As Royalty Does: Part Four
“Once upon a memory, there was a dream. This dream had asparagus, and a fix-it shop, and an old-fashioned marine well, and Chet Flash, and just about everything you could name, everything that a dream needs. But it didn’t have a dreamer. So the dream ended, leaving a small puff of lavender-scented smoke.”
The meaning of this story, if you would wish to know it, is this: Sometimes there isn’t a meaning. Sometimes things happen for no reason at all. Happy ever afters are rare in reality; people are generally content with just being allowed to live their lives as usual. We muddle along as best we can, but any ultimate question of existence does little to affect us. Have a war, with two warring sides thirsty for bloodshed and a horde of undead minions into the measure, and as soon as the aftermath has cleared, people will be back out buying cabbages at the marketplace.
- Akira Amira’s Reflections In A Shattered Mirror (Epilogue).
Zeekaye grinned. “So. You’re the infamous Everett.”
“Shaman,” the Ogrin corrected, puffing up his chest. Strings of beads and coins looped around his neck jingled together.
Zeekaye had been searching Ferndale, based on a hunch that, if the shaman was really involved in this whole affair, he might turn up there. The Korbat had been proved correct when he’d found the blue-furred magician loitering around in the bright sunlight. To counter the cheerful atmosphere, Everett had hung a fake Spyder from one ear. It just wasn’t the same.
Phizith, who had tagged along, glared at Shaman. The air around him took on a distinctly singed feel. “You pushed me off the Citadel!”
“Nothing personal,” Shaman said, almost cheerfully. “Business is business, after all.”
“Who hired you?” Zeekaye said, in a very reasonable voice. He didn’t show anger as obviously as Phizith did.
“People of importance,” Everett said mystically. “Bureaucrats.”
“Why did they kidnap me?” Zeekaye said, still in that infuriatingly calm voice.
Everett gave him a blank stare. “They didn’t need a reason. Aren’t you listening? They’re... they’re clerks.”
“Okay. I figured it probably wasn’t anything important.” Zeekaye tipped one ear towards his brother. “Phizith, you can incinerate him now.”
The Pteri cooled his feathers down a little, looking guilty. “Can’t. Rikku said not to blow anything up.”
Zeekaye sighed. “Then punch him. Whatever.”
“Is this the official peacekeeper advising violence?” Phizith grinned.
“This is the official peacekeeper wanting to temporarily eliminate an irritating problem,” Zeekaye said, rolling his words.
“Referring to Shamett here, or me?”
“Mmhm. That’s something of a moot point.” Zeekaye sighed. “Right now I just want to get this whole mess over with. Adventures are all very well, but this just doesn’t make sense.”
“Oh, for Scordrax’s sake, stop being all logical,” Phizith snapped. “It doesn’t have to make sense. This is Neopia!”
“Point,” Zeekaye conceded. During this conversation, Everett had struck a number of excellent villain poses; now the Korbat turned to him and continued, “Look, could you just do us all a favour and hand yourself into the authorities? It would make life a lot easier.”
“I have done nothing wrong,” Shaman said haughtily, and then his grin turned wicked. “Nothing you can prove, anyway.”
“Oh, I don’t question that. No doubt you’ve covered your traces very well.” Zeekaye gave a sardonic grin. “However... I can fly for days without getting tired. I can find a single pearl among a thousand oysters.” His face darkened, his eyes glowing with menace. “And I can find you. And I will. Wherever you go. And you will pay for your crimes, shaman. Have no doubt of that.” He made a sweeping gesture with one wing. “Now get out of my sight!”
The Ogrin scurried away. Zeekaye let his arm fall back to his side. “Doesn’t hurt much,” he said cheerfully. “I’ll be able to fly again soon.”
Phizith grinned. “‘Wherever you go, I will find you’? Bit over-dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Hey, I had to get rid of him somehow. You didn’t seem to be in a hurry to.” Zeekaye stretched luxuriously and yawned. “Let’s head back. I still need to sort out Robyn...” Something occurred to him. “That thief. Range. You still in touch with him?”
Zeekaye stood on his balcony, and basked happily in the sun.
Robyn tapped the floor with her claw. “So... this Range...”
Zeekaye answered, his eyes still closed. “Is a Red Zafara, head of the Lost Desert organisation known as Shifting Sands.”
“And they’re thieves.”
“Yes.” Now he opened his eyes and grinned at her. “I figured you’d fit in pretty well there.”
“Thanks,” Robyn said flatly.
“Oh, it’s no problem.” He gestured loftily. “I like helping people. It’s my job.”
