I lounged on the royal throne, tossing my Coloured Bouncy Ball in the air and catching it as it fell. On the rare occasion that I missed and the ball rolled across the floor, a servant would materialize out of the shadows and retrieve it for me. I had been at this for over forty-five minutes now, mindlessly watching the ball go up and come back down. Up...down. Up...down. Over and over and over.
The doors at the end of the hall slammed open. My head snapped up and I saw Kain, a Christmas Pteri, standing in the opening, his helmet askew and his eyes wild with fear.
Prince Issuhn, it's happened again!
The ball dropped to the ground. Instantly, a Shadow Hissi brought it back and offered it to me. I snatched the ball and stuffed it in my pocket; there were more important matters to attend to now.
You, go alert the Guard, I ordered the Hissi, who immediately scurried off. Kain, lead the way.
The young messenger nodded and turned around, heading towards the fields. I followed, easily keeping pace.
When? Where? And to who? I want a full report, I demanded as soon as he caught his breath. The Pteri gulped.
It happened, well, a half-hour ago... he stuttered.
A half-hour! I cried, quickening my pace.
I-I'm sorry, sir, I came as quickly as I could. It happened over in the Birkley's fields. No one was hurt, he hastened to add at my worried look. The Birkleys had a few small children that would've been easy targets.
And the damage?
Over half the crops are destroyed.
I cringed. The Birkley's were the kingdom's biggest provider of wheat.
We continued walking in silence. I noticed that Kain's wings were beginning to droop and he was dragging his feet. The poor boy had been on the run all morning. I wished to send him home to rest, but I would never let him go off alone in his state. Where was the Guard?
The whisper of movement in the skies was music to my ears. I looked up and saw a cloud of pets above me. Literally, a cloud, for each member of the Airborne Division is required to be painted Cloud in order to blend into the sky. I heard a pounding of feet and saw, to either side of me, Woodland pets moving gracefully through the trees: the Foot Division, painted specifically for moving undetected through the forests that bordered Pomaloth.
A puffy white cloud drifted downwards, materializing into a Gnorbu.
What took you so long? I asked Tebor irritably.
I apologize, my Prince. We would've been here sooner had we been told where to go, he replied calmly, without a trace of scorn or disparagement.
My face burned with embarrassment. What a stupid mistake. I had taken off before asking and announcing my destination.
Not to worry, sir. We all make mistakes, Tebor sympathized kindly. Adopting a more serious tone, he added, Do you have any orders for us?
Of course, I too took on a more serous role. Raising my voice so that Keladar, the head of the Foot Division, could hear as well, I gave my orders. The Birkley's fields have been attacked. No one was injured, but the fields were severely damaged. I want a mixed patrol to search the area and another to protect the family. Also, I'd like a Woodland patrol to accompany Kain on his way home.
The Pteri opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off.
You've already performed your duty. Go get some rest; you deserve it, I told him gently. The boy smiled at the praise, took a small bow, and then joined the patrol that was silently waiting for him. Once I was sure he was on his way, I turned to the waiting guards.
Well, what are you waiting for? Go!
At my words they were off, moving faster than I ever could. I suddenly felt exposed and vulnerable, until I realized that a patrol of three circled above me. I sighed, thankful that Tebor had thought to leave me protection.
Now that I was on my own, I accelerated into a light jog. If I could keep this pace, I would be able to reach the Birkley's in just under ten minutes.
As I jogged, I contemplated the incidence, comparing it with others. So far, no one had seen it, no one had been injured, and no one had escaped with any more than half of their crops intact. The attacker was obviously fast, or it would have been spotted and captured by now. In addition, all attacked fields thus far were near a part of the forest, so it must make it's home in the trees. Finally, I concluded that the creature must be huge, for how else could it consume crops that would normally feed multiple families?
When I finally arrived at the fields, I couldn't help crying out in dismay. The wreckage was even worse than I had thought. Amber stalks lay strewn around where they had been mercilessly ripped from the ground. Clumps of dirt accompanied holes where crops had once rooted. The carefully cultivated rows looked as if the infamous Snowager had ravaged them. I could barely tell where the fields had been plowed.
Only a third of the property was untouched. The meager crops swayed slightly in the breeze, oblivious to the destruction of their comrades. The log cabin too remained unscathed in its place farthest from the forest. I could see the family huddled close together in the doorway and decided to see how they were doing.
Mr. Birkley, a sturdy Shadow Tonu, stood close to his wife, a slender Striped Tonu. Their two children, a Blue and a Red Tonu, stared out from behind their parents with wide, scared eyes. They seemed surprised, and a bit worried, to see me.
My Prince, sir, there was nothing we could do, it just came so fast and we were frightened, sir, we're terribly sorry, Mr. Birkley hurriedly apologized, making a quick bow and glancing quickly between me and the patrol hovering nearby. Little beads of sweat trickled down his forehead and he shuffled closer to his wife.
There is no need to apologize, Mr. Birkley, I reassured him. Surprise and relief flickered in his eyes. If anything, it is my fault for not having the situation under control. You are not the first to be hit by this mysterious monster. I promise you, I am doing everything in my power to put a stop to this. In the meantime, I will leave a patrol to guard your property from any possible attacks in the future.
Mr. Birkley relaxed, and it spread to the rest of his family. The two little ones toddled forward, examining me. The boy spoke, You're smaller than I thought you'd be.
Mrs. Birkley gasped and began to reprimand the boy for rudeness, but I waved her off. Kneeling so that I could look him directly in the eyes, I replied, Well, you're smaller than I thought too.
His sister giggled, and I saw smiles tugging at the corners of his parents' mouths. The boy, however, was not amused.
I'm gonna be big an' strong like my Pa, he protested, puffing out his chest to appear bigger. I smiled.
I never doubted that for a second. What's your name, little warrior?
The Blue Tonu glanced up at his mother, who nodded her approval. He looked back at me and answered proudly, Thomas, after my grandpa.
I stiffened, assuming a formal position and speaking in a voice that portrayed utmost importance. Can you promise me something, Thomas? He nodded, his eyes wide. Can you promise to take care of your mother and sister for me? To protect them from what attacked your farm?
I promise, Thomas assured me gravely, squaring his shoulders.
I allowed myself a small grin, and bowing, replied, I trust that you will keep them safe. Thank you, Sir Thomas.
When I stood back up, Mr. and Mrs. Birkley were smiling at me with such gratitude that I felt slightly uncomfortable. I didn't know what had come over me; what I did had just felt like the right thing to do.
Er, well, I must be going now, I told them awkwardly.
Oh, but won't you stay for a glass of lemonade, my Prince? It's the least we can do, Mrs. Birkley offered, still smiling.
Thank you, you're too kind. But I really much be on my way. These attacks aren't going to stop on their own. I tried to add a touch of humor to sound less tense, but unfortunately I just sounded bitter.
Of course. My apologies, sir, she bowed, understanding and sympathy tinging her voice.
Thank you again, and remember that a patrol is only a call away.
I hurried away, relieved to escape the bows and thankful smiles. I was not used to being treated with such admiration and, at times, fear, for I had only been Prince of Pomaloth a pawful of months. I hoped that I had done the right thing in singling out the boy. I had so little experience in such matters.
When I arrived at the palace- no, my palace, I reminded myself- I went straight to Baron's quarters. Baron was the only past Prince of Pomaloth still living, making him the mentor of the current Prince. A rather irritable old fellow, Baron instructed me in the etiquette and behavior expected of me.
According to him, I was a "hopeless" case. I was too formal when I needed to be casual, and much too casual when I needed to be formal. I made rash decisions and often ran off before thinking about what needed to be done first, as I had this morning. Baron complained almost daily that Musavir must have made a mistake when he chose me, an "incompetent fool", as the next Prince.
I knocked gingerly on the old wooden door, hoping that Baron wasn't in one of his moods. I sighed when I heard a grumpy yell.
What is it now? Can't an old man get some peace around here!
It's Issuhn, sir, I called. Though he was no longer Prince and I was technically of higher ranking, Baron required that I refer to him as "Sir" or "My Prince". He insisted that it was a tradition to honor the service of the past Prince, but I secretly believed that he was so used to being addressed that way that he couldn't bear to give it up. I could understand somewhat; after over thirty years of service as Prince, it must have been difficult for him to give it all up.
The door swung open abruptly, hitting me smack on the nose. Baron's head popped out.
Well? What do you want? the Royal Kyrii scowled.
Rubbing my stinging muzzle, I replied irritably, The Birkley's farm was attacked.
Baron's face paled and the scowl disappeared. Come in.
I followed Baron into his quarters, a simple room with a a nice bed, a bookshelf, and a desk set. Mid-morning light filtered through the windows that lined the wall opposite the door.
I want to hear everything. Don't leave out any details, Baron demanded, seating himself in the wooden desk chair.
This had been a training exercise when I first became Prince. Baron would send me on a walk and then have me tell him every little thing I had observed. At the time, I hadn't seen the relevance of those sessions. Now, I was glad that paying attention to my surroundings was second nature, something I did unconsciously wherever I went.
I described Kain bursting into the hall and the walk to the farm, most vividly describing the state of the fields. Baron listened intently, occasionally nodding or asking questions.
I hesitated when it came to telling him about the family, then decided that I might as well tell the truth. What happened, happened, and I could always learn from my mistakes.
When I finished my full account, Baron folded his hands under his chin and closed his eyes. I fidgeted where I stood, my heart racing.
Finally, the old Kyrii spoke, There may be hope for you yet.
I stood in shock, my mouth opening and closing like a Goldy. Twice I tried to speak and twice words failed me.
Out with it, boy! Baron growled, glaring at me.
I-I did the right thing? I managed to splutter, still in shock. Baron had never praised me, not once in the four months he'd been instructing me.
Baron laughed, a deep, throaty roar that was worlds different from his usual bitter chuckle.
Right? Kid, you couldn't have done better if you'd restored their fields!
