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Princess of Erodaire IV: Part Six


by christinetran

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I stared in shock as I saw my father drop his sword weakly against the floor, his body following suit. Instinctively, I rushed forward and buried my face into the cloak he wore. My hand reached down and grabbed his...but I was too late. I could feel the warmth in his body leave until all was cold. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn't breathe or see.

     "Father..." I whispered and tightened my grip about his hand. I didn't want him to go... not yet.

     "Andra, I'm...I'm so sorry."

     Slowly, I turned my head and stared up at Oldraik. He had thrown off the veil that concealed his face before, and now I was able to completely see him for who he was. An assassin, a betrayer...I hated him for what he had done.

     "Andra, I had to... I couldn't stand by at all..." Oldraik stuttered awkwardly, and I could sense the sorrow in his voice. But I was blind... I was blind to all else except anger and revenge. The dagger that I had grabbed before was still in my hand...

     With a cry filled with both grief and anger, I jumped at Oldraik, the dagger before me. I stood there in hate, and more tears flowed down my face as I saw Oldraik double over in shock. I released my hold upon the dagger's handle and stepped back... Oldraik fell upon the floor.

     "I'm sorry, too," I cried softly and slowly kneeled against the floor. I buried my face into my hands... the tears just wouldn't stop. Behind me was my father's fallen body, and before me was Oldraik's lifeless form. I couldn't stop crying...

     "FIRE!"

     "Everyone get out!"

     "The castle's burning!"

     "Out! Everyone!"

     I could hear the words echo in my mind, but I couldn't control my body. I was numb with shock, and I didn't want to leave either Oldraik or my Father. My two closest allies...gone.

     Andra... you've ruined Erodaire...

     "I hate you Rune! I hate you!" I cried out between sobs, and I felt the salty tears enter my mouth. I spat them out, for they tasted like mud to me. Tears...a sign of weakness. I shall not cry anymore. The scent of burning wood and cloth filled my ears, and I could see smoke seep in underneath the doors. The room was empty of all...

     Dizziness started to seep into my mind just as quickly as the smoke entered the room... everything turned black

     **********

     "You awake yet?"

     My eyes flickered open the moment I heard those words, and I instantly sat up. Everything was blurry and dark... a multitude of clashing blues, greens, and browns. My throat felt weak and dry, and my tongue was parched. When I reached up to rub my eyes, a stinging sensation ran through my entire body and made me flinch.

     "Oh the poor dear. Poor, poor dear. Here, give her this to eat. It'll help her."

     "Oh, quit being so motherly. I'm sure Andra is perfectly fine."

     "Not necessarily. You see those burn marks upon her arms? If it weren't for my cooling salve, they'll be as red as a Moltenore!"

     The voices started to take shape in my mind, and I instantly knew who they were. I rubbed my eyes again and looked up into the faces of a Pink Draik and a Blue Lupe... Aera and Sir Barick.

     I was lying upon a warm blanket thrown onto the snowy ground, and the sky was obscurred by the intertwining branches of the forest. Beams of sunlight pushed themselves through cracks between the trees and danced upon the snowy ground.

     "Glad to see you awake, Andra," Sir Barick said comfortingly and handed me a cup of water. "Drink this. It'll help soothe your throat."

     I drank the cup of water gratefully; the cooling liquid did wonders for me. Now that we were in broad daylight, I was able to see Sir Barick clearly. Tufts of gray hair peeked out between his blue coat, and his face looked gaunt and bony. Nevertheless, a small smile was upon his lips, and his eyes were as bright as the morning sky. A pale cloak was thrown carelessly over his shoulders and it's strings were loosely tied about his neck. Underneath he wore a thick, woolen jacket with white trimmings. I glanced over at Aera and noticed that she wore a jacket similar to Sir Baricks, but her hands and feet were concealed in white mittens and boots. Over one of her arms was thrown a woolen, white cloak and a pair of extra mittens.

     "Andra," Sir Barick said and interrupted my thoughts. "Are you all right?"

     My mouth opened slightly, for I was planning on telling him that I was fine... but then I remembered my father, and Oldraik. My arms felt weak once more, and I looked down. I heard Aera sigh mournfully and felt her hand fall comfortingly upon my shoulder. She squeezed it and whispered that I would eventually get over it.

     "How... how did I get here?" I asked.

     "I found you in the castle near your father and Oldraik," Sir Barick replied.

     "But I thought you left."

     "Oh, no, dearest," Aera said softly with a smile. "He didn't leave. He just went off to search for me."

     I stared up at her quizzically.

     Aera laughed. "Sir Barick and I go way back, m'dear. We both worked in the castle at the same time. In fact, I was the only one who ever believed him and his stories."

     "Why did he search for you, though?"

     "I searched for her because I knew that if anyone could persuade you to leave the darkened confines of my basement, it would be her," Sir Barick said with a chuckle. "Fyora knows that she persuaded me into trouble more often than not."

     "But how did you know that I was in the castle?"

     "We didn't. In fact, the only reason I went into the castle was because I wanted to see if I could save any of the soldiers before it collap-"

     "What?" I asked incredulously. "What do you mean collapse?"