“Still. I owe you one.” The Brown Pteri didn’t sound delighted at the prospect.
“Indeed you do.” Zeekaye inclined his head in her direction. “I am much obliged for your company, my lady, and I bid thee fare well until we next meet.”
“Yeah, bye to you too,” Robyn laughed, launching herself into the air. Zeekaye watched her flying style. It was different from his – more relying on the streamlined feathers than rapid wing beats. “Hey, we really oughtta have a rematch sometime,” she offered. “I’m not sure if I could beat you this time.”
Zeekaye closed his eyes again and leaned against the railing. “Sometime,” he said lazily, and heard her wing beats growing fainter until she was too far to hear.
Phizith wandered out and waved his hand in front of Zeekaye’s face. “Neopia calling Zeekaye... Zeekaye, respond...”
“That sounds vaguely astronomical,” Zeekaye said, watching the Pteri through lidded eyes. “I wonder how the phrase originated?”
Phizith leaned against the balcony too. His battered green jacket flapped in the wind. “So. What’s your verdict on this whole deal?”
“I rather think the point is that there was no point at all. An Ogrin decided to get up to a little mischief... he probably picked a random Citadel dweller to mess with.”
“Well, that’s kind of anticlimactic,” Phizith said. He examined the Darigan Korbat closely, green eyes narrowed. “He was pretty stupid.”
“Choosing the guy with practically super-powered wings and a brother made of fire to pick on?”
“True, true.” Zeekaye grinned. “We make quite the team.”
“I mean, you even came looking for me. You must have been worried.”
Phizith adopted his most angelic expression. “Of course I was. You’re my brother.”
“Worried and bored.”
“That too,” Phizith agreed, straight-faced.
“And the moral of the story is...”
“Never trust creepy people?” Phizith said musingly.
“I was thinking something more along the lines of ‘royalty is as royalty does’ or ‘a fool and his mansion are soon parted’, but that is fitting, I suppose.”
Phizith stared up at the sky. “How do you do this all day?” he muttered, trying to get the crick out of his neck.
“Long practice, my friend.” He looked down at the ground far below. It was a patchwork of fields, with brown path threads holding it together in their roundabout way. Brightvale, there was nothing like it. “If you burn anything in this manor, you’re paying for it,” he added as an afterthought.
“Whatever happened to generous fraternity?” Phizith asked.
“Whatever happened to that Blue Lupe Plushie I used to have, that turned up years later as charred scraps?”
Phizith started. “That wasn’t me, honestly!” He gave a huge grin and draped an arm over his brother’s gaunt shoulders. “I mean, would I do that to you?”
“Yes. Yes, you would,” Zeekaye said, looking amused. “Why don’t you head down to the kitchens? The chef normally has something on the boil.”
“What a brilliant idea!” Phizith removed his arm and headed out. “I knew I didn’t have a genius brother for nothing!”
“Do you need anything, sir?”
“No, Axe. I’m fine.” Zeekaye flicked an ear in the Usul maid’s direction. “One question, though, before I leave.”
“Would ‘Axe’ happen to be a shortened form of ‘Akira Amira’?”
She opened her blue eyes wide. “I am sure I do not know what you’re talking about, sir.”
“Of course you don’t,” Zeekaye said, grinning. She gave her small grin in return.
“May I ask you a question also, sir?”
“Shoot.” Zeekaye clicked his fingers.
“I am afraid it is rather abstract, but I am curious, sir. If it came to it, which would you rather lose – your mind, or your wings?”
His eyebrows rose. “Well. That’s an interesting question.” At length he replied, “With broken wings I fly again; with a broken mind I am lost.” He shrugged his bony shoulders. “I suppose I am a scholar to the core.”
“That is not necessarily a bad thing, sir.” Axe paused. “Did you like it here?”
“I did. Very much. It’s not a bad place to be.” He surveyed her thoughtfully. “I’ll visit,” he added. “It’s just a short flight. And I’ll write.”
“That would be most excellent,” Axe said, hugging him. He hugged her back.
“So. Have you figured out this whole thing yet?”
“Yes, sir, and I have come to the conclusion that it makes no sense.” She grinned.
“Agreed.” Zeekaye slid his copy of ]Reflections In A Shattered Mirror into his bag. “On the bright side, I got to meet new people, instead of moping around the house all day...”
“Indeed, sir.” Back to the demure maid, Axe gave him a curtsey. “Until we meet again, my friend.”
“Until we meet again,” Zeekaye echoed, and, with a springing jump and a few rapid wingbeats, he was gone.