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The Treasured Diary: Part Ten


by twirlsncurls5

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Darkness enveloped them; the only sounds were Ramaya's soft whimpering and the Confidants pounding the stone wall behind the portrait. They had undoubtedly torn through the canvas. Fenmere could imagine the faces of his family ripped and tattered, lying in sad pieces on the floor.

      "It's okay," he found himself saying to the once icy and strong Ixi. "He wanted this." Fenmere thought of Hayden with his shadowy features and knowing eyes, how he'd known exactly what to do whenever the world was falling down around them. Would he ever see him again?

      Ramaya sniffled, brushing herself off. "We have to go on," she said dutifully. Her composure was almost admirable.

      She pulled out a candle and a piece flint and struck the dark rock on the stone wall until sparks lit the candle wick. The dim light illuminated some of the circular tunnel that stretched off farther into darkness.

      She set the Diary on the ground and wasted no time in painting the brown tinged liquid over the next blank spot on the page in hurried strokes.

      Even though he'd seen it before, the sight of the invisible letters reappearing and scrawling themselves over the page still fascinated him.

      In a shaky voice that slowly strengthened into the strong, all knowing one they were familiar with, Ramaya read the poem:

     "Though it's skywards you seek

      Wings cannot take you there

      Climb the ancient rope

      In which brave knights were spared

      Look for the floor that bears the crest

      Of the very castle in which you rest."

      "So we need to find a giant rope that runs through the castle walls," said Ramaya sarcastically. "Well, you live here, Fenmere; know anything that fits that description?"

      But Fenmere wasn't listening; his memory was in his father's beloved red room adorned with enormous oil paintings and busts of dead Kings with stern, frowning eyes.

      He was five years old and it was one week after his mother had passed. He'd been playing adventurer with a wooden sword when he'd discovered the hole in the wall. He peeked in and saw the narrow shaft going both upwards and downwards farther than he could see. In the middle was a very thick rope that stretched the entire length of it.

      For days he'd gone in that room with his legs pulled up to his chest and imagined wild uses for that rope. It was an easy escape from the mourners and nobles that were wandering the castle offering weak apologies or attempting to comfort him, which was worse.

      Surely his castle was home to a family of wild mirgles and the rope was their play toy. Or maybe goblins used it to sneak cakes and cookies from the kitchen.

      On one afternoon he'd been certain he saw air faeries resting on it (since they were so tired from flying all the way from Faerieland to see him) when his father cautiously entered the room.

      "So…what are you up to, Fenmere?" he'd asked awkwardly. The King and his son had for the most part been acquaintances. There were only pats on back and shy smiles shared between them.

      This was why Frayinth, who stood in the doorway with tired circles under his then young eyes, was entirely unsure of what to say to the small Gelert who should've been too young to experience the heartache of the world.

      But Fenmere had been so excited that he'd run up to the towering royal Kougra, going on and on about how he was the discoverer of a rope that stretched through the very center of Neopia and came out both ends.

      He pointed it out to Frayinth.

      "Ah, good find my boy," he'd said with a stiff pat on the back and a distracted smile. "Would you like to know what it's for?"

      Oh how he'd wanted his father to tell him it was for something glorious, that it really was made so that pirates could slide down it to the dungeons every day at noon or so symols could have a tour of the castle from where it was nice and dark.

      His mother would've gotten down on the floor with him and scrunched up her beautiful face real tight. "Can't you see it, Fenny? I swear it! Just a moment ago the tooth faerie was shimmying down with her sack of neopoints! Didn't you see her?"

      But King Frayinth was not his mother. He was just a sad Kougra who would never get to ask her how to talk to their son.

      And so he'd said, with a cold hand on Fenmere's shoulder, "Well, a very long time ago the great battles over Gallion's Keep were defended by magnificent knights. Sometimes, if our defenders were outnumbered, they used the rope to secretly climb out of the castle walls to safety."

      Fenmere's eyes fell to the ground. He had hoped for some kind of faerie tale, something amazing and wonderful. He hadn't wanted to know about the real world where invincible knights got scared or hurt.