     "Don't interrupt him, m'dear. Let him tell the story," Aera said.

     "The Castle of Erodaire was on fire. It could be seen from miles away. I went in, hoping that I would be able to save some misleaded soldier or maid, but instead, I found you betwee-"

     "Barick!" Aera cried quickly, her once warm voice instantly turning cold and vicious.

     "Yes, yes. Sorry Aera... Andra. Well, I found you and took you out of the castle. You inhaled quite a bit of smoke while you were in there."

     "So...is the castle?" I asked uncertainly, almost afraid to utter the words. "The castle..."

     "See for yourself, Andra," Sir Barick and Aera muttered softly together and pointed towards an opening in the trees.

     Slowly, I stood up and awkwardly walked towards the opening. I could feel each heartbeat burst against my chest, and my hands felt clammy and shaky. I brushed off the branches of bushes that barred my way, and the snow crunched and melted slightly underneath my feet. As I came closer, I could smell the unkind odor of smoke and fire... my head reeled slightly as the familiar stench reached my nostrils. My eyes started to tear up once more when I saw the leftovers of what was once my home...

     Piles of broken and scarred brick walls were piled high and low, surrounded by the scorched remains of tables, chairs, and the royal tapestries. Burnt pieces of curtains and ash fluttered into the air whenever a breeze found a need to strike them, and melted glass created puddles of blue-liquid upon the snowy ground. Even the castle's surrounding walls were torn down and strewn about. Everything was ruined... broken.

     "That's not the worst of it, Andra," I heard Aera whisper behind me, and she pointed towards the now visible village.

     I gasped and inhaled quickly... the village was burned as well. I could see the remaining stone foundations of houses that collapsed inwards or burned to the ground. The stone walkways were charred into a greenish, black color, and the trees once filled with winter fruits were now bare.

     "This... no. Why..." I whispered to myself and wrapped my arms about me. "No...my home...."

     "Aera and I were planning on going to a neighboring country... Meridell. After that, we're going to journey Neopia, far and wide. We were hoping you would come along with us, Andra. You do not need to, but it would mean quite a bit to us if you did," Sir Barick said casually to me.

     I listened to Sir Barick's words carefully, but continued to stare into space. Although I knew that there was nothing for me here now... it still felt wrong... to leave Erodaire. It's been my home for so long... and I felt like I was betraying it... leaving it behind when it has fallen. Even so... I had to accept the fact that Erodaire is gone now. It is not my home anymore... instead, I would have to search for a new home to cherish...

      I bit my lower lip and suppressed my tears as I nodded. I heard Aera and Sir Barick breathe out in relief, and I couldn't help but smile at their reaction.

     "Here, m'dear," Aera said and handed me the mittens and jacket. "It's quite cold... you would need these during the journey."

     I gratefully accepted the clothes Aera gave me, and watched as they both walked away from the castle's ruins.

     "We'll be back there when you're ready to go," Sir Barick shouted over his shoulder.

     Looking back upon the burnt remains of my castle, I started to recall Rune's words. I shut my eyes quickly, but it did not stop the tears from coming. He had been right... Erodaire's destruction was my fault. All of his help... his guidance... they were all useless now.

     I brushed the tears from my face and pulled on the mittens and jacket that I was given. I took in a deep breath and turned my back to Erodaire...

     **********

     "You all ready to go?" Sir Barick asked happily as he shouldered his heavy backpack filled with weapons and trinkets that all journeyman needed. There was a slight breeze in the air, and the sky was filled with fluffy, white clouds. Sunlight shone down upon us... it was the perfect day.

     Aera nodded and hummed to herself joyously as she placed her cooking utensils and extra clothes into her bag. "All right and dandy in the world of Neopia..." she sang softly.

     "How about you, Andra? You ready to leave dear old Erodaire?" Sir Barick asked me gladly, but I could sense a hint of nervousness in his voice.

     I pulled my bag of food and water onto my shoulders and stared down the hill at the burnt remains of Erodaire. From a distance, the scene isn't quite as disheartening, but it was still able to pull a few of my strings. I averted my eyes away from the fallen castle and village and stared into the surrounding countryside... endless miles of algid snow and thick, black forests. In my mind, I was able to clearly picture the rolling waves of green grass and thick, lush forest of a summer in Erodaire. I could still remember how the wind made the colorful leaves dance during autumn, and how the spring rains could magically wash the cold snow away and replace it with soft green underbrush. I opened my eyes again, and this time, Erodaire wasn't as broken as it was before...

     "Andra? Are you okay?" Sir Barick asked uneasily.

     "Yes...I'm okay, Sir Barick," I said back and turned around to face him.

     Sir Barick smiled at my answer and nodded happily. "All right then, we're ready to go."

     Aera continued to hum to herself as she placed the last of the pans into her bag and threw it over her back. "Yes, that's the last of it all, m'dears."

     The three of us continued our trek over the hill's wide crest, and each step brought us farther away from Erodaire. All the same, it also shed a wave of relief over me until I felt as if a heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders. My breathing quickened, and my feet felt lighter. The dizziness that once plagued my mind started to fade, and the aching pains of my muscles disappeared. As we reached the end of the hill's crest and prepared to descend, we all took one last look at Erodaire. Once grand... once beautiful...

