A magical cloud swallowed the famous land of Altador in a thick blanket of darkness. The land of sunny skies and bright futures was now drained of all signs of life. Nera felt helpless, her people were in danger and nothing she could do would help. She failed them, they counted on her in the beginning and trusted her. They went across the seas with her, trusting her decisions and plans. They trusted her to be a fair and just leader. They trusted her every second of their journey to a new world.
And she failed them.
Nera sat up, breathing hard. A nightmare...that's all it was, a nightmare. She got out of bed and walked over to the large window. Altador was peaceful. The residents were walking around the city, chatting and shopping. Children's laughter filled the air as they played Yooyuball in the fields. One could say, the land of Altador was a haven to all Neopians. No matter if you were an Aisha, or a Zafara, you would be welcomed with open arms.
Nera let out a sigh of relief. The nightmare wasn't real. Her people and Altador were safe. The dark cloud wasn't real. She rubbed her messy bed head, and walked back over to the bed.
Then she realized... she was late. She almost forgot what she had to do today because of that ridiculous nightmare.
"Oh no.. oh no..no I'm so late!" Nera spoke aloud to herself as she was panicking. She hurried to get dressed and neatly fix her side of the bed. Her usually well-groomed brown hair was now a total mess. Staying up late to work on piles of paperwork and organizing several events may have been a mistake. She should have finished her work sooner in the day, but as always, Nera procrastinated and she was definitely paying for it this morning.
The brown Xweetok had woken up late...very.. very late. You would think that the mighty queen of Altador would be on time, right? Well.. sadly to her displeasure, this was not the case at all. At least..not this time anyway. Sure, she may have an assistant to help her and a schedule to go by, but that didn't mean she always listened or went by a silly piece of paper. She found it difficult to do, even after a thousand years of ruling by her husband's side. He seemed to have more luck with things, which she envied a bit. Altador always made everything look easy. Yet, here Nera was, struggling to just do a simple speech.
The queen struggled with putting her gold colored sandals on, so she just carried them in her right hand as she ran down the grand hallway to the dining room. Today was the first day of the Miss Altador pageant, where girls would dress their best for a one in a lifetime chance to be crowned Miss Altador of the year. Nera hosted the grand event annually, and with that responsibility, she would make a speech on the morning of it. First, going over the rules, how many days it would take place, and so forth. Being the forgetful woman she was, Nera woke up late, and was rushing to get ready. She immediately felt as if she was an embarrassment to royal Neopians everywhere. Nabile and Amira would never be this behind on their schedule. And the two rulers were much younger and far less experienced than herself. They had always been the perfect royal women their separate kingdoms deserved. Nera couldn't find any excuse for her actions and regretted all the many times she was late to meetings and events. Maybe she just wasn't cut out for being queen or having responsibilities, but she tried her best. And no one in the kingdom ever seemed to complain so she must be doing something right at least.
Nera stopped running as she approached the dining room, and slowed down, walking through the large doors that led into the magnificent room. A rectangular table adorned the middle of the room like a centerpiece and detailed paintings of famous Neopians, such as the twelve founders of Altador, and their family members hung from the marble walls. At the end of the table, sat the great and noble King Altador. The white lupe was as always, wide awake and on time. He was flipping through the Neopian Times and drinking his usual morning cup of tea. Nera liked to argue that her husband was more of a morning person than herself. Which… clearly in her defense, Altador was. The man was always awake, bright and early. He seemed so much more professional than she ever had been. She could argue he was just born to lead, and maybe she wasn't. The thought of it did hurt, she only wanted to do her best for her kingdom and sometimes even that was not enough.
"I see you're finally awake." Altador glanced up at his favorite Xweetok. He always seemed to wear the same stern expression upon his face. Despite that, the man had a heart of gold and was kind. Nera always admired him for his caring attitude, even if she wouldn't admit it to his face. Giving him bragging rights wouldn't be a very good idea you know. She would never hear the end of it.
"Oh now Al, you shush." Nera slipped her sandals on and smoothed her long white dress out. "We both know I'm not a morning person."
Altador laughs. "I'm fully aware of that. Besides you should be fine, you aren't running that late my dear."
