The Quest to Thorn Bridge Castle: Part Three
Also by thropp
As a royal knight, Sir Abezil was far from afraid, but the Crokabeks lining the tall trees of the Meridell Forest were beginning to cause his stomach to knot up. They perched on low branches, just centimeters away from the top of his helm, and stared. Their red eyes seemed to glow, reflecting off the soft light at the end of Caitiry's wand as she led the way.
The explorers finally stumbled out of the dark forest, shielding their eyes from the sudden onslaught of bright sunshine that assaulted them. It was while he was stumbling over an exposed tree root when Mazeu felt the hair on top of his head part and heard a whistle, followed by a dull thud. Whipping his head around, the Kyrii found an arrow embedded in the soft soil outside the forest.
"Well, that is a nice greeting," he grumbled. "It is always nice to be given a warm welcome in a new land."
A small Turtum appeared and dug the arrow out of the ground. "I hate Ultimate Bullseye," the petpet griped and turned back toward Meridell. Abe, Cait, and Maz exchanged a quick look and followed the Turtum until they hit the gate into Meridell Castle.
Meridell Castle was in a shambles by the time Abezil, Mazeu, and Caitiry arrived. "Code Red!" the servants shouted as they rushed from room to room. "He's in a sour mood today!"
King Skarl, better known as the Grumpy Old King, was a temperamental Skeith. Growing up in his brother, King Hagan's, shadow, Skarl had learned that the only way to get attention was by acting out. As a child, it was cute. However, now that he was grown - and the ruler of Meridell - it was a trait that was highly undesirable.
The adventurers stood in the great hall, wondering what the problem was, when a tall, frazzled looking Lenny dressed in Meridellian robes appeared. "His Highness is in no state to entertain visitors this afternoon," he huffed, wiping his brow with a red and blue handkerchief.
"We must speak with him," countered Abe. "It's extremely urgent. Is there anything we could do?"
The words had barely left the Mynci's mouth when a loud growling thundered through the marble hall. Mazeu's eyes widened and he looked at the Lenny helplessly.
"Oh, don't worry!" the Lenny chided. "That's just Skarl's stomach. It's lunch time and we don't have the ingredients for his favorite meal."
"Let us get them," Caitiry interrupted. "If we do that, you have to let us speak with King Skarl."
The Lenny huffed and began writing out a list of items. "His Highness wants a Berry and Marrow Casserole followed by an Epple Sandwich for dessert, and a Fresh Fruit Goblet to wash it all down." He stopped writing for a moment and looked at the group gathered before him. "Just a word of advice: if you buy any Mortogberries, you might as well not come back. Skarl despises Mortogberries. His last attendant did not heed my warnings and was banished from court. He now works at the Rubbish Dump."
The smell of dung roasting in the Meridellian sun was something Cait could never get used to, no matter how many years she lived or how many aroma changing smells she cast. To compound the stench of fertilizer, the Rubbish Dump lay just feet away. Moldy Potatoes mixed with Rotten Carrots and Very Very Stale Bread loaves. Apparently, King Skarl was not a fan of vegetables.
"Sniddberries 'ere!" hollered a vendor. "Get yer Sniddberries 'ere!"
Blue Fishberries lay over pink Jumbleberries, whose stems tangled with those of purple Felberries. Cait inhaled the sweet aroma of fresh blueberries and strawberries and felt her stomach begin to growl. The smell outside had somehow done nothing at all to dissipate her appetite.
Alas, they were not there to feed her. The state King Skarl's appetite was far more pressing.
The travelers walked through the market, snatching up Epples and Lettuce, Marrows and berries of every type – except Mortogberries, of course. In no time, they had marked off every item on the shopping list the Lenny drafted and were back at the castle, handing the supplies over to the court chef.
The chef prepared Skarl's meal in record time and Maz, Abe, and Cait were each given an item to carry in and present to the ravenous Skeith.
"Bring more food!" demanded the portly king when they entered the feasting hall. He sat atop his throne, round belly balancing an empty plate that he ran his fingers across, searching for any lingering crumbs. "Where is my casserole?!"
Mazeu stumbled forward with his dish and bowed to the king. "Enough pleasantries, Kyrii. Just give me the plate!"
Mazeu placed the Berry and Marrow Casserole before the king, and Abe and Cait followed suit with the Epple Sandwich and Fresh Fruit Goblet. Skarl hastily dug into the dishes, flecks of berries flying his mouth and showering his tunic. He took a deep gulp from the goblet and focused on the unfamiliar servers.
"Who are you?" he asked, juice dribbling down his chin. "What do you want?"
"We were sent by Queen Fyora," Abezil replied. "We need your piece of the map to Thorn Bridge Castle."
King Skarl snapped his fingers and the harried Lenny stepped forward. "Get them the map piece," the king ordered. The Lenny scurried away, and Skarl shouted after him, "And bring me a slice of chocolate cake!"
Moments later, the Lenny returned with pieces of map and cake in each hand. "Thank you for your help today," he said, handing over the former to Abezil. "And good luck on your journey."
