they have a piece there?"
"Fyora has enough to worry about already, and it was not thought to be necessary to provide a piece to King Coltzan all those years ago," Hagan replied. "If you make it out to the desert, you probably would not make it back. In that environment, a map piece would help you about as much as a surfboard."
With that, Mazeu the cartographer and Sir Abezil the knight departed Brightvale Castle for Meridell. After speaking with King Hagan, they would take a ferry across to Roo Island, and then travel to the rest of the lands. It was a solid plan, Mazeu thought, and one that would not take but a few days to see through to completion.
That was the young Kyrii's last thought before the ground in front of him burst into flame.
Caitiry tapped her boot on the ground as hard and loudly as she could without outright stomping. The Aisha knew she should have left sooner, but she could not find her wand, her robes were wrinkled, her Usul Alarm Clock malfunctioned so she woke up late, and... This was just not her day. This roadblock was only the icing on top of the Lemon Aisha Cake.
She craned her neck, trying to get a better look at what was holding up the flow of the path and saw a Mynci, swathed in gleaming silver armor, and a Kyrii, wrapped in robes similar to hers with a satchel stretched across his shoulders.
"Gentlemen!" she called. "Can you move out of the way?"
The Mynci and Kyrii turned around and glared at her.
"Please?" she added with a sheepish smile.
"We would love to, my lady, but we are being refused passage," the Mynci responded haughtily.
"What is stopping you?" the Aisha asked. "Is your ego blocking your way?" The knight snarled and Cait chuckled. Part of becoming a knight must be having your sense of humor removed, she mused.
"All right, all right," she relented. "What is the problem?"
Caitiry gathered the bottom of her robes in one hand, careful not to let the hem drag in the mud, and marched toward the duo. She glanced to the left, then to the right, and finally gazed between the Mynci and Kyrii, but could not spot what was blocking their path.
She opened her mouth to ask, once again, what the holdup was, but was cut off by the Kyrii clearing his throat. His finger extended towards the sky, and as Caitiry's eyes followed the direction in which he pointed, she could feel them widen with astonishment.
Hovering in the sky was a large Darigan Draik. One of his purple scales was as big as Caitiry's hand. The long talons that extended from his forehead seemed long enough to create a bridge between Kreludor and Brightvale. When the Draik snarled, rows of yellow, slimy teeth were revealed, and smoke trailed from his nostrils. As he flew overhead, his silver eyes glowed with amusement, lined by rows of razor-edged horns. Tendrils of smoke trailed out from his nostrils and Caitiry knew that he was threatening the two adventurers, daring them to try crossing the bridge. Sure, they might make it over, but they would also be bald after having their fur singed off by a fireball.
"Hey, big guy!" Cait shouted. Her knees knocked together when the Draik turned his gaze to her. "How about you let me and these two pass, and I will let you live?" Blustering was not her strong suit, and Caitiry knew the Draik could probably see right through her charade. She could never slay a Draik! She could also never be bald, so this seemed to the Aisha as good a choice as any.
"I AM THE MIGHTY DHEVIEN!" the Draik bellowed, causing trees to shake and the ocean to shatter into thousands of tiny rippling pools. "NO PUNY AISHA IS GOING TO ORDER ME AROUND!"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," groaned Cait. "Do not make me move you out of the way."
"What are you going to do?" snorted the Mynci. "Poke him with your little twig?"
"Actually, Lord Prissy Pants, I had something different in mind!" Caitiry waved her wand in a clockwise circle, muttered a spell under her breath, and flicked her wrist. The Draik suddenly froze in the sky. Confusion flashed in his silver eyes for a moment, before he promptly plummeted into the sea.
With the Draik out of the way, Caitiry dusted off her hands and pushed her way between the slack jawed Mynci and Kyrii. After a few steps, she paused.
"And it is not a twig, it is a wand."
Mazeu scratched the back of his head bewilderedly. He had never seen such a powerful spell cast so effortlessly, especially by a sorcerer so small. Sorceress, he corrected himself. What an impressive Aisha.
"You know," he muttered to his companion. "She might be a bit pushy, but I think she would be a good addition to our team."
Abezil looked every bit as surprised by the Aisha as Mazeu felt. "Agreed."
The boys ran ahead and called out to the sorceress. "Hey! Wait a second!"
The Aisha huffed and faced them. "You have one minute. Say what you must."
"What would you say if we offered you the adventure of a lifetime?" asked the Mynci.
"Not interested. Forty-five seconds."
"Riches beyond your imagination?" the Kyrii offered.
"No thanks. Thirty."
"A chance to leave this all behind for a new life?!" cried the desperate knight.
"Quite happy as I am. Twelve seconds. Better make this last one good." The Aisha began ticking the last few seconds off on her hands.
With no other choice, Mazeu took a deep breath. "The opportunity to practice your magic as an aide to Queen Fyora of Faerieland?"
She had two fingers left, but found herself intrigued. "Expound," she ordered.
The Mynci and Kyrii told their story as it had unfolded thus far. The Aisha's eyes glowed with excitement as they talked about their journey, where they had been and where they had yet to go, and she felt glee bubble up inside. If she joined up with these two, as inept as they may be, and saved the queen, she was bound to go down in history as a brilliant magician. A grand sorceress. Caitiry the Wonderful? No, too passé. Caitiry the Magnificent? Oh, yes; that was perfect. She could already hear the crowd cheer as she stood on the balcony of the Faerieland castle, waving next to the Faerie Queen herself.
"Deal," she said, sticking out her hand. "But you two can find your own ways around the next Draik. I won't be saving you every step of the way."
Mazeu and Abezil each shook her hand and introduced themselves.
"Caitiry." The Aisha bowed. "I'm sure you won't forget it."
To be continued...