      "Fenmere?" It was Sophia's voice called him from the present time. He shook his head of the memory and quickly told Ramaya about the rope, all the while trying not to think about the sad fate that surely came to the father he barely knew.

      Ramaya nodded in approval. "Knight's rope, I've heard of it. But how do we find it?"

      "Follow me," he said, starting to crawl through the small tunnel on all fours, "I know my castle."

      It was true. He could've found his way around Gallion's Keep in the blackest hours of the night. And so he closed his eyes. Then pictured where he was.

      Since the tunnel stretched through the back wall of the library, in theory it was like being over the wash room that was directly behind it. He crawled forward, imagining being on the ceiling of his father's study and then the weapons room, with its fading armor from more honorable days resting uselessly on the wall. He turned left over a hallway and kept crawling until he could picture the scarlet walls of the red room. He made another left and opened his eyes.

      The Knight's rope was right in front of him.

      Sophia and Ramaya looked stunned. Fenmere noticed with satisfaction that the smug, know-it-all look had been wiped from the Ixi's face.

      It was probably for the best that he'd closed his eyes, or else he would've seen that the tunnel forked and branched off like a maze into hundreds of different directions. With one wrong turn they'd be spending the rest of their lives wandering in the dark. Ramaya, who of course thought of everything, made sure to mark their path "just in case."

      Sophia gave one look at the narrow shaft with only an ancient and fraying rope dangling over the endless drop towards the unseen bottom and said, "We're supposed to climb that?"

      "I don't think it's a matter of 'we'," said Ramaya softly, who was clutching at the edges of the diary so tightly her knuckles were white. She handed it shakily to Fenmere.

      He swallowed hard. She'd uncovered the next part of the clue.

      "Lest you wish to plummet towards the pitfall of bones

     Only one may climb towards the treasure,

     Alone."

     "Alone?" squeaked Sophia. "Who has to go?!"

      Ramaya pressed her lips into a thin line and removed a small bag from her shoulder. "Fenmere does."

      Sophia was starting to cry. "Ramaya, I can't…" Fenmere stammered, as she handed him the flint and her dagger. "You've studied this your whole life; why can't it be you?"

      Ramaya took the Diary and flipped it to the inside front cover. It was the poem that explained Queen Arin's reasoning in hiding the Greatest Treasure and how to go about finding it.

     She pointed to the seventh line. "Read it."

      Fenmere sighed. "If the reader is worthy and thy knowledge is great."

      "There, you see!" She slammed the book closed and put it in the sack. "'If the reader is worthy.' The treasure belongs in the hands of Gansvere's royalty, and so it is royalty that must find it."

      "But it also says your knowledge must be great! You know more than I do. What if I can't solve the next clues on my own?"

     Ramaya shook her head in amazement, as if his question was preposterous. "My knowledge may be great, Fenmere, but so is yours! You found Ancient Knowledge inside the tomb and you knew how to use it! For goodness sake, you even led us here!" For a moment she held his eyes without casting a look that was doubtful or contemptuous. "When we stop doing things because we're afraid of failure, we stop achieving greatness. You can't cast your destiny aside because you're afraid."

     He looked at the rope and reached over the edge of the tunnel to grab it in his paw. Ramaya placed the strap of the sack around his neck.

     "Fenmere!" It was Sophia again, tears running down her face.

     He dropped the rest of him over the ledge and hung onto the rope, looking back at her though the strain of lifting his entire body with his arms was incredible.

      "You're my oldest friend, Sophia," he grunted. "Don't act like this is some sort of sad goodbye."

      She reached out her paw and held his face for a moment. Neither of them said a word.

      Climbing that rope turned out to be the hardest thing Prince Fenmere had ever done. The only thing that kept it from being impossible was the fist sized knots every four feet to act as hand and footholds.

      By the second knot the muscles in his arms were screaming and sweat was dripping down his face. The sack carrying the Diary, paintbrush, and brown liquid kept getting heavier and heavier until it felt like lead.