I... what? I stared at Baron as if he had become a Mutant. All I did was talk to the boy!
All you did was give that boy something to strive for. You gave him and his family hope. And hope is something that is easy to lose and difficult to reattain, Baron shook his head, dumbfounded either by my actions or my ignorance. You showed that you have empathy.
Empathy? I asked, still not believing what I was hearing.
Baron gestured off-handedly, distracted. The ability to see the world from someone else's eyes, to understand how others are feeling and react in a positive way. It is a quality that many leaders lack, and often the one that separates the good from the great, the remembered from the revered, the leaders from the legends!
Baron leapt from his seat, his eyes wild with excitement. I took a step back, frightened by this abrupt change of attitude. As quickly as it came, the energy was gone, and Baron seemed to deflate.
It's been so long since one with such potential has been chosen. And the last time... Baron trailed off, speaking more to himself now. No, I won't let that happen again. I shall be more careful, more determined, more wise...
Baron's eyes locked with mine, but they weren't his eyes. Instead of brown, they were a fiery purple. And when he spoke it was with another's voice.
You will go down in history as Pomaloth's greatest Prince, but only if you travel the correct path. Baron will prepare you and friends will guide you, but in the end, it is you alone who will make the final decision. Choose wisely, for only one road leads to greatness.
A chill ran from the tips of my ears to the end of my tail. Baron held my gaze, the purple fire quickly diminishing, to be replaced with the usual brown. Baron swayed, then fell forward as if in slow motion. I leapt forward, catching the Kyrii in my arms.
Help! Someone, quick! I yelled, desperately hoping someone would hear. Baron was barely breathing.
Suddenly, Baron jerked to life. Caught by surprise, I nearly dropped him. As he staggered to his feet, three servants slipped into the room, awaiting orders.
What happened? Baron croaked as I gently guided him to the bed.
You were muttering something about the 'last time' and then... I answered, my voice rising with fear. And then, you said something to me, but it wasn't your voice, and your eyes, they were, and then you just, just collapsed.
All color drained out of Baron's face and his eyes widened.
Go! All three of you, out! he barked at the servants. When they hesitated, he roared, OUT! They fled, the door banging shut behind them. Baron jumped to his feet and went to his desk, where he began rummaging through the drawers.
Sir, you should really be resting, I squeaked, still shaken.
What did I say to you? Tell me exactly what I said; don't leave out a single word! Baron ordered, ignoring my previous statement. He now sat at his desk with a feather quill poised above a piece of parchment.
Slowly, I repeated what I had hear, careful to remember every word. Baron scribbled down everything I said, nodding encouragement.
When I finished, Baron looked over the paper, relaxing slightly. Meekly, I asked, Sir? What just happened?
I believe, the Kyrii said thoughtfully, that Musavir just delivered your first prophecy.
I stared at Baron, not believing my ears. A prophecy? Already? I had only been Prince for four months!
Ar-are you sure? I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
Of course I'm sure! Baron growled. You think I'd make something like this up?
No, I hastened to say. It's just that... I didn't expect to receive one so soon.
There's only one thing you can expect as Prince, boy, and that's the unexpected, Baron scoffed, beginning to pace. Now, we have to figure out what that old smokeball was trying to say...
Isn't it obvious? He said I have to choose the right path. So maybe I'm supposed to go on some sort of journey to find the fork in the road, I suggested.
Instead of nodding or agreeing with me, Baron began to chuckle bitterly. You still have a lot to learn, boy. Prophecies are never that simple.
Well maybe mine is! I defended, my pride injured.
Sure, you keep telling yourself that. Let me know when you find that fork, Baron scoffed.
Great, we were back to square one. Five minutes ago I had amazing potential, and now I was an ignorant fool once more.
So what can I do? I asked. Musavir said that you would prepare me, unless that's some kind of riddle as well. I was feeling cross now and didn't bother to hide it.
Watch you mouth, boy, Baron warned, narrowing his eyes. Of course I'm going to prepare you. You didn't think my only task was to each you dinner manners, did you?
I averted my gaze, for that was exactly what I had thought. Apparently satisfied with my silence, Baron continued pretentiously, Usually I would wait another few months to begin training you in combat, but it seems we may need to start earlier.
My eyes brightened and my bad mood evaporated. I had been eagerly awaiting this part of my training almost as soon as I was chosen as Prince.
When do we start? I asked excitedly. Baron grinned mischievously.
Quicker than I could blink, Baron threw the quill at my face with deadly accuracy. Crying out, I leapt to the side.
What are you- hey! I didn't have a chance to finish before the ink pot was sailing towards me.
Rule number one: always be prepared for an attack! Baron shouted as he flung anything he could grab n my direction. Rule number two: only the quickest survive in battle!
I dodged shoes, ink pots, quills, and books of all sizes, using the bed as a shield when necessary. Ink splattered the walls and books lay like downed Naleaps, their pages fluttering weakly. As my energy began to drain, I wondered if Baron would ever run out of things to chuck at me.
Just when I thought I couldn't go any longer, the flying objects ceased to pervade the air. Sighing, I relaxed.
Out of nowhere came a quill. Taken by surprise, I leaped to the side.
I was a second too slow. The quill grazed the side of my neck, leaving a fine trail of ink behind.
Rule number three: Never let your guard down.
Baron then strolled out of the room as if nothing had happened, leaving me to wipe the ink from my fur and wonder what would have happened had the quill been more than a harmless writing utensil.
For the next few weeks, my time was split between dealing with continued attacks, attending to my normal duties as Prince, and dealing with increasingly difficult and tiring training sessions with Baron. On easier days, we'd verbally battle for hours on an issue to see who's will was stronger. Harder days, Baron would have me fight him in hand-to-hand combat while avoiding arrows shot by the foot guard and reciting a chapter of Wisdom of the Wise.
Though I appreciated the new strength in my limbs and rather enjoyed the intellectual challenges, I found myself becoming frustrated. The mysterious attacker continued to strike at least twice a week, destroying nearly all of our realm's crops. Winter was fast approaching, and at this rate there would not be enough food to go around.
Yet Baron seemed to be turning a blind eye to the situation. He ignored my questions when I asked for guidance and denied my requests to lessen training so that I could speculate courses of action. Finally, after my fifth week of training and three consecutive attacks, I confronted him.
Maybe you don't care about Pomaloth's food supply, but I do! I refuse to train today and am instead going to put a stop to these attacks, I asserted, trying my hardest to sound commanding. I organized my argument in my head, ready for a fight. What I wasn't ready for was Baron's response.
Okay, he nodded, not even looking up from his work.
You mean... you're fine with this? With me missing out on a whole day of training? I asked incredulously.
I'm not enthralled, but there's really nothing I can do to stop you. You are the Prince, after all, Baron conceded, still scribbling on the parchment. Besides, investigating a crime is as good a training exercise as the ones I put you through.
I stared at Baron angrily. I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off.
In answer to the question clearly simmering in your mind, I refused your requests for a very valid reason. Had I allowed you to go after asking, you would get in the habit of coming to me before doing anything. As Prince, you cannot be indecisive. You must take action when you see fit, no matter if I say yes or no.
I shook my head, bemused. I had to admit, the old Kyrii made sense.
What are you waiting for, boy? Don't you have crops to save?
Yes, of course! If you don't hear of me by nightfall, send out the full guard, I ordered. Then I quickly added, I will be at the Moreland's farm.
Baron looked up, the faintest smile visible on his face. He bobbed his head, and I was out his door and on my way in a flash.
Knowing it'd be smart to bring a guard, I beckoned to Tebor when I saw him in the courtyard.
You called, my Prince? he questioned, bowing respectfully before walking along beside me.
Yes, we're finally going to put a stop to these attacks.
Tebor's ears perked up and his eyes shone fiercely. Shall I call the squadron, sir? he asked eagerly.
No! I stopped him before he had the chance to summon the others. I have a plan, and having the whole force along would ruin it. I trust you will be able to offer me sufficient protection? I raised my eyebrows and glanced at Tebor expectantly.
Of course, sir, he assured me, but I could hear the doubt in his voice.
I did, in fact, have a plan, which I had been formulating the past few days. There was only one farm with a woodland border that had yet to be attacked. If my suspicions were correct, those fields would be the next target. And when the creature attacked, Tebor and I would be ready to capture it.
As we neared the gates, I heard a shout from behind. Turning, I saw Kain flying at top speed towards us. He stopped, breathless, and hurriedly bowed.
I heard you were catching the attacker and I was wondering if I could come with you, sir! the boy rushed to explain, watching me hopefully.
Tebor frowned and whispered to me, I wouldn't advise it, my Prince. He's young and inexperienced.
Kain, who had obviously heard Tebor's words, hung his head in disappointment. I could understand Tebor's concern, but at the same time I felt the boy's dejection and knew that leaving him out would lower his self-esteem and his willingness to work. Just like with the little Tonu, I knew that bringing Kain was the right decision. Was this the empathy Baron had mentioned?
It's true that Kain is inexperienced, I admitted to Tebor, speaking just loudly enough for Kain to hear. Kain's face fell, and he began to turn around to leave. But, I continued, stopping him in his tracks. I believe that there is no better way to become experienced than learning on the job.
I turned to address Kain, who was staring at me with a mixture of disbelief and hope.
Kain, I accept your request to join our party.
Kain grinned with boyish excitement. Bowing low, he gushed, Thank you, my Prince! I won't disappoint you!
Be sure that you don't, I told him in an attempt to sound stern and official. I didn't even convince myself. I may have had empathy, but nobility was a whole different matter.
As we walked the forest-edged road, I explained my plan. Kain nodded at every word, so full of energy he could barely contain it. Tebor too nodded, but more thoughtfully. When I finished, I waited for his opinion.
It's simple and has a lot of room for... variation, he started, eyebrows furrowed. But it just might work.
