Braving Brightvale: Part Three
“Well, guess what?” Kinsley challenged.
Percy rolled his eyes and sat back, arms crossed. “Nothing you can say is going to make me agree with you. All there is to it is that all Meridellians are low-life farmers who can’t read and definitely don’t deserve the help of our wise King Hagan.”
“Excuse me? Say that again?”
“No! I already said it once. Everyone knows it and you and your high principles can’t do anything about it!” Percy was now almost shouting back at the Xweetok, bringing about the attention of the advisors in the room.
The Xweetok scowled, feeling truly insulted. “Then I suppose I’m a low-life farmer who can’t read and doesn’t deserve anything either!”
She paused for effect, waiting for his reaction. Percy just sat there, waiting impatiently for her to continue. “Do I have to explain everything for you? I moved here from Meridell. I’m Meridellian, so apparently I’m a brainless farmer, too.” She angrily excused herself from the table, throwing her napkin down like a flag of truce. She didn’t want to argue with him, and knew if she let herself debate any longer there would be no chance of their friendship recovering.
The green Bori sat there for a moment, dumbstruck. He really had no idea she was Meridellian, since she seemed so... so... normal. Heck, if she could get into the same program as him, then she had to be equally as smart as he was, if not smarter. Which definitely meant she was literate... and he was wrong.
Not even bothering to finish the day at the castle, Kinsley ran straight home. Her mother was the only one home, her sister at school and father at the pawn shop.
“Oh my, whatever is the problem?” Daisy asked her daughter, after making her a soothing cup of tea.
The pink Xweetok was in such a rage she could hardly think straight. It probably didn’t help that by this time; tears were flowing freely and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. “It seems as though everyone in the castle hates Meridell! Literally everyone, I have not heard one person say one good thing about it! According to just about everyone in Brightvale, Meridellians are all stupid farmers who are incapable of reading or writing or holding a conversation that doesn’t have to do with the latest berry crop! And to top it all off, my only friend at the castle feels the same way and we just got into a huge argument about it! And now Muffinsmoots is going to be angry with me because I didn’t tell him I was leaving, something which is probably going to require another hour long lecture tomorrow morning!”
Her mother sighed. “Slow down there, partner! I only got every other word, you were talking so fast. And what’s this I hear about a ‘Muffinsmoots’?”
Kinsley stopped crying momentarily to laugh. She’d accidentally said his nickname instead of Mufflecrump, and explained the joke to her mother. “Did you catch the beginning, though?”
“Yes, I got most of that. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about it, hun. You knew there was that feeling in Brightvale, but how was I to know that the feeling would be stronger at the castle?”
“But I want to do something about it!” She was practically in tears again at this point.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do. Perhaps if you succeed and become a royal advisor someday you can show them all just what Meridellians can achieve. Leading by example is one of the best ways to prove a point.” Her mother patted her on the shoulder calmingly.
She flicked her pink tail, indicating she was annoyed. “I suppose so. It’s just so hard not to say anything, because no one else there is from Meridell, so no one knows how it really is! You know? There’s no Meridellian representative to speak on behalf of them, so I feel obligated to do it!”
Her mother shook her head. “It’s not your place, dear. You’re only an apprentice, not a full-fledged member of court.”
“Fine. I’m going to my room.” She ran to her room, trying not to slam the door.
Kinsley knew the next morning would be awkward, so she came prepared. She had her mother bake some cookies to bring in for Mr. Merridew, to try and ease the anger that he would probably be feeling.
She sat down in her chair silently. He didn’t even greet her this morning; he merely motioned with his hand for her to come in after her terrified knock at his door. She placed the plate of cookies on his desk.
He sniffed the air. “Are those... chocolate chip?”
The pink Xweetok nodded solemnly. This had been a bad idea, she knew it. He would probably reprimand her for trying to buy her way out of it, something which probably indicated she would lead a corrupt life. She could hear his words in her head now.
“Good. I like chocolate chip.” He took one off the plate and ate it greedily.
Another six cookies later, he finally seemed ready to talk. “Now, Kinsley. I am aware that you fled from lunch yesterday rather quickly. Any reasons as to why you did not inform me or one of the other advisors?”