     He kept passing floor after floor, each one bearing an empty ledge. But he would just look up at the knot above him and tell himself, "One inch at a time, one arm at a time, and one knot at a time", over and over. And that was how he made it to the floor that had the crest of Gallion's Keep etched in stone, a mirror image of two Gallions on their hind legs.

     With the remainder of his strength he swung the rope towards the stone ledge and threw himself onto it. For a moment he just lay there, panting and letting his muscles relax. Then he got up and looked around him.

     He was inside a squared stone tunnel very similar to the one he'd been in with Ramaya and Sophia. It was remarkable how many of them there must have been. It was like the walls of his castle had been burrowed by Symols.

     He struck the flint against the wall and lit a candle like Ramaya had done. Then he painted over the invisible words and read the next clue, this time to no one but himself. His heart leapt as the words appeared. What if he didn't know what they meant? What if he failed everyone?

     "The last of my riddles is upon you now

     And you've found your way because I told you how

     But don't think I'd bid the Treasure adieu

     Without testing the worthiness of whom I'm speaking to.

     The Treasure waits above

     But don't reach for it so fast

     I must tell you the sad consequence

     Of returning Gansvere's past.

     For you cannot have Treasure

     Without unleashing the trap beneath

     From which the walls will bare sharp spikes

     As if a sword unsheathed.

      If such a fate seems sad for you

      Then take leave without a pause

      For no King or Queen may take this treasure

      Unless they'd die for Gansvere's cause."

      And then below it was her signature, its curls and twists so elegant it was almost like a work of art.

      Queen Arin Elise Bavarian.

     The book trembled in Fenmere's hands. He looked up and saw a stone bearing the crown emblem, the very emblem that had marked nearly everything throughout their entire search from bookmarks to the very place he'd found the Diary.

     If he moved it aside, grabbed the Treasure in his tired paws, then he would start the mechanism. Then the ceiling would grow sharp, teeth-like spikes. Then it would fall. And then it would crush him.

     He could turn back, the poem even said so. He didn't have to do this. He had a choice.

     But the last two lines of the poem kept repeating in his head. No King or Queen may take this treasure unless they'd die for Gansvere's cause. Queen Arin had hidden the Treasure because she didn't believe her husband or Gansvere deserved it. She wasn't simply a bitter old woman who'd been robbed of her true love, Sir Gawain McAllister (a.k.a. Henry Delore). If she hadn't wanted the treasure to be found, then she wouldn't have written the Diary. That was what this was all about. Her final way of making sure Gansvere and its ruler was worthy of the Treasure once again.

     But the dilemma still lingered, Life or Death.

     Now it was Ramaya's voice, brilliant Ramaya who'd never back down from anyone, least of all him. You really think it's that simple, she's said, that everything just comes down to those two choices? How about good or evil? Right or wrong?

     And then it all made sense to him, both Ramaya and the Queen's final riddle.

     He only hoped he was right.

     Without hesitating, he pushed aside the loose stone with ease and reached into the black hole, prepared for the cold touch of mountains of gold and silver. But there was only one thing up there, its feeling shocking at first, yet entirely familiar. He pulled it out and sat it in his lap.

     It was a book. Just one.

     The cover was dusty and incredibly old. He brushed it off to reveal a faded and yet beautiful blue cloth, its edges held in dark brown leather. He read the title and everything fell perfectly into place:

     The Strain of Gansvere.

     Brilliant Queen Arin had used lineage and family in every clue for the sole purpose of leading to the ultimate evidence of it: the long lost record of Gansvere's family tree. Fenmere felt stupid for expecting something as common as gold when it had been right in front of him the whole time. The Paladins of Strain were named justly; they were the defenders of Gansvere's lineage. They believed the Treasure should be found and that was why their symbol was an open book. It was a sign of the lineage being read and known by all, not the Diary as he'd thought.

      It was perfect; there was no greater treasure.

     And when the walls creaked like turning gears he stared up, smiling, as the spiked ceiling came falling down. He was still smiling when the ground fell out from under him, and he was sliding down, down, on a winding slope. He had been right.