I grinned, feeling very much like Kain. Tebor was the most superior officer, next to Keladar, and had a lot more experience in these types of situations than I did. Besides, I trusted and admired Tebor, so his approval meant a lot to me.
Good, I nodded. Then, turning to Kain, I may need you to send word back to Baron at any moment. I need to be sure that you'll do so without question, even if you want to stay and help.
Of course, sir, Kain assured me. I frowned, feeling that the boy was not taking me seriously enough.
So if I asked you to go, even if it meant you'd miss all the action... I prompted.
I'd go immediately.
And if you saw no point in my request?
Fly first, ask questions later.
And even if Tebor or I are fighting for our lives?
Kain gulped, but I could see the resolve in his eyes. I would fly faster than the wind to bring help.
Satisfied, I clapped the boy on the back.
Very well. Now, we've got a criminal to catch!
I sighed, resting my head in my hands. It was nearly nightfall and I had just sent Kain back to inform Baron of our situation. Tebor and I were concealed in the trees near Moreland's farm, watching and waiting. For eight hours we had sat in absolute silence, searching for any sign of the attacker. So far, I had counted the leaves on the bush in front of me, watched a Larkin carry a drop of water from a puddle on my left to a tree on my right, and recited the entirety of Wisdom of the Wise in my head three times. What I hadn't done was see the attacker.
A flutter of wings alerted me to Kain's return. He quietly waddled to my side. Using a stick, he wrote in the dirt:
Baron sent food and said good luck.
I cocked an eyebrow, doubtful that those were his exact words. Kain grinned sheepishly, then scribbled:
Tell him his plan is rubbish and I wouldn't be surprised if he rots away out there.
I grimaced, seeing the truth in his words. After eight hours of re-evaluating my "plan", I had come to conclude that it was terrible, with too much relying on chance. Despite his earlier thoughts, I was sure that Tebor too doubted we'd have any success.
I looked over at the Cloud Gnorbu. His eyes were scanning the farm and surrounding forest, while his body was still as a statue. He appeared unfazed by the long wait, which was more than I could say. My whole body was sore from staying immobile and I could barely keep my eyes open. I made a mental not to ask Tebor later how he managed so well.
Next I looked to Kain. The Pteri was doing much better than I had anticipated. Though he fidgeted occasionally, for the most part he was still and silent. He was a good kid; clever, quick, and eager. I would be sure to put in a good word for him with the Head Messenger after this ordeal was over.
As Kreludor travelled across the sky, my last drops of hope evaporated. I was about to call the mission off when I saw Tebor's ears perk up and his head snap in the direction of the western edge of the forest.
I followed his gaze, tensing when I saw movement. I held my breath as the undergrowth parted and a small creature slunk out.
I sighed in disappointment. Something that small couldn't be the cause of so much havoc. But Tebor held up a paw, signaling me to wait. I narrowed my eyes but remained still, trusting Tebor's judgement. I returned my eyes to the creature. It was snuffling around the edge of the fields, pawing at the dirt here and there. Fascinated, I watched as it approached the crops slowly.
It happened so quick that I almost missed it. The creature was a blur of destruction, flitting between the crops and uprooting them as it went. I heard Kain gasp, and Tebor looked to me expectantly. Taking a deep breath, I nodded. Tebor disappeared into the sky immediately, his fleece becoming dark as storm clouds. Kain too took to the sky, silently landing on a branch at the tip of a particularly tall tree. As for myself, I prepared to block the creature's escape. In my head, I slowly counted to five.
Tebor swooped from the sky, his fleece once more white and puffy. The creature stopped when it saw the huge white blob hurtling towards it. Squeaking in fright, it began to run in the opposite direction.
Kain cut it off before it got very far. Squeaking again, the creature skidded and reversed direction. Working together, Tebor and Kain herded it straight to me. I braced myself.
Just as it entered the forest, I jumped from the shadows and stopped the creature in its tracks. Tebor and Kain landed on either side, cutting off all means of escape. Whimpering, the creature cowered, knowing it was beat.
A beam of moonlight shone through the trees just then, spotlighting the small creature that had caused so much trouble.
It was a Snowickle. I recognized it instantly from my studies with Baron. The little thing was shaking, its eyes wide with terror.
What is it, sir? Kain asked, breaking the silence.
It's a Snowickle, I responded, my voice cracking from lack of use. I stared at it, my mind slowing processing what this meant.
Oh... I've never seen one before, Kain acknowledged, watching it curiously.
That's because they live on Terror Mountain.
Both Tebor and Kain stared at me incredulously.
Sir, did you just say-
Yes, I cut Tebor off. The Snowickle is a Wintery Petpet, a descendent of the mighty Snowager. They are never seen anywhere other than Terror Mountain.
So why is this one here, in Pomaloth? Kain questioned.
I don't know, I snapped, frustrated. This situation just kept getting better and better.
What shall we do with it, sir? Tebor asked softly, staring at the frightened Snowickle with a mixture of confusion and pity.
I shook my head, at a loss for words. Baron hadn't trained me for this kind of thing. We couldn't just leave it here; it would continue destroying the remainder of our crops. But what would I do with it back at the palace?
Acting on instinct, I reached down and scooped it into my arms. Squeaking, the Snowickle struggled to escape.
Shhh, it's okay, I cooed, stoking its back. I'm not going to hurt you.
My reassuring tone must have calmed it, for it quieted down and stopped wriggling. Sighing, it snuggled close to my chest. I took off my cape and wrapped it around him.
In answer to your question, Tebor, I'm going to keep him at the palace until I decide what to do with him, I whispered, not wanting to frighten the little guy. Tebor nodded, and we began to walk home.
You found a what?! Baron growled, narrowing his eyes. I shifted my arms and the cape fell away, revealing the Snowickle, who had fallen asleep on the way back. Baron stared at him, speechless. I quickly began an explanation.
This Snowickle is the one that's been destroying all the crops. Now, Snowickles only live in Terror Mountain, which is hundreds of miles from here. I highly doubt he just wandered off, so someone must have brought him here. Perhaps one of the traders had him as a petpet and-
No, Baron interrupted. This is not your average Snowickle, and someone didn't bring it here. Something did.
I coked an eyebrow, wondering what in Neopia Baron was talking about.
Let me see it, he demanded, holding his arms out. Reluctantly, I handed him over.
Baron grasped the Snowickle by its hind leg and held him up so that he dangled. The poor creature began to squeak desperately, waving his paws in the air.
Stop! You're hurting him! I protested, leaping forward.
Look! Baron barked. I stopped, taking a closer look at the Snowickle's leg.
A perfect lightning bold was burned into his blue and white leg. This petpet had been zapped by the Petpet Lab Ray.
So he's not a Snowickle? I gasped. Baron shook his head.
If only. Things would be much simpler if this were only a zapped Ghoti, Baron scowled, handing the Snowickle back to me. I cradled him in my arms, waiting for an explanation.
When one didn't come, I prompted, What is he then? And how did he get here?
Baron shook his head slowly. If I'm not mistaken, this is the Snowickle, son of the Snowager. And it was the Ray that brought it here.
I stared at Baron, clutching the Snowickle closer.
But...how? The Ray can only change a petpet's species, color, or lever, I pointed out.
That's true, if we were talking about an ordinary petpet. However, if I am correct, this is no ordinary Snowickle. If it were, it would've reverted back to its original form upon being separated from its owner for so long. But this petpet is related to a creature of ancient and magical blood. The Ray wouldn't work the same on one such as this. It must have wandered into the laboratory by mistake, gotten zapped-
And transported here! I finished, finally understanding. Baron nodded, his brow furrowed in concern. He began to pace.
Yes, yes... he muttered, more to himself than me. Now what can we do about it?
I gulped, the full impact of this event hitting me. The Snowager was bound to want his son back, and who knew what he would do to make that happen. If such a small creature could destroy our fields, I didn't even want to think about what his gigantic father could do.
Maybe, I offered tentatively. we could ask Musavir?
Baron stopped and his eyes seemed to burn into me. I withered in his gaze.
N-never mind, I mumbled, dropping my eyes.
No, that might actually be a good idea, he conceded, the fire fading. Go now, and see him.
I gulped. Musavir intimidated me almost as much as Baron did.
Can't you come with me? I asked hopefully, though I knew the attempt was futile.
Yes, I can. But I won't. Unless you order me to, of course, but that wouldn't make me very happy, Baron grinned wickedly.
I turned and left without another word. I'd rather deal with a thousand Musavirs than one angry Baron!
I slowly opened the door to the dark room. The windowless stone walls watched me ominously.
Musavir? I called meekly, taking another step inside. Out of nowhere came a strong wind that wrenched the door out of my paw, slamming it shut. The darkness was intant.
Musavir! I called again, trying to sound more commanding. I wish to ask for your advice.
The instant the words came out of my mouth, purple smoke began to ooze out of the walls, casting an eerie light. I coughed at the smoke slowly filled the room, tinting everything a pale purple color. A shape slithered out of the smoke before me, its tongue of purple fire flicking hungrily.
Issssuhn, Prinsssce of Pomaloth. What bringsss you to disssturb my ressst? Musavir hissed, weaving expectantly in the air.
I took a deep breath, then said in a clear voice, I have found what I believe to be the son of the Snowager. What should be my course of action?
Musavir hissed, rearing his head back and narrowing his eyes.
Thisss isss not good. To have ssssuch a powerful being among usss, esssspecially one sssso young... the Kazeriu trailed off, his tail lashing back and forth. I stayed silent, dread beginning to pool at the bottom of my stomach. If Musavir didn't know what to do, then nobody would.
I barely noticed it at first. But it didn't take me long to become aware of the smoke thickening, forming a barrier between myself and Musavir. I took a step back towards the door, beginning to feel frightened.
It took me a second to realize that there was an image projected on the smoke-wall. I squinted, struggling to make it out. When I did, I couldn't help staring.
