King Hagan: Brightvale's Shining Beacon
King Hagan sat atop his golden throne, settling his weight into the well-worn grooves of his green cushions as the guards ushered in a slew of subjects waiting to regale him with their knowledge. When he began this ritual all those years ago he never thought that with such an educated bunch of citizens he would still be left wanting in terms of wisdom but he was and still he sat here day after day waiting for the rare glimpse into knowledge that he still had not acquired.
The citizens of Brightvale were far from stupid – that was something you'd expect from the peasants in his brother's kingdom – but that didn't keep the wise Skeith from sending the best scholars he had out from his throne room when they said anything remotely familiar to him. He wasn't even sure what he was looking for, but when you're as smart as the king of the smartest kingdom in Neopia there isn't much you aren't sure of anymore.
One by one the scholars came, their long jewel coloured robes sweeping across the immaculate marble floors before they arrived to kneel before him. The light from the large windows bathed everyone in the room in its warm glow and the king could see from their faces that they believed that light was meant for them and that they would shine along with it as they imparted their perceived nugget of insight onto him. As slim as it was, he hoped that at least one of them would realize their dreams today. For Hagan, all it would cost was a rare book and some Neopoints – nothing to be sorry about. He would much rather support a thirst for knowledge than a hunger for whatever it was that his brother encouraged in his slovenly citizens.
Unfortunately, the day went on much like usual and he waved away almost everyone who had something to say. Occasionally he would give well-meaning students a book on maps or history so that they could expand their knowledge, or some Neopoints to help sponsor their endeavours, but his rare books remained neglected in their glass display case beside him and he remained firmly affixed to his throne.
Hagan's eyes had begun to gloss over as each scholar continued to disappoint him, but when a grubby looking Bori farmer – one who couldn't have come from anywhere but Meridell – approached the throne, he gave him his full attention. He noticed some of the guards and scholars exchange glances but he paid them no mind. His kingdom was open to all Neopians, even Skarl's subjects, so he would listen no matter what he had to say. One was never sure where wisdom came from.
“Welcome to Brightvale,” he greeted the farmer. “What wisdom do you have to share with me, sir?”
The Bori farmer bowed before him and cleared his throat after greeting him as befitting his royal title.
“Fortunate is the one who understands that–” he began in the same way other elderly scholars did with their ramblings. “Hatred is like the pride of a family of royal Skeiths.”
The scholars in the room gasped but he remained silent. There was no ill intent on the Bori's dirty face, just a determination in his eyes. His head was still bowed in respect and his knee was still steady on the ground before him. This peasant from Meridell would not have wasted an entire day travelling to Brightvale and back home again just to insult him – not when he probably had a set of mouths at home waiting to be fed. He opened his mouth to say something but the grandfather clock at the end of the room chimed the start of the hour and the servants began to prep the room for his lunch. He closed his mouth, not even sure what he had intended to say. Instead, he stood and nodded to the guards. Feet shuffled and heads bowed until he spoke again.
“We will resume again in one hour's time. I will have my response then.” Whispers began but no one remained in the throne room long enough to lose sight of the Bori farmer who exited the chamber first. After the servants had brought him his meal, he was left completely alone.
For King Hagan it should have been an easy dismissal. There was nothing to think about, was there? The peasant couldn't even spell his own name, let alone read any of the rare books he so proudly displayed, but the steadiness in the gaze he received sat strangely with him and he found himself focusing more on something in the distance than the delicately prepared food he was mindlessly offering his stomach.
When his fingers no longer found anything to distract his mouth with he hummed and hawed and wiped his mouth with a napkin but did not ring the bell on the table to have everything cleared out. Instead, he made his way to the window and looked past his beautiful lands to the distractingly childish castle in the distance – Meridell Castle. The only ornate thing about it was the gold gilding, otherwise the colours and shapes were something a child with wooden blocks could come up with. It was nothing compared to the high arches and delicate swoops his towers boasted, the sturdiness and richness his stone walls showed off, nor the details and elegance his most minute decorations dared to exaggerate.
Hagan chuckled to himself, more to mask his irritation at having to deal with such an eyesore than to mock his brother, then moved to turn away before the image of the Bori's eyes bore into his mind again and he found himself remembering a tutor he had once shared with his brother. He had once looked at them both the same way when he lectured them on the beautiful simplicity of the way a coloured block could be a distraction and a learning tool all at the same time. Hagan had only wanted to demonstrate his knowledge of architecture at that young age while Skarl was only focused on having a good time destroying his diorama. He knew it was petty to hold a grudge over something like that after all these years, so he merely sighed and glanced back at that red and gold castle in the distance and wondered how many blocks he could throw at it before it would crumble – much like his project had all those years ago.
And then he laughed, surprising himself. It had been a while since Hagan had allowed himself such childish thoughts – so long that he wasn't even sure he had ever allowed them into his mind. It felt refreshing to laugh at himself like that and at fond – yes, fond – memories he had as a child. Skarl certainly was a brute but he sure knew how to enjoy himself. Perhaps he too could allow himself some fun every once in a while. Not everything had to be about the pursuit of knowledge, though he certainly wouldn't let anyone else know that.
He returned to his table and rang the bell, a flurry of servants coming in and out of the throne room with the elegance of those who knew their jobs well. He nodded to the guards who came in next and settled onto his throne as they allowed everyone else back in. The scholars parted when the Bori farmer shuffled in, standing before him in a ray of light with the same glint in his eyes that Hagan had in his heart every morning before the activities began.
King Hagan addressed the Bori farmer with a hearty laugh and reached into his purse, taking out a generous pile of coins before gesturing to a guard to open the display case. “I'm very impressed. It's good to know there are intelligent Neopians out there. You must take this gift from me.”
When the guard handed him a rare book from the top shelf he eagerly handed it to the surprised Bori who bowed more than the drinking Weewoo toy Skarl used to distract himself from his lessons. It was likely that the farmer would sell the book, but to Hagan it didn't matter as long as he got a good price. He earned the book and the Neopoints fair and square, and all it took was a few simple words.
“Go, good farmer. Return to Meridell and tell everyone of how you impressed the King of Brightvale with your knowledge. I look forward to the next time we meet.”
He smiled as the Bori farmer stumbled over his feet in joy as he bowed his way backwards out of the throne room, not stopping until he hit the back wall in the hallway. Hagan hadn't expected to hear the wisest of advice from the least educated of Neopians, but he was grateful nonetheless. Sometimes the wisest advice was the simplest.
Hagan gestured for his advisor to come closer, wanting to take care of one more matter before he resumed the usual search for wisdom.
“Obtain some coloured blocks, Snoll.”
“Coloured blocks, your majesty?”
“Yes, coloured blocks. Send them to my brother.” He laughed. “There's no reason only one of us should enjoy today's lesson.”