Number Five: Part Two
The warm sunlight shone down on my back as I began the first legs of my adventure. Even from the poorest sections of Meridell, the gaudy castle could be seen... almost as if it were taunting the less fortunate citizens. -- It's not fair! Why did the old, lazy Skeith deserve to live in the lap of luxury, while we slaved away at our farm in our shack?
I trekked on, trying to ignore the castle. I knew I'd be out of Meridell soon, my future lie somewhere... and I'd find it. I wasn't going to let a castle get in my way.
After a few minutes of walking I reached the sign that read, 'Brightvale – 50 Miles West'. Brightvale would be my next stop; I didn't have much of a choice. With no money, I wouldn't be able to afford a ship to take me anywhere... and Brightvale was the closet city within walking distance; I hoped I could make a few Neopoints there.
Smiling, I proudly walked down the path, only to be stopped by a Chia making his living as a bard.
"Ah, a young Lupe filled with an adventurous spirit -- no doubt! I have been having quite the writer's block lately... but now I doth have met you! You could be my muse – my inspiration to get my song writing back on its feet! Would you mind terribly to let me write something for you? – free of charge, of course!"
I'd never felt so much admiration in my life – here Neopians had no idea of my past nor did they really care; I wasn't going to be pushed around for being the rock farmer's son. I accepted his offer, and that song still resonates as fresh as it did the day I heard it.
"There once was a Lupe filled courage, was he,
And he traveled – he traveled, oh he traveled to me!
I could read the gleam in his eyes as clear as day,
An adventurous spirit, which no one could sway!
Not I is - a fortune teller, but I can foresee:
This young Lupe's future filled fortune and glee!
He could be an explorer or even a famous knight,
Saving the land from a terrible blight!
He could fly to the moon and visit Kreludor, fair,
Flying among the stars, and the light air!
Maybe a pirate sailing the Neopian Seas,
Or even a simple bard, just like me.
But, whatever this Lupe chooses to do,
Just know: he will always be the same – adventurous and true."
By the time he finished his song, my face turned as red as a tomato. I wasn't used to this – kindness, save for my parent's affection. I was used to being laughed at, not admired.
"Come now, my boy! Don't be shy... someone like you deserves praise! You were courageous enough to head to Brightvale alone. What takes a young lad like you out of Meridell anyway?"
"I'm off to find out where I belong; Meridell just doesn't seem like a fit for me."
"Ah, I could tell by that glow in your eyes – you have a spirit of adventure... it truly has inspired me! But, I can also tell that you are troubled... homesick already, I see?"
"Sort of – I hope my mother can manage the farm in my leave; my father is too busy as a knight to assist. But, it's not only that... I really have no Neopoints. How will I ever 'fly to the moon' or 'sails the seas' or anything else you said in that wonderful job, if I can't get any money?"
"That is quite the predicament I see, one that cannot be solved so easily..."
Suddenly an idea came upon me, "Would you mind if I tried to sing like you? Maybe we could perform together?"
"Well, my boy, the pay isn't too great, but it should be enough to start your fate. Go on, give it a try: write a quick song about me. And we shall see what singing talent adorns thee!"
"Uh... alright..." I was clearly nervous; I had never sung – let alone written something in my life. "There once a bard, and... and... he helped me. H... he... was kind... and... and nice...?"
"Maybe being a bard isn't really for you, it takes years of practice; I have been working for more than two! But, I can surely help you find a job in ol' Brightvale, there's many to help you start your tale!"
I quickly accepted the Chia's offer. In total, we spent nearly sixteen hours walking towards our destination, but the time went really fast. We told stories and sang songs, reaching Brightvale before I knew it.
"Here we are my boy, Brightvale. She's a real beauty."
The moon and stars twinkled over the city, making for a beautiful sight to behold.
"Now I'm afraid this is where we say adieu, I wish you the best of luck through and through. Please visit me when you've learned your fate, quite a good story, I'm sure it will make!" The Chia smiled and began to walk into the distance.
It was sad watching my first real friend walk off like that, but it was him who gave me the start of my journey. I snuggled myself between two rocks, as sleepiness entered my body. Tomorrow would be the first day of my adventure.
I pulled out my half-eaten jelly and sat him on top of the rock to the left of me, "I've already come so far... and it's all thanks to you, Cap'n Jellie, sir. Without you, I would have never even been able to set foot outside of Meridell, let alone meet that wonderful bard! Thank you so much."
I awoke early -- the sun hadn't even risen above the trees yet -- but I was too excited to sleep.
Still a bit groggy from only a few hours of sleep, I stumbled down the hill and into the main part of town.
Ahh... the sights – vast rolling hills of green that seemed to touch the sky--... the smells – the burning coal of the armory! It was almost unbelievable.