She was beautiful. Everything about her, from her silky pink fur to her sparkling eyes. Though her fur was knotted and she wore only a ragged burlap sack, she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
She was a Pink Zafara, appearing to be about my age. I saw her frown, and immediately I wanted to do anything to make her smile. She seemed to be moving through a forest, for leaf-like shadows kept obscuring her face.
The image faded, and I found myself nose-to-nose with Musavir. I saw his mouth move but didn't register the words.
Who is she? I asked dreamily, her image still lingering in my mind.
Sssshe isss the one who sssshall guide you on your misssion.
I tilted my hear to the side, confused. What mission?
Ssssnap out of it! Musavir growled, flicking his tongue out at me. I yelped as it singed the fur on my face.
Sorry, Musavir, I apologized, shaking my head to clear it. The smoke has disoriented me. What was that you were saying?
Musavir snorted, clearly aware that the smoke was not the entire cause. Your missssion isss to return the Ssssnowager'sss ssson. Ssssshe will guide you, he hissed irritably.
So I'm going to Terror Mountain with her? I asked, unable to keep the eagerness out of my voice.
Yesss, Musavir nodded. Or at least, it looked like a nod. It was hard to tell when his head, neck, and body were all one fluid piece. He continued, Ssshe ssshall find you when the time isss right. Until then, prepare for your misssion and choossse your companionsss wisssely.
I bobbed my head, reaching for the door. Suddenly, the temperature seemed to drop ten degrees. I couldn't move; I was frozen in place. Musavir's eyes filled with fire, the same kind I had seen in Baron's eyes when my prophecy was delivered. Once again Musavir spoke, his voice deeper and without the reptilian lisp.
Choose wisely, for only one road leads to greatness.
I shivered as I regained control of my body. The last line of the prophecy rang in my head, promising difficult choices in my future. Musavir seemed to shake himself off. The fire was gone and the lisp had returned.
Now go, Issssuhn. Time isss of the esssence!
In a burst of smoke, he was gone. I coughed as the remaining wisps of purple drifted over me.
As I walked away from the empty stone room, I wondered if my life would ever return to a normal state.
I waited patiently on my throne for Tebor. I had sent Kain to fetch him fifteen minutes ago and was expecting them to enter at any minute. I spun my ball in the palm of my hand nervously. I had no idea how my news would be received.
The door opened. I tucked the ball into my pocket and sat up a little straighter as Tebor entered. Kain followed closely behind him.
You summoned me, my Prince? Teobr asked, bowing.
Yes. I have some news to share, and a request. Kain, please stay. This involves you as well.
Kain stopped in his tracks, for he had been about to sneak away. He came over to stand next to Tebor, giving a small but still respectful bow. I wasted no words.
This morning, Baron and I discovered that the Snowickle we found is none other than the Snowager's son.
Tebor's eyes grew to the size of saucers and Kain gasped aloud. I gave them a moment to process this, then continued.
After consulting with Musavir, it was decided that I am to travel to Terror Mountain to return the Snowickle. If the two of you are willing, I would like for you to accompany me on this journey. The choice is entirely up to you; the journey will be long and dangerous, so I understand if you wish to stay here in Pomaloth.
Silence. I glanced between them, worried that they would indeed refuse. If they didn't want to go with me, well, I didn't know what I'd do!
It was Kain who spoke first.
My Prince, he began, his voice trembling. I am honored that you have asked this of me. I accept your request, and I promise that I will do everything you ask of me to the best of my ability. I won't let you down, sir.
I smiled, nodding my acceptance of his statements. I had made the right choice in selecting him. Next I looked to Tebor, anxious for his response.
Sir, I would be honored to accompany you. I promise to keep you safe, even if it means putting my own life in danger. I will not disappoint you, my Prince.
I couldn't help grinning from ear to ear. I had been depending on their company for the hard journey ahead of us. I realized that we had a lot to do in a short amount of time, but I was knew that they'd be up to the challenge, as would I. I stood up, still smiling.
Then let's get started, shall we?
The next two weeks were some of the longest, yet most rewarding, of my life!
In the mornings, Tebor, Kain, and I studied plant and animal life that we'd be likely to encounter on our journey. We discovered which plants were edible and which were deadly, as well as which had medicinal properties. We learned about dangerous petpets to avoid and about helpful ones that would lead us to resources.
During the afternoons we trained for combat, wich was interesting to say the least. My one-on-one practice with Baron had helped me get in shape, but I was still no match for Tebor, who'd been training his whole life. He could take on me and Kain at the same time and easily crush us both. Tebor eventually ended up sparring with Keladar, who was at his level. I matched up with Kain, who only knew basic defense skills when we started. But he was a fast and eager learner, and by the end of the weeks he could nearly beat me in our mock battles.
Evenings, though, were the best part of the day. It was then that we put our newly-learned skills to the test. Baron would set up a situation, such as an ambush, and we would have to act accordingly. Or one of us would feign sickness, and the others would need to find the correct herb for treatment.
Though I returned to my quarters each night exhausted and sore, I fell asleep with a warm blanket of satisfaction wrapped around me.
My Prince, the foot guard has found a trespasser in the forest!
My eyes snapped open and I leapt from my bed. I'll be right there! I told the servant who had alerted me. He nodded, then whisked out of the room.
My heart raced with excitement and anticipation. This had to be her! I was finally going to meet her! And that meant that we'd be leaving soon!
I dressed as quickly as I could, in my haste attempting to put both feet into one pant leg. I checked the mirror on my way out, licking my paw and using it to smooth down a couple of wayward hairs. Satisfied, I rushed to the main hallway.
Just before I reached the entrance I slid to a stop. I caught my breath and straightened my hat, then walked regally into the throne room.
The smoke image had done her no justice; she was even more beautiful than I had first thought. Though her pink fur was matted and laced with leaves and twigs, and her eyes were dull with exhaustion, she held herself with dignity, her shoulders back and her head high. She stared around her defiantly, as if challenging anyone to try their luck with her.
I blinked a couple of times to clear my head, knowing that I had to act like a Prince. Staring at her with my mouth open would not be good for my image.
As I walked into view, the guards surrounding her bowed low. I sat down in my throne as they rose.
Keladar stepped forward and boomed, Sir, we have found a trespasser in the woods.
I can see that, Admiral. Thank you for bringing her to me. You may go now; I shall deal with our trespasser.
Keladar's eyes glinted with displeasure, but he gave a curt nod and obediently exited with the other guards. The door slammed closed behind them and we were alone.
What is your name? I asked, losing the official tone. She hesitated.
Finally, Piper. Who do I have the pleasure of being captured by?
I cringed at the coldness in her voice. I was going to have to show her that I was a friend, and fast.
My name is Issuhn. And I apologize for Keladar's rudeness. Years of training have made him wary of strangers.
Piper narrowed her eyes. Just Issuhn? No "king" or "lord" in there? she asked fiercely, ignoring my apology.
Prince, actually, I shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant. I didn't really think it was all that important to mention.
This seemed to throw her off. She had no doubt been expecting some self-centered nobleman who took every opportunity to remind others of his superiority.
So why isn't mommy or daddy out here dealing with me? Are they too busy counting up their precious money? Or are they enjoying a lavish feast while your people starve?
Her accusing words caught me off guard. What did my parents have to do with this? Just the thought of them sent a jolt of pain through me. It took me a moment to remember that most Princes inherited the throne from a King and Queen.
I recovered from my lapse quickly and responded, Oh no, Pomaloth doesn't work like that. There is no king or queen; my mother is a normal citizen. I was chosen to be Prince.
Piper's eyes seemed to sparkle, and she asked almost hopefully, So you're a democracy?
Not exactly, I conceded. Musavir, Pomaloth's oracle, selects each Prince. No one knows how he determines who is the best option, but he usually chooses wisely.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, my vision blacked out. Purple fire burned into my eyes, and Musavir's words thundered in my ears: Choose wisely, for only one road leads to greatness.
My vision returned and I saw Piper watching me nervously. For some reason, I was now standing. I staggered, clutching my pounding head.
I'm terribly sorry, Piper, but we'll have to continue this conversation later, I muttered, the pain increasing. Piper stepped forward uncertainly.
Are you all right, Issuhn? she asked, all the fierceness gone, to be replaced with fear.
Yes, I'm fine, I grunted through gritted teeth. If you walk through the door to your left, there's a hallway. Follow it until you get to the last door on the right. Knock and say that Issuhn sent you, regarding the journey.
The last word was barely out of my mouth when I collapsed, succumbing to the terrible pain exploding within my head.
I was in a dark, foggy forest. Two paths lay before me, and I knew that I was supposed to choose one. But which one was the right one?
Purple smoke seeped out of the ground, interfering with my vision. Choose...choose... it whispered, swirling around me and clinging to my fur. I began to panic. Which one?
Behind me I heard a crack of lighting and the roar of a fire. Spinning around, I saw a tree engulfed by purple flames. I backed away from it, the hear searing the tips of my fur.
Musavir slithered out of the flames, floating in mid-air. His eyes locked onto mine and I froze, unable to move any farther.
The choice will be yours and yours alone, Issuhn. Choose wisely, for only one road leads to greatness.
What does the other lead to? I asked him, my voice sounding hollow and empty.
I turned, but it was not the paths that met my eyes. Instead it was just an endless field of darkness. But wait, there were shapes there...
I recognized Tebor. He was fighting a shadowy figure. I watched helplessly as the shadow dealt a devastating blow and Tebor fell into the darkness...
Kain flew past me, glancing over his shoulder with terror in his eyes. Something- a shadow that I couldn't make out- was chasing him. Again I watched as my comrade was caught and engulfed by the darkness...
I saw a young Faerie Xweetok who I didn't recognize. She was half-running, half-flying towards me. Something appeared to be wrong with one of her wings. Her mouth opened to cry for help, but no sound came out. She too disappeared into shadows...
There was Piper! She was above me, clinging to the edge of something. Her paws scrabbled to get a grip, but the surface was too smooth. She looked directly at me, her eyes filled with purple fire.
