T he year was young, and two Skeiths sat at a round red oak table adjacent to each other. The older Skeith with a plumper belly and blue body wasted no time devouring his hash and potatoes, while the emerald Skeith hadn’t touched his silver embroidered Shenkuuware yet. Instead, he sat stiffly with his nose buried in a book. The deliberate clanging of metal forks and knifes didn’t disturb his concentration. His eyes were glued to his novel The heavier Neopet banged one fist on the table, causing his brother to look up for a second.
“Neopia to Hagan, Neopia to Hagan,” he chortled, wiping the remnants of food on his mouth with his arm.
“Excuse me?” Hagan replied indifferently.
Skarl laughed and cleared his throat. He knew his charm was undeniable. Hagan continued scanning the ancient and tattered pages of his novella. It was better for him to ignore Skarl before they began quarreling like infants.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to read at the table?” Skarl said.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s disgusting to chew with your mouth open?” Hagan shot back.
Skarl rolled his eyes and proceeded eating his supper, while Hagan finally set his book below him and began picking at his food like an avian petpet. The potatoes had become cold in the center, making the meal inedible. Hagan lifted his plate from the table and brought it to the scullery. He placed the plate on the counter for their maid to dispose of. Skarl pushed out his chair noisily and exited the dining area. His belly was extending over the buttoned closure of his trousers. The shirt he wore was bursting at the seams, so he unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt, giving his stomach allowance to breathe.
Hagan went back for his novel and walked hurriedly to his master suite avoiding crossing paths with Skarl so as to not be subjected to his belligerent state. Skarl moved with his shoulders held high and the tip of his nostrils positioned upwards. He wanted to bump into Hagan he longed for companionship of any kind. Even with the assets his family possessed, many villagers, including peasants, rarely approached Skarl. In Skarl’s regards, Hagan was unforthcoming because he was so brilliant. The knowledge Hagan had acquired was immense even at an early age.
The night had passed and both brothers' eighteenth birthdays were drawing near. Skarl would inherit the Meridellian castle and be crowned king, because he was the oldest. Hagan would leave Meridell and rule over a neighboring land called Brightvale. Although Skarl's behaviors wouldn’t suggest his appreciation of his brother, deep down inside he felt a glimpse of melancholy. Regret . Skarl would feel a void in his heart. Today, however, he was trying to distract himself from those regrets. The king of Meridell sat next to Skarl on their thrones. A servant displayed a diamond and sapphire encrusted crown on a velvet pillow.
“Son, I am delighted to present you this crown in my honor for the honor of Meridell,” the King spoke in a monotonous, rehearsed voice.
“Father, I accept this crown as an honor and pledge to lead over the land of Meridell resiliently and with the best intentions for all Meridellians,” Skarl spoke eloquently, which he often failed to do.
The servant bowed before him and suited the crown to Skarl’s head, and Skarl felt like two heavy weights had been set onto his shoulders. He posed for the crowd who now had permission to clap. Hagan side clapped lowly and felt a burning tear escape the corner of his eye. In a few nights, he would be departing for Brightvale castle by an Alabriss-strung chariot. Both Skarl and Hagan were now adults. The time for them to fulfill their duties had arrived.
That very same evening, a ball was held and Skarl wore his finest satin fur-trimmed robe. Hagan could hear the echoes of applause and enchanting music traveling through the walls to his bedroom where he sat at a marble dresser penning his address to Brightvale.
“To King Skarl, a righteous leader,” a female Neopet declared loudly enough for Hagan to hear.
Hagan set his quill down and went to the railing of the stairs where he could peek to see the gathering. He caught his brother lightly twitching in a corner his anxieties weren’t transparent to anyone except Hagan. Two eyes met Hagan’s and he sensed fear in them. He shot his brother a grin which and in return this was reciprocated by a slight smile. Something he couldn’t explain welled up in him. Ever since he could remember, his brother had tormented him, but pushing that aside right now, he imagined the new appointed position Skarl was in.
If Hagan were to describe his brother, he would say a lot of things. Some of his negative attributes were his gluttony, greed, and domineering manner but he also had resilient qualities. His stubbornness and confidence would assure Meridell a powerful leader if he learned to channel his traits in a positive manner.
Towards the last hour of the party, Hagan resigned from his room and joined the party. An array of red and blue streamers lined the walls of the greater dining area. A glass-feathered chandelier glistened in the center of the room. The gold accents of the walls, chairs, and tables cast a shimmery glow to the perimeter. King Skarl was seated at the head of the table and gnawing on a turkey leg while making gestures with his hands to the knights he was engaged in a conversation with. Hagan poured some punch into a glass and then joined the table.
“So, nice of you to join us,” King Skarl chided.
“Of course,” Hagan replied, sipping from the edge of his glass.
King Skarl went on about how he wanted to lower taxes on agricultural crops to help the commoners. He added that he’d apply a Marrow Tax to the wealthier Neopians. The knights nodded in unison while Hagan observed the blubbering of his brother. Words faded in and out and he thought about the lush meadow fields of Brightvale and the intricate circular silhouette of Brightvale’s castle.
Brightvale was a very different place from Meridell. Meridellians valued treasures and weaponry, whereas Brightvalians valued knowledge and the simple qualities of living. There was no doubt in Hagan’s mind where he belonged.
When the affair had finally ended, both brothers went to bed. Beads of sweat dripped from King Skarl’s neck, his hands clenched, and his eyes shot open toward the darkness of the canopy over his bed. Hagan had drifted somewhere far more peaceful.
There was only one more night left until Hagan would get ready for his departure. King Skarl had been busy meeting with his council the past few days over the beginning of an uprising of the Darigan Citadel. Lord Darigan was called into Meridell to negotiate with King Skarl the day after Hagan left and King Skarl needed everything to be in order dreading the sparse timing.
“I can’t believe Hagan will be gone tomorrow,” King Skarl whispered to a knight as he saw Hagan walk past them.
“You won’t have anyone to quarrel with,” the knight joked, not knowing just how wrong the implication he made was.
“I’ll miss him,” King Skarl admitted briefly before changing the subject.
Everything appeared as a blur to Hagan as he packed his suitcases wondering if he’d miss the castle. He didn’t know the next time he’d be back, but perhaps he would alternate his time in both castles during the holidays, he thought aloud to himself. Leaving home at first seemed overwhelming to him; now it was something he accepted. He loved Brightvale and its Neopets so there was nothing holding him back. Transitioning to a new land was only frightening as he’d never left Meridell for more than an hour but he realized he needed to go where he was needed though. The Neopets had made it clear that they had desired him as their leader, and who was he to reject them, anyhow?
At nighttime, Hagan, didn’t bring any books to dinner, and King Skarl waited patiently for his brother to dine with him. A grumbling sound receded from King Skarl’s stomach. The maids set out two plates for the two brothers. Hagan ate his meal while it was hot. He cherished the potatoes, Meridell’s finest crop. King Skarl dug into his plate without hesitation as he normally did.
“So, you're leaving tomorrow,” King Skarl announced factually.
“I have to.” Hagan nodded
“I see,” King Skarl replied. “Meridell’s never too far away,” he added, looking at Hagan with a soft expression.
“I know and I’ll never be too far away,” Hagan assured him. He would only be far in distance.