The first thing she saw in the small room was a book on a wide marble platform. Walking towards it, she noticed that it wasn’t dusty like the others. Its gold-carved title read: A Piece of Peace - JOY
In shock, Joy took a step back. Julian peered over Joy’s shoulder to get a better look and said, ‘Take the book, Joy. You must read it to find out your purpose of being here.’
After returning to the castle, Joy locked herself in her room to read the book. She desperately wanted to know her mission and the way back home. The book was all about her life. From her birth till that moment she started reading it. The book described everything she had done up till now. The astonishing thing was the blank pages in it which were yet to be filled.
Joy learnt that this place was just like Earth and though she wasn’t exactly the ruler here, she was meant to protect this place from someone named Vex (super weird). Vex was from an unknown planet which was sucked by a black hole. His original name was Cato and he was the only one to somehow escape his planet before total devastation and ended up - like Joy - in Utopia. When he arrived in Utopia, he was shell-shocked and didn’t bother to talk with anybody. Utopia was unlike his planet which was dark and dull. He was asked by the young prince, heir of Utopia, to tell his story. The prince felt sorry for him and brought him to his palace where he started to live. The prince was the only son of the king but as they both grew up together, Cato decided he was better than the prince. But according to Utopia’s laws, he could not have succeeded the king. Enraged, Cato decided to kill the prince. Luckily, the palace guards caught him red-handed and he was banished to a place known as the ‘the hills of darkness’ among the Utopians. This enraged him so much that he started to hate innocent people, who had done him no harm.
According to a prophecy, Joy was destined to vanquish Vex, but it wasn’t described how. At first, she freaked out and had four rows in two days with Hayden. But. on the third day, Hayden managed to calm her temper, and assured her that nothing would go wrong as she had him and his siblings and a whole empire to support her. Joy agreed to help, but still felt reluctant; she was afraid she would not see her own world again.
‘I’m no troublemaker, but I have this feeling that Joy should visit one of Vex’s lairs.’ Julian said at breakfast the next morning.
‘Might be dangerous,’ Jane remarked.
‘It’s worth a shot to let her see stuff and be prepared - just in case something happens,’ Jayden suggested.
‘What do you think, Hayden?’ Jane asked.
‘Well… just for a little while would be fine. Take the guards and don’t get in a fight, for God’s sake.’ Hayden finally said after a long pause. He told Joy that he had to renovate the old library. The Utopian Council had decided to open it to public after Joy went there. Hayden told Joy he wouldn’t be there to help her. ‘It’s a dangerous place where only dark magic works and you’d be the only one with magic. Everyone would depend on your magic for safety from Vex’s creatures,’ he warned.
They set off with their royal guards and Pegasus towards a gloomy looking place behind some high cliffs, where the sun hardly shone. It was dark, though it was noon.
‘So these are the Glum Lands you’ve been talking about,’ Joy said, shuddering when she saw the rocks beneath looking like spikes. The higher they flew the closer the rocks seemed to get. Around them were mountains with lots of caves. It seemed that every single object was observing them and moving around to get a better look.
‘You see, that’s the cave the boys usually go to, though it’s going to be my second time here,’ Jane said in a low voice. They all felt oddly subdued. Joy felt butterflies in her stomach when she saw the opening of that cave - it looked like an open-mouthed face of a giant in a deep slumber. The inside was dark, the glowing mist being the only source of light in the cave.
It was colder than usual but this time Julian wasn’t in control of the weather. They wrapped their arms around themselves and walked inside with their guards at the back and front. They saw steps leading up to the roof of the cave and started climbing. ‘I never knew a sleeping giant had so much inside him, I wonder where we’d end up,’ Joy said and everybody laughed.
Suddenly they heard a terrible scream which made them climb faster. Finally, they came to the top of the stairs and saw an empty room with one small window. Joy wanted to turn back, but Julian shook his head.
‘We’re not going back. Remember that scream!’
‘But it’s the only way out. Besides, that scream - whatever that was - seemed to come from beneath, not around us. We’ll simply have to run down the steps fast,’ Joy argued. They decided to retreat at full speed and fly back to their castle.
As they ran back, Joy saw a very mysterious looking face lurking in the dark which kept shape-shifting. And as she concentrated more later on, she remembered that she had seen the same face when they were running up the stairs, and she had even seen it when they heard that loud scream.
The next day, while she was walking with Sandy in the palace grounds, Hayden joined her and she told him everything. By evening, Hayden increased security and ordered his people to prepare themselves for anything bad. He ordered women and children to spend most of their time at home. He checked on Joy more than usual to make sure she was all right. This made her feel sad, angry, frustrated and confused.
Joy felt uncomfortable and started to avoid her friends. They noticed this, but no one said anything to her. Joy knew Vex only wanted her, and anyone with her could get hurt. Hayden saw how miserable she was and told Julian to talk with her. ‘Jo, you feeling lonely?’ Julian tried to lighten up the mood.
‘Look, I know what’s running through your mind, and that’s okay. We’re not ignoring you and we aren’t sacred of him. He’s the one afraid of us, afraid of you. The reason why we were staying away from you and checking on you all the time is that Hayden’s time has come to finally take the crown. He’s kept it a secret because he wants it to be a surprise for you. He’s working on it himself and since you are his guest he wants you to see the Utopian culture. He’s been bugging us about it since you came. He has especially told me not to tell it to you, but here I am, spilling the beans. Don’t tell him, please. If you do, he’d kill me and I’d kill you.’ Julian patted her back and they both laughed.
To be continued…