You must choose wisely, Issuhn! she shrieked, her voice a combination of all of their's.
Her paws slipped. As she fell, the ground opened up beneath me, and I tumbled down, down, down...
I jolted awake, feeling as if my heart was about to jump out of my chest. Gasping for breath, I looked around me. I was in my quarters, laying in my bed. My fur felt hot and sticky and my brain was fuzzy. What had just happened?
Memories of my dream hit me like a brick to the head. I cried out, for everything felt so real.
Instantly, Baron and Missy, the Spotted Kau who was my nurse, were at my side.
Sweetie, how are you feeling? What happened? Missy asked, dabbing my forehead with a damp cloth.
I-I-I was talking to Piper, and then, the pain, and purple smoke, and the paths, I have to choose, choose, and if I don't...No! I can't fail them! I cried, jumping from my bed. The world spun in circles and I swayed to keep my balance.
I was still in my dream, Tebor, Kain, the Xweetok, they were gone, all gone... and Piper...
Piper! I yelled. Where is she? I have to save her!
Issuhn! Baron barked. I looked at him curiously. He seemed so dreamlike compared to the images in my head. Was he even real? He continued angrily, Tell me now, boy, what nonsense are you talking about?
I blinked, tilting my head to the side. I already told you, I have to choose...
My head light as a feather, I fell forward, vaguely hearing Baron curse and feeling his arms catch me...
The next time I woke I was still light-headed and burning hot. I heard Baron and Missy whispering.
What's wrong with him? Baron growled.
He has a very high fever, which is probably causing him to see things that aren't here. That would explain his odd behavior, Missy explained, sounding concerned.
But why? Why did he come down with this out of the blue? Baron demanded.
I could be for any number of reasons, sir. Perhaps the heat, or stress from training. Does the girl-
She doesn't know anything, I already asked. He was perfectly fine, then all of a sudden he started clutching his head. Then he just passed out cold.
I blacked out again before I head Missy's reply...
I woke once more when I heard Piper's voice.
Please, sir, may I see him?
No, Baron refused gruffly. He's in no state for visitors.
Then can you tell me sir, will he be all right?
Her sweet voice was the last I heard before the darkness reclaimed me...
I knew I was better when I awoke, mostly because I could connect thoughts in my head with coherent words and phrases. My head was neither light nor pounding and my fur no longer burned. Whatever I had come down with, it was over now.
I sat up, surprised at how weak I felt. How long had I been without food?
The door opened and Baron entered with a plate of food.
What is my name? he asked casually. I stared at him incredulously. Was this some sort of joke?
Confused, I answered, Baron.
And where are you?
What do you have to do?
There were a number of things that I had to do, so I chose the one I suspected Baron was referring to.
I have to travel to Terror Mountain to return the Snowickle to his father.
Baron nodded, a flicker of relief crossing his face. Good. Eat up. He handed me the platter and I dug in hungrily.
As I ate, I asked, Why the questions?
In your fevered state, you answered Musavir, dark forest with two paths, and choose. I wanted to be sure that you were fully healed.
I nodded, concerned but too busy eating to respond. I vaguely recalled a dream, but it was so muddled in my mind that I couldn't decide if it was actually a dream or just a fever-induced hallucination. I had a strange feeling that whatever it was, it was important. I quickly pushed that notion aside; I had other things to worry about.
Where's Piper? I asked between bites. Is she being treated well?
Like a princess, Baron winked. I blushed and focused on my food. She's in our nicest guest quarters, being waited upon by your personal servants. I understand she is quite important to your mission, no?
I nodded. Have you spoken to her?
Yes, she had many questions, mostly about the way our system of ruling works. And she was quite concerned about your well-being, Baron added, raising an eyebrow.
I looked up in surprise. Really? When we were talking, she was glaring at me as if she was planning on how to take me down in a fight!
Well, why don't you ask her about that? She's waiting right outside. Here, I'll get her for you, Baron smiled mischievously.
Return to Library.
Papa! a young Zafara boy called, running into a small wooden house. He scampered through the door and skidded around the corner, sliding to a stop in the kitchen. What's that wonderful smell?
A large, muscular Blue Zafara turned from the counter. The berry spattered apron he wore did nothing to undermine his strength or masculinity. Though his eyes were kind and his smile wide, it was clear that this was a man not to make angry.
Issuhn, my boy! I was just about to call you, but I see your nose beat me to it. I'm making blueberry pie, the man chuckled, indicating the stove. Issuhn squealed.
My favorite! Can I help, Papa?
Hmm, I'm not so sure, Papa grinned, his eyes twinkling with mischief. It's a secret recipe.
I won't tell anybody Papa, promise! Issuhn insisted earnestly. Please let me help you!
Papa tilted his head and pretended to ponder the boy's request. Issuhn watched his father hopefully, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
Finally, Papa relented with his teasing. All right, you may help me.
Yay! Thank you Papa!! Issuhn exclaimed, wrapping his small arms around his father's legs. Papa looked down at his son fondly and smiled.
The two got started, with Papa patiently showing Issuhn what to do. Issuhn was a fast and eager learner, doing exactly as his father said. At some point in the baking process, flour began to fly, and soon Papa, Issuhn, and the kitchen were covered in a fine white layer.
They were giggling when a knock on the door was heard. Papa scooped Issuhn up and set him on his shoulders, carrying him to the door. Papa opened the door, and instantly his grin disappeared.
I'm here to speak with the man of the household, a burly Woodland Aisha boomed. He was dressed in the garb of the Prince's court, and though young, was already decorated with various badges and medals. This could be none other than the newly-appointed head of the Pomaloth guard: Admiral Keladar.
You're speaking to him now, Papa responded gruffly. For what purpose are you here?
A Mutant Draik has been sighted on the outskirts of Pomaloth. An old one, by the looks of it, which means he won't be tamed like those we're used to. We must rid the realm of it before it has the chance to harm anyone or anything.
Papa narrowed his eyes. And what does this have to do with me and my family? Papa tightened his grip on Issuhn's legs. The boy looked down at his father, beginning to feel frightened. He had never heard Papa sound so mean.
Keladar scowled. It has everything to do with you and your family, should you want to protect them, he practically spat. You are needed to help fight off this Draik.
I'm no soldier! Papa snarled. I am a blacksmith. I make the weapons so that you and your men can do the protecting for us. Is that not your job?
Now Issuhn was very afraid. What did the big man want? Why was Papa getting so angry?
It is our job, but this is a wild Mutant Draik that we're talking about! We need every man in fighting condition to help. It is your duty as a citizen-
It is my duty as a father to be here for my family, Papa interrupted. He took Issuhn down off his shoulders. The boy clutched his father's legs and hid behind them. Papa placed his hand on Issuhn's head. My son needs his father, and you have no right to deny him that.
No right? Keladar growled. I have every right to protect my realm, and everyone in it. And if temporarily taking you from him is the only way to do it, then it is my right to do just that. By not fighting, it is you who are denying your son protection! Do you want him to fall to the clutches of the Draik? It has happened in the past, and it will surely happen again if we aren't quick to strike!
Issuhn hugged Papa tighter. The big man had mentioned him now! What was going on?
Papa opened his mouth to say something, but then stopped. He looked down at Issuhn, then to Keladar, and then back to Issuhn. The outrage slowly drained from him, to be replaced with resignation.
May I speak to my family first? Papa asked, sounding tired. Keladar nodded, looking pleased with himself.
I will be waiting for you outside.
Papa shut the door slowly. He leaned his head against it, muttering something to himself.
Papa? Issuhn squeaked. Is everything okay?
Papa turned to face Issuhn. Yes, he lied. I just... need to speak with your mother.
Issuhn watched, worried and confused, as Papa entered his bedroom. He skittered to the door and pressed his ear to it, in hopes of overhearing the conversation taking place. But alas, the wooden door was too thick, and Issuhn was unable to hear anything but a whisper of unidentifiable words.
After an unbearable length of time, Papa emerged from the room, closely followed by a dazzling Faerie Zafara. Whereas her counterpart's fur and clothing were rumpled from work and play, the lady of the house was pristine in every way. Her luscious fur was groomed to perfection, her dress smoothed and spotless, and her pearls glittering upon her neck. Only the anxious flutter of her sparkling wings indicated her concern; her facial features remained locked in that of ever-present indifference.
Issuhn looked up at the two uneasily, waiting for one or both to speak. When they both just stared at him, he tentatively spoke.
Papa? Mother? What's wrong? Am I in trouble?
The soft, pleading voice seemed to jar Papa at least out of silence; Mother continued to hold the boy in a withering stare.
Papa knelt down and beckoned to his son. Issuhn crept forward and met his father's eyes. All the happiness that had so recently filled them had dissipated, leaving behind only a sad resignation. It was with a heavy voice that Papa began to explain.
Issuhn, my boy, I... I have to leave soon.
Leave?! But why? Issuhn cried. Papa paused, unsure of how to continue. Finally, he seemed to find the words.
Something bad has come. It... it wants to hurt you and Mother, but I won't let that happen. I have to leave for a bit, to make the bad thing go away, Papa explained, the pain palpable in his voice.
But Papa! Who will tuck me in at night? And read me my bedtime stories? Who'll make blueberry pie, and let me eat the extra blueberries? Issuhn sobbed, for he had begun to cry. He threw himself into his father's arms, wetting the Zafara's rough blue fur with tears.
Your mother will step in for me, Papa assured the boy. Mother looked down at Papa swiftly, her eyes widening in alarm and objection. Papa's face hardened in warning. After a quick but intense staring contest, Mother lowered her gaze.
Of course, she agreed, attempting to sound warm and motherly but failing from lack of experience. Issuhn pulled himself away from Papa to glance dubiously at his mother. Even at so young an age, he was easily able to detect the lack of sincerity in his mother's voice. He turned back to Papa with renewed desperation.