She sighed, knowing this question would come eventually. “I deeply regret my actions yesterday afternoon and I just wanted to say how sorry I am for not informing you or another advisor. I understand the consequences of my actions could have been misinterpreted by many others as something much more serious than it was, and for that I am sorry.”
Mufflecrump chuckled. “Well, that was better than I could have done. I’m surprised! It seems I’ve taught you well.”
Kinsley looked at him in disbelief. “So you’re not... mad at me?”
The elderly emerald Acara leaned back in his chair. “Shut the door to my office, please.” She did. “Thank you. Now, I have something to tell you, and you are to tell no one else. Is this clear?”
She nodded, intrigued. He continued, “I heard what you and that young apprentice, Parsnip—”
“Percy.” Kinsley stifled a laugh.
“Yes, him. Anyway, I heard what you were arguing about. I’m afraid you’re wrong... you are not the only one in Brightvale who thinks that Meridell deserves a chance at knowledge and glory.”
“Really?” The miniscule Xweetok was positively shocked. She and Percy spent hours joking about how stern and strict Muffinsmoots was, and here he was, agreeing with something not even Percy believed.
Mufflecrump nodded his head slowly. “You see, there was once a young Acara boy who lived on a farm. This farm just so happened to grow berries. Meridellian conkerberries. Well, let’s just say, for the sake of this story, that this boy was very smart. Very smart indeed. He had bigger dreams than simply making it to the next harvest without starving during the winter.”
Kinsley’s mouth was practically on the floor by this point. She was so extraordinarily stunned, the folder she was holding dropped to the ground without her noticing. “You... too? You’re Meridellian?”
“Yes. A true Meridellian berry farmer, if there ever was one.”
“Wow. I’m sorry, I had no idea! So why don’t you say anything to the King during all of those briefings? Or say how you feel in meetings when the advisors are bad-mouthing Meridell?”
The aged advisor put his glasses on at this point, usually indicating he was about to expound on some invaluable knowledge that she ought to to soak up like a sponge. “I would not have this job if I went around shouting to the heavens each and every opinion of mine. Being an advisor to the king is not about what you think is best for you, it’s what you think is best for the kingdom. While I think it would be lovely for King Hagan to help out our neighboring home kingdom, it is simply not in the cards at this point.”
Kinsley thought for a moment. She’d been thinking of only herself this whole time, never really thinking of how her actions would affect others... she was so self-centered. She made a mental note to never again be egotistical as long as she lived.
“Do you understand? It’s not in the cards at this point, mostly because of previous attempts we have made to spread knowledge into Meridell. Each and every time, King Skarl accepts the aid, in the form of books and schoolteachers, and somehow destroys them. He sends the schoolteachers away to the battlefield, trades the books for better weapons.”
She nodded solemnly. So it wasn’t just King Hagan; his brother Skarl was part of the problem as well.
Mufflecrump took his glasses off. “Well, I suppose that’s enough of that dreadful talk for now! Perhaps you would like to fetch us some milk to go with these scrumptious cookies?”
Kinsley smiled. “Sounds good!” She figured a long walk to the kitchens would allow her to think about what had happened.
She arrived at the kitchen, which was nearly on the other side of the castle, and asked the head chef for two glasses of milk. The Xweetok headed back, knowing exactly where she was going thanks to Percy’s detailed tour all the way back on that first day.
She heard something behind her. Turning around warily, she saw that the shadowy corridor was completely vacant. Shrugging, she continued down the twisting staircase normally reserved for only housekeepers and servants. Taking the back hallways was much quicker than walking all the way through the courtyard, Percy had taught her.
Now she heard frantic footsteps behind her. Not knowing who else would be up and about, as it was probably time for lunch at this point, she was now sprinting as fast as she could without spilling the milk. She knew it was illogical and irrational, but her animalistic fight-or-flight response was kicking in.
The Xweetok saw a small nook in the side of the wall, big enough for her to fit in and dark enough so that someone walking by briskly would not see her. She swept the cobwebs away with haste and crouched, feeling foolish. Why would someone be following her?
A shadowed, sinister figure ran down the steps, holding something in his hands. The shadow paused at the bottom of the staircase, obviously perplexed, looking down each hallway frantically. “Where did she go... ” he muttered to himself.
To be continued...
Coming up Next: Creeping bugs, muffins, and a visit from an evil brother? Stay tuned!