Royally Educated: Part Three
Lira looked at her cousin. She had changed quite a lot; if it weren’t for her bright color, Lira wouldn’t have recognized her.
“I thought you were sick,” Lira finally said.
“I was,” Bella answered. “I came in during the middle of class. I was right next to Mer.”
Lira looked at Mer, who seemed overwhelmed.
“Is your name really Kaylie?” she asked.
“No, it’s Lira,” Bella said before Lira opened her mouth.
“And do you really live on Blueberry Row?”
“No, I live...” Lira paused.
“In the castle,” Bella finished. The two cousins looked at each other with the knowledge that both of them were similar in that respect.
“And I do eat fruit all the time,” Lira continued, “but not because I like it. And I’ve been to school all my life, every single day, and I’ve never met anyone my own age besides you,” she finished. “Except for people around town.”
Mer’s eyes went from being confused to sympathetic. She gestured to a seat next to Bella.
“OK,” she said, “let’s get this straightened out.”
By the end of lunch, the two cousins had discussed almost everything that had happened while they’d been apart. Mer sat by and watched while Lira and Bella traded stories about their lives for the past few years.
“The war was awful,” Bella was saying. “I stayed in the castle for a lot of the time, because there was so much fighting going on. But I went outside for some of it to help everybody.”
“We haven’t had anything that exciting in Brightvale,” Lira said. “Just a run on the book store in the Month of Celebrating.”
Bella laughed, and her tail thumped against the floor. Lira smiled to herself when she remembered that that was always what Bella did when she was happy.
The three of them eventually looked around and realized that most of the pets were leaving. They picked up their trays and filed out of the cafeteria. Once school was over, they met outside.
“What should we do now?” Mer asked. The sun shone brightly, and Lira squirmed from its intensity.
“We could go to my house,” Bella offered. Lira looked at her in surprise. She hadn’t been inside her uncle’s house since she was little, and she doubted that her father would ever let her.
“I don’t think I can,” she said immediately. Bella and Mer both smiled at her.
“It’s okay,” Bella said. “I know they don’t get along, but we’re still family, and that matters most. Dad wouldn’t mind at all.”
“You sure?” Lira asked.
“Positive. Now let’s go.”
Bella’s castle was a little different from Lira’s; it was less grandiose and homier. Lira couldn’t believe that they had an actual moat.
“Do you ever swim there?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” Bella said. “It’s filled with petpetpets and all those sorts of things.” She grimaced.
The pets walked across the moat using the drawbridge. The guards nodded at Bella and looked at Lira quizzically. One of them almost reached out to talk to her, but stopped himself. Lira leaned over to Bella.
“Do I know him?” she asked.
“Maybe,” Bella said. “Dad’s had these people here ever since he started. They probably recognize you. But don’t worry,” she added as she noticed Lira’s expression. “You’re fine.”
They walked past Kayla’s Potion Shop, and the Zafara winked at Lira.
“Do you need anything, dearie?” she said. “I’ve got Bubbling Fungus right here. It’ll cure those warts up in no time!”
“No thanks,” Lira said, and Bella grabbed her hand.
“Don’t bother talking to Kayla,” she said. “She gets enough business as it is.”
She led her to another opening in the stone wall, where an unrolled carpet reached the doorway. Beyond it Lira could see a throne and King Skarl on top. Bella pulled harder when Lira began to slow down.
“Is he sleeping?” Lira asked.
“Yes, but it’s easy to wake him up. Just watch.”
She nodded at the two Draiks who were guarding the door, and they stepped aside. One muttered that the King wasn’t in a particularly good mood today, and the other guard chuckled.
Bella walked up to her dad.
“Dad?” she said loudly. “Dad!” She poked his arm, and he snored loudly. “Wake up.”
His head flopped to the side.
Bella finally grabbed the crown from atop his head, and held it in the air. A couple of guards advanced toward her. “Don’t worry,” she mouthed to them.
“What’s going on?” Skarl said suddenly. He jumped out of his seat. “I’m armed and ready to fight!” he yelled. He brandished a sword in the air.