Bu-bu-but Papa, I'll mi-miss you! the boy sniffled, gazing into his father's deep blue eyes. Papa's eyes glistened with tears.
I'll miss you too, my dear Issuhn, more than anything in the world. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to get back to you soon. Issuhn still looked unconvinced, so he added in an attempt at cheer, Your Papa's a tough guy; that bad thing doesn't stand a chance. I bet you I'll be back before the next berry picking season!
Issuhn was not fooled by the false bravado, but he could see that his Papa was trying very hard to make him happy. He managed a weak smile.
Does that mean we'll have lots of blueberry pie when you get back?
Papa nodded vigorously. Every night! he exclaimed, ruffling the fur on Issuhn's head fondly. Issuhn perked up a bit.
Promise? he asked gravely.
I promise you, Issuhn, you will have all the blueberry pie you can eat when I return, Papa responded, placing his hand over his heart to show his sincerity. He silently prayed that he would uphold his word.
Good, Issuhn nodded approvingly. Papa held out his arms, and Issuhn rushed into them. Papa hugged his son tightly, trying to convey all of his love through that one touching gesture. Tears streamed freely down his face, and it took all of his willpower not to break down right there. His son was the light of his life; how could he leave him?
Before he lost it completely, Papa released Issuhn and stood up shakily. Issuhn watched dismally as his father collected a small bag of belongings, including the coloured bouncy ball that he always had with him. It was a treasured source of comfort, a toy that he had clung to through boyhood hardship. Papa looked from the ball to his son, who watched him with large, sad eyes. After a moment's consideration, Papa knelt again and held the ball out to Issuhn. Issuhn tilted his head, confused.
I want you to have it, Issuhn. Papa's voice cracked as he spoke. Issuhn shook his head fiercely.
No, Papa! I can't take it from you. What if you get scared? The care in the young boy's voice was enough to break Papa's heart. He placed the ball in the palm of Issuhn's hand and closed his son's fingers around it.
I won't be scared as long as I know that you have it. You'll take very good care of it, won't you Issuhn?
Of course Papa! I promise, I'll take the best care of it while you're gone! Issuhn promised fervently, clutching it close to his heart.
Papa smiled a ghost of a smile. As long as you have it, I will never truly be gone, he whispered. He kissed his son, his precious son, lightly on the forehead, then stood. He shared a meaningful look with Mother and gave her a quick hug, then turned to the door. He sighed a great sigh, his broad shoulders rising and falling. He opened the door, stepped outside, and closed it quickly.
Issuhn raced to the window pane. Outside, he could see his father approaching Keladar slowly, each step as difficult as if he carried the whole world on his shoulders. Keladar gave Papa a slap on the back, then said something that Issuhn couldn't hear. They began to walk away, towards the forest that would lead them to the edge of the realm.
Papa told himself he wouldn't look back, no, it would be too painful, he wouldn't, couldn't do it...
Papa looked back. Issuhn's tear-stained face was peering out the window, following him as he walked away from everything he had ever loved. He raised his hand in a sort of salute. Issuhn waved back meakly, trying to put on a brave face for the father that he loved with all his heart.
Papa turned away quickly and stifled a sob. Then, his face hardened and he stared ahead resolutely. The time for self-pity was over. After all, there were only six months until berry picking season.
Return to Library.
You enter through the secret door and into a long, dimly lit room. The walls are lined with drawers, each one carefully locked and labeled. Issuhn leads you towards a drawer near the back inscribed with his name and sporting an oval keyhole. Pulling a small key from his pocket, Issuhn swiftly unlocks the drawer and produces a thick folder.
I apologize that this is all I have for you; I am not yet permitted access to the other files. In this one is my record as Prince. It's not too interesting, just some mandatory background checks and personal questionnaires. Don't feel obligated to read it all, it's really not that interesting...
Note: These tasks have been provided by the Association for the Betterment of Character Development.
What does your character look like?
Issuhn is a standard Royal Boy Zafara; dark blue fur, lighter blue chest and face masking, and navy markings. His eyes are the same blue as his fur, and his nose is a pale shade of pink.
How does your character feel about their appearance and how does it affect their life? Issuhn doesn't pay much attention to his appearance. As a child, he never had access to mirrors and thus only knew what he looked like from his blurry reflections in water. Issuhn wasn't in the habit of seeking out bodies of water, so he never had the opportunity to spend hours looking at himself to find every little imperfection, as some do. Thus, Issuhn's appearance has very little effect on his life.
Do they ever change their appearance? No. Issuhn doesn't see the point in changing how he looks, other than to brush his fur or get dressed.
What sort of first impression does their appearance leave on others? Issuhn comes off as important to others. This is mainly based on his royal attire. Without his usual clothes, Issuhn would come off as an average boy of 16; adventurous and eager to experience the world.
What family does your character have?
Issuhn has a mother and a father. His mother is a talented seamstress, and his father a skilled blacksmith.
How is your character's relationship with their family? Issuhn and his mother are rather indifferent to each other, for they never spent much time together. She spent nearly all hours of the day working in her room and would not stand to have her clumsy son around to mess with anything. They do not dislike each other, but at the same time they don't care for each other as most mothers and sons do.
Issuhn and his father have a rocky relationship. Issuhn's father assumed that his son would have an interest in the art of the blacksmith, and thus he would teach his son all that he knew. Issuhn, however, doesn't have the knack for the art at all. His father's disappointment in this led to a strained relationship between the two.
Are there any sore points in any of the dynamics? Issuhn has almost nothing in common with either of his parents, making it difficult for him to relate with them.
Prompt: Think of a strong defining point in one of those relationships and describe it. How old was the character and the family member? Where were they? What happened? Why is it a significant point in their life? When Issuhn was a young boy, his father dreamed of him one day succeeding him as a blacksmith. Thus, he brought Issuhn into his workspace and watched him, waiting to see the same spark of excitement that he remembered feeling as a boy. Instead, he saw an uncertainty and uncomfortablness around the machinery. Refusing to give up hope, Issuhn's father gave his son a simple task: to make an arrowhead. After explaining everything thouroghly, he stood back to let his son work.
Issuhn lacked the certainty in himself to do the job well. His indecisiveness earned him a scar; the blazing-hot arrowhead landed on his forearm and burned it. After that incident, Issuhn's father gave up on him, and their relationship spiraled downwards from there.
What does your character do for a living?
Issuhn is the Prince of Pomaloth. /easiest question
What does he do to support himself? The Realm provides everything Issuhn could need; food, clothing, housing, etc. /another easy question :P
How does your character feel about death?
Being young, Issuhn never considered death before. He knew that eventually he would die, as everyone does, but he never dwelled on the concept. However, his viewpoint changed over the course of his journey and death became something that struck fear in him.
How does your character view his own death? After several near-death encounters, Issuhn is afraid to die. He doesn't want to leave his friends and everything he has ever known. He wants to live a long life, but the prospect of death threatens that.
Does this vary from his view on the death of others? No. Death to any terrifies Issuhn.
Do his feelings toward death effect his life in any way? Yes. His fear of death lends Issuhn a very strong survival instinct. He does not want to die, and will do anything to prevent that from happening.
What do they do in their free time?
In his free time, Issuhn writes. He's been keeping a journal ever since he learned how to write, and occasionally he would write little adventure stories about himself traveling to far-off lands. He never believed that he would actually get to live one of them out!
Is there any activity that they have a preference for? Besides writing, Issuhn really enjoys reading and training for combat. Exercises for the mind and body are things he actively pursues.
Any unusual entertainment choices? Nope, unless combat is considered unusual.
How'd they get involved with those hobbies? Issuhn taught himself how to write and read when he was seven years old, right about the time his father gave up on him. Using books that he "borrowed" from the neighbor, he spent hours teaching himself until he was an excellent reader and skilled at penmanship.
Note: Issuhn was never a thief. True, he would take the books without asking, but he always returned them in perfect condition.
What sort of diet does your character have?
Issuhn has a very balanced diet of bread, vegetables, and meat. A Prince has got to stay healthy to rule!
Do they eat primarily processed or fresh foods? There is no processed food in Pomaloth, so obviously Issuhn eats all fresh foods.
Are there any dietary restrictions (meat, dairy, gluten, etc)? Nope. Issuhn's a healthy boy!
What's your character's favorite and least favorite food? Issuhn's favorite food is toast slathered with honey. It brings back warm childhood memories, before he and his parents grew so far apart. His least favorite food is figs. Though many love how sweet they are, just the smell of them makes Issuhn gag. After being forced to eat them as a child, Issuhn has sworn to never touch another fig again.
Prompt: What is the weirdest food your character has eaten? Why did they eat it? Where were they? When was it? How did they feel about eating it before and after? On the night Issuhn was chosen as Prince, there was a huge feast in celebration. Excited beyond belief, Issuhn decided he would try every single dish. Though most were regular dinner dishes, there were a few peculiar ones, the weirdest of which was a calamari pita wrap. At first glance, Issuhn was repulsed by the tentacles that oozed an unidentified liquid. But he was determined to try everything, so he tentatively took a bite. It actually didn't taste bad, but the chewy texture was too much for Issuhn. He spit it out (much to the amusement of the other guests) and immediately dug into the next nearest dish to erase the gross feeling from his mouth.
How does your character act in group situations?
Issuhn gets nervous in large groups. He especially has trouble speaking in front of crowds; his hands start to shake, his face burns, and his mind blanks. It usually takes the support of a familiar face to pull him back together.
What (if any) is the difference in behavior or feelings when in a small versus large group? Small groups aren't as bad for Issuhn. He has more confidence, though still not as much as a one-on-one interaction.
How do they act around strangers compared to close friends and family? Issuhn has always been shy. Unfortunately for him, shyness isn't allowed as Prince. He interacts almost daily with strangers, and though it still makes him slightly uncomfortable, he's improved greatly since he was first chosen. With close friends, Issuhn is very open and at ease.
