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Chapter 34

–Krokotopia–
As I stepped through the hallway full of hieroglyphics that lead to the inside of the pyramid, which I found out later was called the Altar of Kings, something felt different. I found out what it was as soon as I stepped out of the hallway and into the lofty chamber. I saw a few Manders, one orange and one green, holding palm boughs and waving them up and down for no apparent reason. Was it some sort of ceremonial dance? I found out in a few seconds that that was not the answer. Remember the empty throne I told you about? Well, it was still there, but this time, someone was sitting in it. I saw a hand resting on one of the chair’s arms, but that was all I could make out, because of the large fire pit in front of it. I couldn’t even tell if the monarch of the pyramid was a boy or a girl. So I just kind of stood there, looking like an idiot. A Mander rushed in with a tray of Krokotopian food, including dried fruits and pita bread.
“Here you go, your Majesty!” he said, kneeling in front of the throne. He went to leave, then saw me. “Your Majesty! There is a wizard in here! What shall we do?” the orange Mander, who I recognized as Tinu Bhak’mal, said “Hi, Wizard Iceblossom!” his green friend gave him a look, like “Be quiet, you idiot, you’re in the presence of royalty!” Tinu shut up after that. Then whoever was in the throne stood up and said to the Manders, in a definitely feminine voice,
“You are dismissed.” the three Manders scurried obediently out of the room. The queen (princess?) got up out of her royal chair and walked down the slope towards me. I bowed out of instinct.
“No need,” said the girl. I was surprised that she wasn’t a Mander, Krok, Marleybonian, or anything else. She was just a human, and couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me. She had long brown hair that cascaded gracefully down to her waist and beautiful, bright blue eyes. The princess wore golden hoop earrings and shining bracelets, a hairpiece that looked straight out of ancient Egypt, and a simple but lovely cloth dress with glass beads sewn around the collar.
“Hello, I’m Elizabeth Iceblossom…” I said.
“I am Queen Neferetti, the pharaoh of the Pyramid of the Sun,” she said imperiously. Then she added, in a voice that seemed strangely melancholy, “Or at least, that is what the Krokotopians insist on calling me…” That piqued my curiosity, but I didn’t want to appear rude by interrogating the queen. She said “Krokotopians” like she wasn’t originally from here. I wondered where she was from. Probably some distant world that I had never heard of. She continued, “I suppose you are a wizard, from the world of Wizard City.” I nodded and said,
“Yes. I got sent here by another wizard. She took my money and stranded me here. I’m trying to save up money to take the Manders’ boat home.” Queen Neferetti sighed. I wondered what was eating her. Maybe she was allergic to sand or something. That would definitely put a damper on being in Krokotopia. I was just debating whether to ask her, when she said the last thing I expected.
“I used to be a wizard once, too…” Queen Neferetti confided. I gasped involuntarily. What was she doing here? She obviously wasn’t happy.
“How’d you get here?” the question flew out of my mouth before I had time to think about it.
“My family is dead. My mother died at a very young age, and my father tried to help out with Wizard City’s troubles, but he was defeated. I was orphaned, and I got shipped all over Wizard City in different foster families. Then they finally sent me here. The Manders found me and hail me as their queen, but all I really want is to go back to Wizard City and learn to use magic…”
“What kind of wizard were you going to be?” I asked the queen.
“Balance. I was going to be made a sorcerer. My name used to be… It’s been so long, I can barely remember. I think it was… Caitlin Legend.”
“That’s a pretty name,” I said. “And if it makes you feel any better, the Balance professor in Wizard City doesn’t know all the spells. He says that the real Balance school is hidden somewhere.”
“I wonder where…” said Caitlin/Queen Neferetti. “Could you keep an eye out for the Balance School, for it it’s in Krokotopia?”
“I promise I will.” I said. “I’m going to the Chamber of Fire now, um…” I paused, unsure how to address her.
“Caitlin. Call me Caitlin.” Caitlin said firmly.
“Okay, Caitlin. I’m going to the Chamber of Fire, and I’ll look for the Balance School while I’m there.” Caitlin nodded and waved, and I walked down a flight of stairs and through a tunnel that led to the Chamber of Fire.


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