Then, I saw it. It was beautiful, magnificent, breath-taking; made entirely of stained glass, it shimmered in the rising sunlight... it almost seemed to radiate knowledge. I was awe-struck at the sight; I couldn't resist the urge to touch it.
It was so clean, so gleaming that my dirty paw left a soiled mark on it. Quickly I tried to rub it off with my shirt, only to make matters worse. I tried harder, but the thing began to spin.
"Who touched my wheel?!" an angry voice growled.
"Uhh... I did sir, I'm so very sorry I didn't mean to!"
"Look at the mess you made! My gorgeous wheel besmirched by your – your – filth!"
The wheel stopped spinning, landing on the smiling face of King Hagan.
"I see you won our grand prize, advice from our most wondrous king. Unfortunately, by the looks of you, I'm not getting paid. Guards! Please escort this child to receive his grand prize – one which he didn't pay for."
"I'm sorry!" I began to cry.
Two scary guards approached, each picking me up by one arm. They dragged me into the castle, right in front of King Hagan himself.
"What do we have here?" the booming voice of King Hagan rang in my ears.
I was too terrified to respond; no words could find their place in my throat, not in front of the wisest king in Neopia.
"Well, my boy?" King Hagan asked, "Do you have nothing to say for yourself? In that case, I will have to eat this entire Banana Mince Pie by myself! You wouldn't want that would you? Come into my dining room with me."
"But, I can't... I'm poor and filthy and..."
"Who told you that jargon?! Simply put, they do not have the wisdom to see through the outward appearance; a skill that not many possess. Why you, young lad, contain more wisdom than all of them combined! I see a bright future ahead of you. Now please, I insist that you dine with me!"
The wisdom to see through outward appearances...? King Hagan surely possessed it; but that Chia – my friend – he possessed it too.
"Well, if you insist..." I smiled the whole way.
King Hagan placed a platter on the table with the most delicious looking pie I had ever seen – and its appearance wasn't justice for its heavenly taste.
"So what are you doing in Brightvale, lad? I haven't seen you around these parts."
"Mmm... cui-ming... to... se—uek... ma.... fr- tou-an!"
"Finish chewing first."
I gulped another bite down, "I'm coming to seek my fortune! I came from Meridell... my family, well you see... they own a... own a..."
"Own a what?"
"A rock farm..." I whispered sadly, afraid that he'd laugh.
"Don't be ashamed... who would grow rocks, if your parents didn't? But, I can tell... you don't want to be known as the "Rock Farmer's Son" anymore... you want your name to be known among the Gallery of Heroes!"
"Yes, sir! And I came to Brightvale to make some money for my future endeavors, but sadly, that didn't end too well..."
"You're in luck." King Hagan gave me a quick wink. "I'm sending a caravan down to Sakhmet, in the Lost Desert to deliver an extremely important artifact to Princess Amira. Would you like to be the protector of the item? It's a free trip if you'd like to stay there, and the pay isn't too bad either."
He poured out a massive bag of Neopoints in front of me, more than I think I had ever seen in my life!
"Of course I'll do it!" I ran over and gave him a big hug.
"Alright, but you must promise me one thing: when you become a true hero of Neopia, remember us little guys?"
"Good now, off you go quickly. The caravan leaves within the hour." King Hagan handed me the Neopoints and a small wooden box. "This is the artifact. Whatever you do, don't look inside, and don't let anyone else touch it."
King Hagan led me out to the caravan; three Brightvale guards were already onboard. I immediately, recognized one as the guard who had arrested me earlier, and sheepishly hung my head in embarrassment. But, to my utmost surprise, the guard greeted me with kindness; whatever was in the little wooden box was very important and needed to be kept safe.
On the way out of Brightvale, I was soon greeted by a familiar face, running alongside the caravan.
"Who... do... I ... I ... see, r-r-rolling... out... of... the... city... s-so... soon...?" the bard Chia panted, desperately trying to keep up with the ever quicker moving caravan. "Did... did... the king... grant... you a... b-boon?"
"Here, quick! Jump on board with me!" I held out a paw and pulled him up.
"A little, wooden box I see? Where art thy king sending thee?"
"To the Lost Desert." I grinned. "The king asked me to deliver this."
"Oh, the mysteries it may hold! Open it; we may be lucky enough to have struck gold!"
"But the king told me, whatever I do: do not open it! So it must be very, very important. And he trusts me with it! Oh, and you've never mentioned your name."
"Why one like you would want to remember a silly bard's name is beyond me, but the name is Calder, you see."
"It does matter to me, Calder. You were the stranger who showed me kindness. I'm glad to call you my friend – if that's okay with you..."
"Of course it is, my boy! I'm honored to be yours, it fills me with joy!"
The rest of the journey was filled with songs, stories and laughter; along with a few looks from the guards, who weren't what one would call happy to have an unmentioned passenger onboard...
To be continued...