The Hidden Treasure
1 Party Crasher
Princess Bella stared at her evil aunt, Queen Fire, trying to look brave. Bella had been having a great time with the rest of her classmates at a fun dance that her parents, King Phillip and Queen Katherine, had planned to celebrate the end of the year. But Queen Fire had been a not-so-fun party surprise.
“How long does this”—Bella pointed to the black powder that hid them both from the other guests—“last?”
“Dear niece, don’t worry about our privacy,” Queen Fire said in a sugar-sweet tone. Bella’s aunt had raven-black hair that hung down her back,
glittering eyes, and matching ruby-red lips and nails.
“Did you have to come during my party?” Bella asked.
“I can come and go whenever I please,” Queen Fire said. She glanced away from Bella, taking in the happy chatter and fun as Bella’s classmates danced nearby.
Bella started to say something, but she bit her lip to keep quiet. Had she imagined the flicker of sadness on Queen Fire’s face?
“Please let me go,” Bella begged. “Today and tomorrow are the last days I can spend with my cousin before she goes home. I know I owe you a favor, though, and I am not going back on my promise.”
Images flashed through Bella’s mind—picture after picture of that horrible time when Glimmer, Bella’s unicorn, had run away to the Dark Forest. Bella and Glimmer had just started to get to know
each other after the two had been matched on Bella’s eighth birthday. But Glimmer had run away, and when Bella had found her in the scary Dark Forest, they were suddenly in the path of Queen Fire’s dangerous unicorns. Bella and Glimmer had been seconds away from serious trouble before Queen Fire saved them. In turn, Bella had pledged to help her aunt if she ever needed it. And if she did not help Queen Fire, her aunt was going to take Glimmer away.
Queen Fire crossed her arms. “I had a feeling you would back out of our deal.”
“I’m not letting you have Glimmer!” Bella said.
“Then I suggest you listen very carefully. There is a crystal hidden in your castle. It has, let’s say, sentimental value to me.”
“Where is it?”
Queen Fire laughed. “Niece, if I knew the answer, I would have told you. I’m not that evil.”
“So that’s what I have to do?” Bella asked. “I have to find this crystal?” She paused. “Is it hidden away for a reason? Am I going to get in trouble for finding the crystal and giving it to you?”
Queen Fire leaned close to Bella. “If you’re worried about getting in trouble, then don’t get caught.”
Bella felt like she was underwater—like someone had stuffed cotton balls in her ears. The class party felt very far away, and she did not know what to say to her aunt.
Bella swallowed. “Is that all? Because I really need to get back and—”
“Fine.” Queen Fire sighed, waving a pale hand in the air. “Go back to your party, dear. I’m getting rather tired of hiding, though. I want you at my castle tomorrow. We need to talk. I need to make sure you understand the importance of your task.”
Bella chewed on the inside of her cheek. She
didn’t want to ask more questions to keep the queen here longer, but . . .
“Can I come on Sunday? Please?”
Queen Fire stared, unblinking, at Bella. “Sunday. Before sunset, or I’ll have my guards begin to ready a stall at my stables for Glimmer.”
“Not a cha—”
Queen Fire vanished before Bella could finish her sentence. Bella looked down, and all the black powder had disappeared too.
Okay, pull yourself together, Bella. You can’t let anyone see that you’re upset.
She glanced down at her shaking hands. She walked over to a crystal punch bowl floating in the air.
“One cup, please,” she said, testing out her voice. She thought she sounded like her usual self.
A ladle dipped into the bowl, filling a cup with red punch. The cup lowered itself in front of Bella.
“Thank you.” Bella took the cup and sipped, trying to shake off Queen Fire’s visit. She smoothed her sparkly teal dress with her free hand.
“Bella?” A familiar voice called her name.
“Over here,” Bella said as she forced a smile onto her face.
Her best friends, Ivy and Clara, along with her cousin, Violet, surrounded her.
“Did you help that lady who was looking for you?” Ivy asked.
Bella nodded, grabbing Ivy’s hand and tugging her forward. “Yes. Let’s go back to the party.”
The princess accompanied her friends and her cousin out of the tent and made a silent vow to never let Queen Fire that close to her friends ever again.