“Dad, it’s just me,” Bella said. Skarl looked at his daughter, and slipped his sword back into its sheath.
“Oh, all right,” he said. “What is it?”
“Well, I brought someone here,” Bella said. She poked Lira, and Skarl turned to her.
“Lira,” he said breathlessly. “What are you doing here?”
“Um, sir, I was at school, and – well, Bella found me.” She paused. “I ran away from home,” she summarized.
King Skarl stared at her for a second, and Lira quivered. Then he threw back his head and laughed.
“Well, well,” he said. “Welcome back! This calls for a celebration.”
Bella smiled and hugged Lira. “See, I told you,” she whispered.
The celebration lasted long into the night. Lira went cheese rolling, played Ultimate Bullseye, and bet on Turdle Racing. When her turdle won, she and Bella jumped up and down in delight.
After King Skarl heard what Lira ate at home, he asked everyone to prepare a grand feast. A whole portion of the table was filled with desserts.
At the end of the feast, Skarl stood up at the table. He looked a bit tired from the events. He turned to Lira, who was sitting between Mer and Bella.
“I’d like to welcome Lira to the castle today,” he said, “and present her with a gift.” He nodded to Bella, who pushed her seat back.
“Since we’re so glad to have Lira here, we decided to give her something special,” she said. “So that she can remember us always and feel free to come back.”
She pulled a package from underneath the table and handed it to Lira. Lira opened it and saw a Turdle underneath. The Turdle wiggled slightly, and Lira pulled him out.
“He’s gorgeous,” she said. “Thanks so much.” She hugged her cousin, and turned to Mer.
“Thanks for taking me in, Mer,” she said.
“No problem,” she said, and her eyes twinkled.
As the two left the dining hall area, Lira stopped shortly. She saw a Green Skeith at the end of the hallway. He looked at her sternly.
“Dad,” she said.
“Lira, what are you doing here?” he said once he reached her. He grabbed her arm.
“We’re going,” he said.
“No, we aren’t.” Lira tried to pull away.
Lira saw her uncle approach them, and her father let go.
“Hagan,” he said.
Their eyes narrowed. Lira looked between the two of them.
“Come on, why can’t you sort this out? You’re brothers! I don’t want you to hate each other.”
“Well, we don’t,” Skarl said hesitantly.
“Not really,” his brother replied. They looked warily at each other, and then at Lira.
“Well, just for the sake of this,” King Hagan said, “we can get along.” He looked at his brother.
“For, you know, business purposes,” Skarl said.
“And maybe the occasional get-together.”
“But only because of them.”
Lira giggled and went off with Bella to finish their game.
It was three months later, and Meridell was in high summer. Lira sat inside Bella’s Room, playing with her Turdle. Bella lay next to her.
Mer walked out of Bella’s closet, and twirled around in a blue dress.
“What do you think?” she asked. “It’s for the ball tonight.”
King Skarl and Hagan were hosting a celebration for the reunification of Brightvale and Meridell. Lira was especially looking forward to the feast.
“It looks great,” Bella said absentmindedly.
Mer frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Lira said. “Don’t mind Bella. She’s just thinking about what kind of cheese she’s going to pick tonight.”
“Not true,” Bella said, but she laughed. “Anyway, I’m thinking that this will be better than the last one.”
“That’s true,” Lira said. She rolled onto her back so that she and Bella were looking at the ceiling. “I hope they won’t get into a fight over the seat placement, though.”
Mer made a face. “That was awful,” she said. “Funny, but scary. By the way, are you coming to my house before you go to the ball?”
“I don’t think so,” Lira said. “I forget what Dad said, but apparently I have to get tutored. I’ve been missing my lessons a lot.”
Mer grinned and twirled around again in her dress.
“Well, have fun on Blueberry Row,” she said. Lira giggled at the mention of her made-up street name. “Don’t come back too late, though. You might miss out.”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Lira said. “I’ll be the first one to arrive.”
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