Does your character have a lot of friends, a few or none? Issuhn didn't have any friends as a boy, unless you count the petpets he sometimes encountered in the woods. Now, as Prince, Issuhn counts Tebor and Kain as his friends. Piper eventually becomes his friend as well. So in short, Issuhn only has a few close friends.
Where does your character live?
Issuhn lives in the Pomaloth Palace (Yay alliteration! xD).
What is your character's home like? The Palace is a huge building, sort of a mix between a European castle and an Arabian palace.
How is it furnished? One word: lavish.
Where is the home located? The Palace is located on a small hill and is surrounded by an immense and very beautiful courtyard. It's not too far from the village or the woods, but still somewhat isolated.
What injuries has your character had in the past? Issuhn broke his arm/leg a couple of times in the past from falling out of trees. He also got a scar from burning himself with a blazing arrowhead. As for emotional injuries, Issuhn's relationship with his parents is pretty tough to deal with.
Have there been any major injuries? The scar was pretty major. To this day no fur grows in that area.
Which have been worse, emotional or physical injuries? Emotional. Aren't they always?
Are there any injuries which caused lasting damage and continue to effect your character? He still gets a little upset when his family is mentioned. But only a little. He has a new family now; Baron and his friends. He tries his hardest to forget about his parents, and how they don't ever come to visit him, even though they're encouraged to.
Prompt: What is the worst injury (preferably physical) that your character has incurred? What happened? Why did it happen? How old were they? Where were they? If anybody else was around, how did they respond when they saw it? What was the response after it had been treated? The arrowhead burn was definitely the worst. As I mentioned above, Issuhn's father had taken him into his workspace and told Issuhn to make an arrowhead. Issuhn was only seven years old. When it happened, Issuhn began to cry, begging his father to make it better. His father just shook his head, sighed, and walked away. Confused, hurt, and scared, Issuhn ran to his mother, who poured cool water over the injury and bandaged it. After that, Issuhn and his father treated each other like strangers.
What sort of sense of humor does your character have? Issuhn has a decent sense of humor. I mean, he's not oblivious to humor, but he's not a comedian either.
Does your character prefer to make jokes or listen to them? Issuhn enjoys listening to jokes as much as the next boy. Occasionally he'll make one, but most of the time Issuhn leaves the joke-making to others.
What sort of jokes do they tend to make? Issuhn will either use sarcasm or social commentary when he does make jokes.
What type of jokes do they prefer? Issuhn really appreciates sarcasm and social commentary. He doesn't mind a good knock-knock, but can't stand corny ones. Unlike most teenage boys, Issuhn doesn't care for slapstick humor at all.
What is your character's opinion on kids?
Issuhn thinks thinks children are cute from afar, but he gets nervous when he has to interact with them. Should he treat them like miniature adults, or speak down to them? Or something in between? However, even though he thinks he doesn't know how to act around them, Issuhn usually ends up saying or doing just the right thing around children. He really should have more confidence in himself.
What about the idea of kids of their own? Issuhn's sixteen. He doesn't think about having his own kids (as he shouldn't!).
Does your character want to ever have children? Why or why not? Issuhn thinks that children may be in his distant future. However, he is doubtful, as he's afraid that he wouldn't be a good father, and he doesn't want to cause any child to go through what he himself did.
Would your character ever adopt a child? Why or why not? Possibly. Issuhn has a kind heart, so if there was a child in need, he might adopt him/her. But if there was anyone else capable and willing to take the child, I imagine Issuhn would step back from the responsibility.
How does your character view love?
To Issuhn, love is a tricky emotion. It can cause people to do strange things, and in some cases, can be just a get-up (his parents). Issuhn doesn't know what love feels like, as he hasn't yet truly loved someone. However (spoiler alert! :P), Issuhn eventually comes to love Baron as a father.
What does your character feel is the meaning of love? Again, Issuhn is sixteen. He doesn't spend too many of his days pondering things like philosophy. x3
Does your character believe love exists, or is it just a meeting of like minded individuals? Issuhn believes that love exists. He's just waiting for it to happen to him.
Does love at first sight exist or does it need to grow? After seeing Piper for the first time, Issuhn develops a major crush on her. So I'd say that Issuhn believes in love at first sight. But at the same time, I think he understands that in order for love to last, it needs to be able to grow.
What's your character's opinion on 'true love' and soul mates? True love is for fairytales. (Although secretly Issuhn hopes that it isn't!) Issuhn finds comfort in the belief that somewhere in the world, there was someone perfect waiting for him. However, he's a little doubtful of soul mates. Could that perfect someone really exist?
What kind of music does your character enjoy?
As Pomaloth is rather similar to medieval times, the only music is live. Country and folk music is abundant, with some classical for special occasions in the palace. Issuhn quite enjoys country.
Why does your character like that particular music? Issuhn likes country because it's versatile; it can be upbeat one minute and the next slow and saddening. He also likes it because it's fun and easy to dance to!
Did your character grow up with music around them? No, Issuhn lived in a non-musical household. However, he used to perch in the trees like a bird and look down at parties and gatherings where music was played. He was always too shy to join in though. :(
Does your character sing or play any instruments? No, though he's always wished to learn how to play the guitar. Maybe as Prince he'll get that opportunity!
How does your character feel about the night?
Issuhn's perspective of night has changed as he's grown up. As a very young child, Issuhn dreaded night, as it meant that he had to stop his playtime and go to sleep. Once he taught himself how to read, Issuhn looked forward to night, as that was the only time he could read freely. Now, night is a relief for Issuhn after long days of training or travelling.
What is their preferred activity at night? Sleeping! xD
What time does your character generally go to sleep - and why at that time? Issuhn usually goes to bed between 10 and 11 pm, when he's completed all of his training and duties for the day. On the journey, however, this time fluctuates depending on when they find somewhere to sleep, what the day's travel included, etc.
Prompt: When your character was a child were there any night time fears? Go into detail about that fear... Why did it exist? How did they deal with it nightly? Who (if anybody) did they talk to about their fear? At what age did they get over it? Issuhn was a pretty fearless child. He had that childish viewpoint that the body is indestructible. It wasn't until Issuhn left on his journey that he realized how fragile life really is. It's darkness that scares Issuhn. Specifically, the Darkness (see the navigation for a poem about it!), which is what he calls his visions. Appropriately named, as they always involve a creeping, silent, expectant darkness. Issuhn deals with it by taking comfort from the company of his friends. He hasn't talked to anybody yet, but I have a strong feeling that he will eventually confide in Piper. He has not yet gotten over this fear, and probably won't until the journey is over and his prophecy has unfolded.
How does your character respond to new opportunities?
It all depends on the situation. Though in general, Issuhn is indecisive, which results in deep thinking before he takes or passes an opportunity.
Does your character attempt to create opportunities for him or herself, or do they wait for them to happen? If Issuhn creates an opportunity, it's usually by mistake. He tends to wait for opportunity to show up on his doorstep.
When one does come up do they react quickly or think about it for a while? Issuhn doesn't often act on impulse; thus, he doesn't take opportunities right away. Rather, he'll spend at least a night contemplating whether or not he should take the opportunity. Sometimes this works out for the better, other times he ends up missing out on a great experience.
Has your character ever passed up a huge opportunity? If so, how do they feel about it now? Oh yes! When Issuhn was fifteen, he was asked to work in the Palace as a scribe, for by that time it was well known that he was skilled at penmanship. However, scared of leaving the life he knew and working under the Prince, Issuhn refused the "opportunity of a lifetime", as the messenger described it. He wasn't able to avoid the palace life for long though; just months later Issuhn was selected as the new Prince! Funny how things work out, isn't it?
Fun Fact: Issuhn is the only (recorded) person to turn down the opportunity to work at the Palace!
How does your character feel about pets? Issuhn loves pets! :D
Does your character own any pets? No, though he always wanted one. His parents were very strict with their "No pets" rule.
What kind of pets do they like and dislike? Issuhn really likes small household pets, such as Warfs, Angelpi, and Snowbunnies. He doesn't like bat-like pets (Barbats, Batterflies, Bazatlans, etc.), as they creep him out.
How does your character view the pet-owner relationship? Issuhn is jealous of others who own pets and have amazing pet-owner relationships. He always wished to have that connection with another being, a companionship of unspoken thoughts and feelings.
Prompt: Imagine your character is kidnapped by aliens to be a pet. Your character cannot communicate with these aliens and is stuck in a home all day, every day. Might even be a cage, like a rat. Your character is treated well, but not as a sentient being. How does this situation unfold? How does your character feel and subsequently react? What would be the end result of potentially years of this lifestyle? What an... interesting prompt. xD Okay, let's see...
If Issuhn was kidnapped by aliens and treated as a pet, he would suffer terribly. He would be confused and extremely frustrated. Though Issuhn's never been the best at communication, a lack thereof would be unbearable. Also, Issuhn is not devoid of pride; being caged would not bode well with him. I can assure you, he would not last years of this lifestyle, and the end result would not be favorable. The Prince of Pomaloth is no house pet!
Fill out the following questionnaire from the point of view of your character:
This was filled out during the months of training after Issuhn met with Musavir, but before he left on his journey or met Piper.
1. How old are you?
Cool, I finally get to answer some of these myself! I'm sixteen years old.
2. What makes you special?
Well, uh, I'm not really sure. I don't really consider myself special... I mean, I was chosen as Prince, but I'm still kinda thinking that that was a fluke. Not saying I'm not grateful to be Prince, of course! But that doesn't answer the question... can we please skip this one?
3. What is the most normal thing about you?
Um, everything? I guess I have to be specific though, so I'm going to go with my love of combat training. All boys enjoy that kind of stuff, don't they?
4. What is the last thing you ate?
A nice big bowl of Starberry Soup. Yum!
5. What is the last thing you did prior to this questionnaire?
Baron and I were holding a debate over current events. He bested me again; my mind always goes blank when I'm supposed to be supporting my examples!