Abe, Maz, and Cait bowed. Their journey, though only beginning, was proving to be quite challenging. They only hoped that their experience in Roo Island would be calmer.
The Roo Island coastline was a spectacular view, in Mazeu's opinion. Much better than that of Mystery or Krawk Island. The stretch of white sand that lay under the Games Room boardwalk looked so inviting, all the Kyrii wanted to do was stretch out and soak up the sun for days.
Mazeu, Abezil, and Caitiry's boat docked and they tumbled out into the Roo Island sunshine. In the distance, they could barely make out King Roo's castle; the blue was hardly visible against the clear skies. With their next destination in sight and time working against them, the trio began their hike across Roo Island.
When they passed the Merry Go Round, Caitiry's eyes widened. "Roll up! Roll up!" the Yellow Blumaroo operator chanted. "Enjoy a ride on Roo Island's world famous Merry Go Round! Sit atop a hand painted wooden Uni and relax as you spin round and round to beautiful Merry Go Round sounds!"
The Aisha gasped, desire written all over her face. Before she could even speak, Abezil put an arm around her and steered her away. "No time," was all he said.
"The Roo Island Merry Go Round is always open for business," the operator called behind them. "Why don't you try a night time spin? It really is quite lovely watching the stars as you whirl around."
One day, Caitiry would know how lovely a night time ride on the Roo Island Merry Go Round actually was. Today, sadly, was not that day.
King Roo's palace was not as extravagant as that of King Hagan, but what it lacked in opulence, it made up for in character. King Roo's throne room was draped in heavy fabrics of green and magenta, purple and blue, all trimmed with gold. His throne itself was a scarlet and gold affair, topped with Blumaroo ears and a spectacular jeweled crown.
The King himself was wearing a yellow crown that split at the top into five spikes. Atop each spike sat a different colored die. He wore a crimson velvet robe lined with purple silk and carried a staff as blue as the waves that crashed upon the beach outside.
"I hear you are on a quest to Thorn Bridge Castle," the Blumaroo king giggled. In the hand that did not grip his scepter, the king dangled a weather-beaten piece of parchment before the adventurers. "Fancy a game of chance?"
Before he would hand over his Thorn Bridge Castle map piece, King Roo demanded that the travelers win a round of the game he created: Dice-A-Roo. The object of the game was pretty straightforward, so Mazeu did not think twice before volunteering to complete the task.
The Kyrii smiled and rolled the red die during his first game. A Spotted Blumaroo said, "This job is so much better than being a bingo ball." His pot went up 3 NP and his spirits soared. This would be a piece of cake, the Kyrii decided.
During his fourth game, Mazeu made it all the way up to the green die. After he scored a big win, adding 7 NP to his pot, a Chocolate Blumaroo said, "Blumaroos love Nachos. I bet you didn't know that!" He did not, but the fact was fascinating nonetheless.
In his game nine, a passing Tyrannian Blumaroo urged Mazeu to, "Take the money!! Take the money!!" Maz did not even get to the blue die.
"My tail hurts!" moaned a Purple Blumaroo at the beginning of Mazeu's eleventh game. After getting a game over on the first roll, Mazeu sympathized. "So does my head."
Mazeu finally made it to the yellow die in the sixteenth game he played. Upon winning a tomato, a nearby Pirate Blumaroo begged, "Please stop the Monocerous from eating all my friends." If anything, the angry Kyrii thought, I will assist him.
It was during his twenty-first game when Mazeu received the most disheartening news. A passing Blumaroo smiled and asked, "Have you heard about the sixth dice? It's a secret!"
"Please tell me he's joking," Maz cried. "He's a court jester, isn't he? I can't even get to the third dice; I refuse to believe there's a sixth!"
The next game progressed much like the preceding ones. "I think you can win faeries from this game," postulated a nearby Blumaroo.
"Can I win a Faerie Queen?" Maz sobbed.
In game twenty five, Mazeu's pot never grew. Instead, each time he rolled, he would lose NP. After losing a total of 68 NP, King Roo laid a hand on Mazeu's shoulder. "Don't worry, your pot can't go below zero!" he said cheerfully. Mazeu died a little inside.
Finally, in game thirty, Mazeu rolled the silver die and landed on jackpot.
King Roo stroked the colored dice in his hand. "You may keep your jackpot winnings, Lord Mazeu," the Blumaroo declared. He dug around in his cloak pocket for the map piece and handed it over to the Kyrii.
Mazeu, who was beyond numb from boredom, could only nod. Dried drool was crusted on his chin and the corners of his mouth cracked as he opened it to speak. "You are too kind, Your Highness."
With the help of his companions, Mazeu gathered his 5 NP jackpot and the tomato he won so long ago it was already on its way to becoming a Very Rotten Tomato. Mazeu thought it would be a lovely addition to the Meridell Rubbish Dump.
As the trio walked out of King Roo's castle, Mazeu could still see the dice rolling in front of him, even when he closed his eyes.
To be continued...