"Oh yes I am!" Nera quickly picked up a fig muffin from the table, and took a bite out of it. She set it back down on its plate and adjusted her long purple cape.
"Nera, it's fine. You're only..what, ten minutes late?" the white Lupe took a sip of his tea. "The people of Altador do not mind waiting for their queen you know."
Nera swallowed the muffin piece and rolled her eyes. "You're only being polite, I'm sure they absolutely do mind."
Altador slightly shrugged and went back to reading the Neopian Times. "Oh..speaking of queenly things, there was a facts about you article in here the other day. Huh, they even mentioned your poor athleticism in Yooyuball, how charming."
Nera frowned at his comment. She preferred to keep her life one hundred percent private, and someone writing an article about her was a bit intrusive. So what if she was horrible at Yooyuball? Not everyone in Altador had to be a champion at the sport. It was only a game, not something important to her. Most of the time she never even went to the Altador Cup. Before she could complain about the newspaper, Nera realized she needed to hurry and make the speech. The issue with the article could be dealt with any other day.
"I'll get back to you on that later." Nera walked up to Altador, gave him a quick hug.
"Well alright, but I do have to warn you that they mentioned the incident with you and the Kiko Lake Team." Altador tried hiding his smile. He loved teasing her on a daily basis.
Nera opened her mouth to shoot back a remark, but she really needed to go. She shook her head as she hurried down the hall to speak with the residents of her kingdom.
"Welcome citizens of Altador." Nera found herself standing tall and proud in front of a large crowd at the main building of the city. The building had been home to the Hall of Heroes and the council chamber for many,many years. It actually was the first structure made when they were building the grand city. The crowd seemed eager to hear what their respected queen had to say. Being a public figure did have its perks... sometimes.
"Today as most of you know, is the first day of the Miss Altador Cup pageant. Each year one very lucky contestant will be crowned Miss Altador. The winner of course will receive a variety of prizes and be honored at the next Altador Cup." Nera spoke to the crowd.
Odd.. the crowd didn't react to the small speech. They usually seemed more eager and energetic. Nera nervously cleared her throat and continued.
"As always, there are three judges and the event will be from three to four days, depending on how many contestants there are. The rules are simple, respect other contestants and go by the dress category and your planned routine. Practice makes perfect and you should always do your absolute best."
The crowd now looked shocked, terrified even. They chattered nervously among themselves. It was an incredibly usual reaction to her speech. It..it couldn't have been that bad, could it? She noticed everyone was staring behind her, at the wide and open sea, so she turned around to see what exactly was going on. She expected something like a large boat or a group of people coming on the coast. Shipments were always coming in, so maybe it was that.
But in the horizon, to her fear, was a dark purple cloud filling the sky, similar to the effects of smoke. The cloud seemed to be tinged with dark magic. Lighting strikes across the cloud in waves, sending terror into the hearts of Altadorians. It looked as if it was rising up from her home, Moonstone Island. The land had been plagued with darkness by an evil sorcerer for as long as any Neopia could remember. The man was a mutant Ixi, always looking down on the other island natives. He overthrew the island council and took away their culture and freedom, making himself the sole ruler. Nera's father was a member of the island council so even at a young age, she would hear about the daily problems the island had, just because their own kind turned against them. Thankfully when Nera was of age, she led a rebellion with her people against the cold-hearted man, and used his magic against him, trapping him in his magical amulet. The island had still been tainted with monsters and darkness, so the Xweetok led her people across the sea, looking for a new home. They had landed in what is now known as the kingdom of Altador. Nera thought the sorcerer would never been seen again. It should be impossible for him to ever return to civilization. Again, he's been trapped in a magical amulet for over a thousand years. No one should have been on Moonstone Island to free him either. It's uninhabitable and far too dangerous for any Neopian to visit. Not even the great heroes of Altador dared to venture on to its coast.
Sadly, Nera soon learned that her darkest fears would be confirmed.
Rasputin, the once great sorcerer of Moonstone, was back for revenge.
And this time, more people would be in danger. This time, the man would be a threat to all of Neopia.
Fyora help us all.
To be continued…