     Erodaire will fall into ruins... and Erodaire has fallen...

     *********** A few hundred years later **********

     A fat, burly looking blue Skeith carefully picks his way through the scratchy underbrush of a forest. He groans and continues to hack away at the branches that cling to his royal red cloak, his bejewewled sword's handle glinting whenever it caught a beam of light. Behind him are Kacheeks, Draiks, Lupes, etc., all dressed in shining, sterling armor that carried a picture of a red and blue checkered flag. They all carried swords, but they weren't as lavishly decored as the one the blue Skeith brandished.

     "Ah! Curse these wild growths! Curse that tree! Curse that bush! Curse them all!" the Skeith growled and continued to hack away.

     "Skarl, why are we even here in this blasted place?" a green Skeith asked from behind. As he stepped forward, the guards that stood before him instantly stepped back and allowed him to walk through unbarred. He wore a cloak that was similar to Skarl's, but it was colored a natural green and trimmed with a fur of white at the edges.

     "Well, you've always been complaining about how I'm never kind to yo-AH! There we go!" Skarl cried happily as he chopped away the last of the bothersome branches. He walked into a clearing of green grass and a few sparse trees. Other than that, it was empty. Nevertheless, Skarl brandished his arms out happily and smiled while everyone else stared blankly at him.

     "What in the world is this place?" Hagan asked angrily, obviously annoyed. "This is just nothing but grass and trees and forest."

     "Ah hah! No, no, no, no, no, dear brother," King Skarl chuckled. "This is MY nothing. This is MY grass. MY trees. MY forest. And soon, if you are kind, they shall be yours."

     King Hagan raised one eyebrow in question at this odd statement, but continued to stare around. "I've never heard of this place before, though. Where did you find it?"

     "I didn't actually find it, and it didn't actually belong to me at first. It used to be one of Meridell's neighboring kingdoms, and I haven't even heard about it until I looked through some of the old manuscripts in the library. Turns out, a few hundred years ago, before our time, it was wiped out by an incredible fire."

     "You do say, Skarl. How was the royal line? The family? Any troubles? What ever happened to them?"

     "Well, from what I read, the King was a tyrant. Some sort of punishing, merciless...Neopian. Must've had a bad childhood, that King, to turn out so bad."

     "How did the fire occur, and did the tyrant have any heir to the throne?"

     "The documents are quite vague when it comes to the fire. Something about a battle... the King must've had a battle with his Head Chef, and he must've burnt the darn place down," Skarl said with a chuckle. "As to any heir, he did have one heir. A daughter, a Maraquan Draik. I heard that she was nuts, though. He banished her right before the kingdom fell apart."

     "And what has happened to her since?"

     "Nobody knows. Right after the kingdom fell, they discovered that she was missing at her place of banishment. Never been heard of since."

     "I see... quite a sad past indeed," Hagan said mournfully and continued to walk around. "And this kingdom, it's name?"

     "Erodaire, the Kingdom of Erodaire."

     "Now why have you brought me here, anyhow, Skarl?"

     "This, my brother Hagan, will be your new kingdom..."

     As the two brother Skeiths continued to speak of Hagan's new kingdom, far off in the brush two eyes gleam in the darkness. He is an aged Nimmo, his face pure wrinkles, but his expression filled with wisdom. In one hand, he clutches a knotted old cane, and his other hand is placed upon a disfigured rock.

     Pieces of ivy cling to the rock, and the years have torn and broken it out of it's original shape. Nevertheless, if one were to take a closer inspection, he or she would be able to see tiny words engraved upon the front.

     Andra: Once upon a time, she was a princess...

     The aged Nimmo tightens his grip upon both the rock and his cane... his knuckles grow white in the process. Slowly, he lets out one withering sigh before he fades and disappear...

The End

Author's Note: Yes...finally, Princess of Erodaire has finally ended. Sorry about letting it last for so long, and I'm doubly sorry that nearly all of the endings are either quite sad, or quite cliffhanger-ish. Nevertheless, I'm still quite proud of it.

First off, I want to thank Snowflake for everything. She's a wonderful editor, and I love the dress she always wears (isn't it just gorgeous?). Thanks for being so wonderful and kind throughout my entire stay in the Neopian Times. I'll never forget you wherever I go in life.

Secondly, I want to thank my sister for being my toughest critic. If it weren't for your "This is bad" or "Just rewrite it cause it'll never get accepted", I would've never progressed as much as I have now.

Last, but not least, I want to thank everyone who has faithfully followed Andra during her journey. I know that some of my parts are incredibly late, and I know that the suspense must be horrible, but you all still continued to wait. I love you all for that, and I want to thank you for being so incredibly patient. I hope that you all enjoyed the the last of Princess of Erodaire, and that it didn't disappoint any of you.

 
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Other Episodes


» Princess of Erodaire IV: Part One
» Princess of Erodaire IV: Part Two
» Princess of Erodaire IV: Part Three
» Princess of Erodaire IV: Part Four
» Princess of Erodaire IV: Part Five



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