6. With whom did you last share a hug?
...I don't really remember. I think my mom may have hugged me when I became Prince four months ago? I don't know. *shrugs*
7. What's the most exciting thing you did yesterday?
I learned how to track someone in the woods! It's amazing how much you can tell about where a person went and how just by looking at different aspects of an area.
8. What will you do after you finish this questionnaire?
Go to bed! I'm exhausted; training with Baron always leaves me drained, no matter what it is we're doing.
9. Who do you want to talk to right now?
The Pink Zafara that Musavir showed me. She's supposed to help me on my quest; I have so many questions for her! And, well... she's pretty. *blushes*
10. What are you wearing?
My standard royal wear: purple cape and hat, lavender/magenta collared shirt, navy pants, and boots.
11. What's your favorite color?
Blue. Especially deep blue, like the color of my eyes.
12. What do you wish you were doing right now?
Travelling! I can't wait to be out in the wild, heading towards Terror Mountain. Can you imagine all the cool things I'll see?!
13. Do you like pie?
Duh! Who doesn't like pie?
What's your character's opinion on robots?
Issuhn's never encountered robots, so he doesn't really have an opinion.
If robots are unknown to your character, how would they respond to the concept of robots, artificial emotions, cyborgs and robotic takeovers? Honestly? Issuhn wouldn't believe any claims of Robots. Remember, he lives in a medieval setting. I don't even want to think about what would happen if he ever visited, say, Virtupets Space Station. He'd probably do something very un-princelike, such as fainting. And in front of Piper too... oh the horror! ;)
What scares your character?
The Darkness, as mentioned above and featured in its very own poem, which can be found in the navigation. Also, speaking in front of large groups; he gets stage-fright.
Are there any fears which your character has overcome? Not yet!
What are they most afraid of? Definitely the Darkness. Just the thought of it is enough to set him on edge for the rest of the day.
What is it that your character desires?
Issuhn desires only for his prophecy to be fulfilled and for his visions to cease tormenting him.
Is there anything that would tempt your character to break their moral code? If someone offered to take his place in the prophecy and take on the burden of the visions, I'm afraid Issuhn might accept, even though he knows that it is his burden to bear, and not anyone else's.
Has your character ever succumbed to temptation against their better judgement? What were the results? Thankfully no, at least not for anything bigger than stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. :P
What is your character's idea of a perfect society?
Issuhn imagines a place without fear, without hardship, and without death. Everyone would be kind to each other, and nobody would have to take on burdens such as what he himself has to bear.
What prevents their utopia from existing? Reality, duh! xD
Is there anything that comes close in their reality? ...not really, no. Issuhn's utopia is pretty unreachable, but isn't everyone's?
How does your character react to success?
Issuhn is very humble, so he never knows how he should outwardly react to success. A bowed head and mumbled thanks is usually what he resorts to. Inside, however, he's jumping up and down like a child, overcome with happiness.
How does your character respond to victory in team activities? He always congratulates his team mates, generally not giving himself any credit. He wants everyone to know that they were essential to the success of the activity.
What about personal victories? Issuhn tends to doubt himself, so when he succeeds he can't help being pleasantly surprised. Though he would never say it aloud for fear of being viewed as conceited or vain, he takes great pride in his accomplishments.
How does your character react when failing to achieve their goals or expectations? Issuhn insists that failure doesn't bother him, as that's what he expects. In reality, Issuhn is secretly upset and ashamed of himself. He has a tendency to put himself down after failure, convincing himself that he's not good enough. Silly boy! Issuhn needs to learn that failure is necessary for success; after all, you can only learn from your mistakes!
What is your character's greatest wish?
Issuhn's greatest wish is to have his father in his life again.
Why? His father died when Issuhn was only six years old. Issuhn was heartbroken, as he and his father were very close.
In what situations do they make a wish (wishing wells, shooting stars, birthday cakes, etc)? When he was a little boy, every chance he got he would make a wish. He'd use every superstition he could just to get more chances to wish. Now, as a teenager, he'll only wish on his birthday and when he happens to see a shooting star.
What sort of variety is there in those wishes, if any? None at all; he always wishes for his father back. Wait-correction: before leaving on his journey, he wished for safety for himself and all of his companions.
If granted any three wishes what would they be?
1) For his Papa to be alive and well, and with him.
2) For "The Darkness" to leave him alone.
3) For nothing bad to happen to him or any of his friends on their journey.
If your character could have any superpower what would it be? Why?
Issuhn would want the power of Invisibility. There have been many times when he wishes to just disappear.
What would they do with those powers? If he were in an uncomfortable situation, he would simply turn invisible and slip away unnoticed.
What well-known power would be their least favorite (flight, super strength, telekinesis, fire manipulation, etc)? Probably flight, as he doesn't like flying. He has a fear of heights/falling, so obviously flight is out of the question.
What does your character own that is considered extravagant, such as a yacht, expensive jewelry or a super computer?
Umm, everything? :P He is a Prince, after all!
Does your character feel it is extravagant? Most definitely. He's very humble, and so much luxury makes him uncomfortable. If he had it his way, he's give most of it away and live more like a commoner. Except for his indoor privy. He wouldn't give that up for the world! ;)
Why does your character choose to own such things? He doesn't, it's forced upon him. Most people seem to think that a Prince should be showered in material goods, no matter what the Prince has to say about it.
Does your character have any objectives to own something else extravagant? Nope, not really. As I said before, Issuhn doesn't mind simplicity.
Prompt: Tell me about the acquisition process of the first item your character got which would be considered extravagant. Consider age, motivation and external forces. Did anybody try to talk them out of it? Why did they choose to acquire that item in the end? How did they feel when they did so? ...need to think about this one.
What brings your character peace?
When your character's mind or day is hectic, how do they regain calmness? He throws his Coloured Bouncy Ball up in the air and then catches it on its descent. For some reason this mindless activity has a very calming effect on Issuhn.
How does your character relax? He either reads or goes for a walk in the forest. Both are simple activities that he enjoys. Unfortunately, he doesn't get too much time for either now that he's Prince.
For as long as the history of Pomaloth has been kept, Musavir has been the Prince or Princess' oracle and consultant. It is he who chooses each Prince/Princess; no one knows how he determines the next best ruler, but he almost always chooses well. Musavir and Issuhn share a strong connection, both a good and bad thing. Issuhn is able to easily receive and understand Musavir's prophesies, but in return is plagued by recurring visions unintentionally sent by Musavir. Issuhn fears Musavir and dreads their encounters. He still doesn't understand why Musavir chose him to be Prince, and at times even resents him for forcing him into a future that he didn't get to choose.
Issuhn's hat, a required item of his royal attire, serves as more than a fashionable accessory. The feather doubles as a quill, ensuring that Issuhn always has a means to write. This is important to Issuhn, as he keeps a regular journal and is known to have the urge to jot down his thoughts at random intervals throughout the day. At his choosing ceremony, a visiting ambassador with the gift of magic enchanted the quill so that it would never need ink to write. Though Issuhn is generally wary of magic due to childhood superstitions, he values his quill and has come to love its abilities.
Issuhn's journal is full of half-developed ideas, random thoughts, sketches, and daily entries cataloguing the day's events. The small leather-bound book is kept in easy access within an inner pocket of Issuhn's royal attire. He uses it as an all-purpose book, recording everything and anything that catches his interest, from the way the sunlight filters through the forest to a rant complaining of Xwee's antics. Issuhn is highly protective of his journal, allowing no one (even Piper!) to read it. Like the quill in his hat, the journal is enchanted so that it never runs out of pages. Lucky for Issuhn, else he'd be carrying around buckets of books!
Issuhn's Coloured Bouncy Ball was entrusted to him by Papa on the day he was called away. The ball served as a source of comfort for Papa in his youth, a mindless activity that was calming in troubling times. Issuhn uses it in the same way, tossing it to himself when stressed or worried. It's one of the few tangible things he has left of Papa, and so he always keeps it close to him. It's his way of keeping Papa's memory alive, as well as a means of keeping a level head when otherwise his emotions would rule over him.
Though he watched his Papa make sword after sword in his forge as a boy, Issuhn never wielded one until it was required as part of his combat training as Prince. Issuhn's sword is a simple blade, unnamed and showcasing no symbols or lettering, as is custom of Pomaloth swords unproven in battle. Issuhn is intuitive and adept at reading his opponents, talents that make up for his scant training. When traveling, he keeps his blade sheathed at his side, easily accessible if danger arises. In the evenings on his journey, Issuhn got in the habit of sparring with Tebor, soaking in as much advice and practice from the talented fighter as he could. Despite his peaceful nature, Issuhn loves sword fighting for the physical rigor and its ability to clear and focus the mind.
As a boy, Issuhn's favorite time of year was berry picking season. During that time, Papa would dedicate at few weeks to picking, preserving, and baking blueberries with his son. The first week would be spent picking berries, which consisted of sticky paws, father-son bonding, and full bellies. The next week would be spent making blueberry jam, a fun process involving lots of friendly horseplay between Papa and Issuhn. The final week was baking week, during which Papa and Issuhn slaved over a hot stove to produce marvelous blueberry pies, to be enjoyed and sold at market. The pie recipe, entrusted to Issuhn as soon as he was old enough to join Papa in the baking, has been passed down through the generations, tweaked by each successive family baker to their preference. The particular recipe perfected by Issuhn and Papa became one of legend in Pomaloth, winning ribbons at the annual summer festival. Though Issuhn still knows the recipe by heart, he hasn't been able to bring himself to partake in any berry-picking festivities since Papa's passing.
You hand the folder back to Issuhn and thank him for trusting you with such important information. He simply chuckles.
Important? It's nothing, really. I honestly don't get why it's necessary to keep around, but Baron's all for record keeping. Anyway, why don't we head on over to the Gallery? I can give you a tour if you're not too tired.
Who needs sleep when there's art to view! I'm ready to be amazed!
Ugh, talk about your boring field trip. I'm outta here!