Chapter One (Mickaël):
It was a queer little island, the one I lived on. Small and, from a distance, insignificant. Nestled in between the solar system B4 and Realm X, it was one of those gems you tended to overlook, kind of like a book with a tattered cover, Mother used to say. Kind of like me.
I guess that’s why it felt so big to me.
I silently crept past Father’s door, which was closed. The last thing I wanted to do was wake him up at such an early hour. Mickaël, it’s five in the morning. Go back to sleep. I’d heard that way too many times. Five wasn’t really such a bad hour to get up…the advisory council was already awake. That I knew, from the light shining from their shared room. I also knew that they had seen me, and were probably waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and scare me.
Sure enough, Genesis, Advisor of the Treasury, popped out from behind a column and stood in front of me, arms crossed.
“Prince Mickaël, do humor me and explain why you’re up at this hour. Again,” she began. I bowed my head and sighed. “Actually, don’t. I already know what you’re going to say. Oh, Genesis, I was just getting some water, or something like that.”
“I don’t sound like that,” I muttered, a smile tugging at my face. “But I was going to get water, yes. How’d you know that?” Genesis rolled her eyes.
“Well, make it quick then, sir,” she said, bowing and stepping aside. It took me a moment before a realized she was letting it slide. Smiling, I swept past her, bowing my head in return.
Continuing on, I walked past the dining hall, the chandeliers twinkling with a filmy light and the glass roof opening up to the stars. That was one of my favorite little details, added after the Great One’s demise and Grandmother Highblood’s passing. Figaro, the residential mascot (really Boston and Genesis’ pet) sleepily raised his head, stretching his lanky body.
“Hey, Fig!” I called quietly. He purred, then went back to sleep.
Arriving at the kitchen, I turned into my Slydog form, Frostwhisper, and squeezed into the air vent. After some struggling in the opening, I wiggled up through the chamber and through several passageways and arrived at the rooftop door. I picked the lock and stepped out into the early dawn in the Slydog Realm. Tiny curls of pink and purple clouds tinged the glowing sky, as green (yes, green) stars furiously tried to poke their way through the light. Turning back into human form, I carefully maneuvered my way across the shingled roof and to the edge, where several forms emerged from the shadows.
“Happy birthday,” Jacinth, daughter of Rorry (the royal gardener), whispered. She held out a chocolate mousse slice with a candle burning on it. I took it happily, holding the small plate up so that the candle’s light fell upon my friends’ faces.
“Yum,” I whispered back. “My favorite! Thanks, guys.”
“No problem,” Phantom, son of Genesis, joked. His eyes sparkled through the dark, giving the appearance of a cat. He sometimes reminded me of one. “I’m certain Chef Boston won’t mind.” My cousin, Nebur, laughed, her short, red hair bouncing.
“You ready, Mick?” Jade asked. They all waited excitedly for my answer.
“Yeah,” I answered, nervous and excited for whatever was in store. They had promised a surprise, but considering Gabriel had planned it, I was expecting a whoopie cushion on my dining chair.
As if sensing my thoughts, Jacinth spoke up from the dark, nestling into her hoodie.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing er…Gabriel-like,” she said, looking around nervously. She was a little shy when speaking in large groups, but she enjoyed spending time with us, so it usually wasn’t a big problem. I adjusted the diadem on my head.
“Well, I’m certain it’s something fun,” I said as Gabriel turned into his Slydog form, Thundercrystal, and led us back down the air vent and into the kitchen. Then, we all headed towards the dining hall.
“Fig!” Phantom practically screeched, latching onto the Deep Panther. Nebur smiled as Figaro snorted in his sleep. If Phantom had one weakness, it was his strange obsession with the mascot’s fur (which could not be explained). Jade chortled. She and Gabriel both nodded, then turned on the lights.
At the sudden light in the room, there was movement from above. A dozen Stained-Glass Butterflies swooped away through an open window, their wings catching the light and sparkling. The window banged shut, startling Figaro awake. He jumped up, and a rope tied to his leg pulled taut. At this, the huge curtain covering the main window drew aside, letting orange and pink sun stream in. I watched this all with wonder. This is amazing! Outside, a new statue of a Slydog I hadn’t noticed stood sentry, carefully sculpted by the Sońg family (they were also the architects). His guiding paw pointed towards the rising sun, and a peaceful expression rested on his face.
“No way!” I murmured. “The Pathfinder statue wasn’t supposed to be ready until tomorrow!” The others grinned sheepishly. They knew I had been anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the statue, which marked the 25th anniversary of the Great One’s defeat. I remembered the tales my mother and father had told me.
“We made a few adjustments in the royal schedule,” Gabriel said. Nebur ducked her head blushingly, for I knew she was the only one other than me who could change the royal schedule in our group. Phantom quickly untied the rope from Figaro’s tail and handed me a large box from under one of the tables.
“From all of us,” he said, giving me a wide smile. I unwrapped it to find several packages inside. “Can you guess who got what?” I pursed my lips and pretended to scrutinize the box for a moment. Then I looked up and laughed.
“I bet the hoodie is from Jacey,” I said, using her nickname. “War and Peace is from you, Phantom. Then Gabriel got the Big Book of Pranks. Nebur got the earrings, and Jade got me the magic orb…from the apothecary?” The girl nodded vigorously. I blushed, saying, “Aw, thanks, you guys!!”
Before they could say anything, my mother and father stepped into the room, smiling. They were both dressed in ceremonial clothing, the King wearing a fur lined coat to combat the cold weather and the Queen dressing in a similar fashion.
“Good morning,” they greeted. The others bowed, and my parents bowed their heads in return.
“I see the birthday boy’s up early,” Father greeted. He bent down and smiled, his foggy eyes sparkling mischievously. “What have you all been up to?”
“Just hanging out and stealing cake,” Phantom answered automatically. Mother raised her eyebrows.
“Save some for Boston,” she teased. “She did work hard on that cake.”
“Indeed, I did,” a voice came from the kitchen. We turned to see Boston surveying the damage Phantom had done to her cake. We all looked at each other and laughed. People were beginning to come in, preparing the dining hall for a royal breakfast. Ruby, Fredrick, Emilee, and Milo, the heads of housekeeping, swept in. We all gathered round the table and treated ourselves to French toast, buttermilk pancakes, blueberry pie, and mints while we snickered and talked. I slipped on my ceremonial clothes and we headed out to the balcony.
I remembered a vague memory in the back of my head. Of how the Realm had looked before the Great Remodel. The village had been constructed of sticks and stones. Now, even the tiny cottages looked royal and grand, their mahogany furnishings sparkling in the sun. Hundreds of people were gathered to watch the ceremony.
“People of the Slydog Realm,” Father began. “We are gathered here today to celebrate my son, Prince Mickaël’s fourteenth birthday.” People cheered. He continued, “But, we are here for so much more today. Around twenty-five years ago, we defeated Slydog, one of our greatest enemies. And there is much cause for celebration. My friends, allow me to present the—” A scream echoed from a distance, followed by a horn blast. Father stopped, and we all glanced at each other, confused. The villagers, began to murmur worriedly.
“Sire!!” Advisor of the War Council Caspian puffed, pushing his way from the crowd. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt the ceremony, but…we’re under attack!!!”
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