     By taking the Treasure, he was willingly accepting death for the sake of his Kingdom. That was all Queen Arin had wanted, for the Treasure to be returned only when someone who valued Gansvere more than their own life was ready to take it. She also knew that such a ruler was no good to Gansvere or the treasure if they were dead. Someone stupider wouldn't have been able to comprehend it, would have gladly returned the Diary to the Confidants. But Fenmere got it. It was really quite simple, after all. He just had to accept death; he didn't actually have to die.

     The slide kept going farther and farther down. Fenmere had forgotten how high up he'd actually been. Then all of a sudden the slope leveled out. He was in a small, dark chamber barely wider or taller than he was. For a brief moment it felt all too much like a coffin. Terror gripped him and it felt like he was suffocating, like the walls were closing in around him.

     But then he saw the crown emblem on a rock in front of him and pressed it.

     Suddenly the stone beneath him started to rise until he surfaced in a different tunnel. He stepped off of the platform and torches lit along the walls. The other end of the tunnel slid open, and he found himself peering into the inside of his library.

     Queen Arin was truly brilliant. He was right back where it had all started, in the secret passageway behind his fireplace. The platform he'd just stepped off of was the same one that had lifted the Treasured Diary from the ground.

     He remembered how exhausted he was as he took those final steps towards the entry way. All of him was covered in ashes. Where he once would've pouted and complained for hours, he now didn't even care enough to brush himself off. Slowly he stepped over the threshold, entirely unsure of what awaited him.

     It turned out to be Remmy.

     Before he could react, the Quiggle clobbered him in the back with the hilt of his sword. Fenmere fell to the ground, clutching the book so tightly it hurt his arms.

     "Give it here," ordered Remmy, brining the tip of his sword to the Gelert's throat.

     "It's not mine to give."

     "Oh? What's this? Our very own brat Prince has thoughts of other things than himself? Since when did you get so noble?" He put his sword tip through the silver chain around Fenmere's neck. His face contorted in disgust. "Ah yes, it must've been when you were taken by those disgusting, shameful Paladins."

     "There is no shame in what the Paladins did. Once, a long time ago, there was no shame in the Confidants either. You were fighting for what you believed in just as the Paladins did. But you lost sight of that somewhere, Remmy. And now the 'shameful' Paladins have won," Fenmere said with a cruel smile. "The Treasure has been found; the Confidants have no purpose."

      Remmy's face reddened and twisted in fury. "No," he said through gritted teeth. "All my brethren have been defeated by yours, but I'll put it back if I have to. I'll do it alone." He'd gone mad.

      "It's too late." Fenmere's voice was calm and sure. "I've already found it."

      "You can't stand in my way!" he bellowed, "I'll kill you, you miserable excuse of a Prince!"

      But then a voice came from behind him, a voice Fenmere thought had been swallowed by death itself.

      "You will not," said King Frayinth. In his tight grip was a gleaming sword, its hilt glowing with rubies. The words "Chivalry and Victory" were etched into the blade that was on the back of the Quiggle's neck. Even if he had been unarmed, the pure strength and power of his voice, his command, would have been enough to make Remmy drop his sword.

      The Kougra seemed to have aged since Fenmere saw him last; he was thinner, his face hollowed. His wrists were cut and bruised from being tied. But his eyes were unmistakable. The power in them hadn't weakened at all and he couldn't look away.

     And so he didn't see Hayden, Ramaya, and Sophia as they ran through the doorway, didn't think about how Hayden too, was back from the dead or how he'd survived. Didn't see Jase limp in with the wing he'd broken for his adopted brothers. He didn't see Jay and his knights or hear them crying out victoriously, didn't wonder how they'd defeated fate and their enemies. He didn't see them remove their masks and bow to him as he held the Treasure.

     There was only his father standing before him, back from the death he'd thought was certain, and holding his head nobler than any King there ever was.

      Fenmere tossed the Treasure on the ground and threw his arms around the King. What was it really, the Treasure, if not a record of love and family? Queen Arin took it away because a Kingdom who would rob her of her own love and give her a false family wasn't worthy of knowing its own. That was why Gansvere was lost without it. Its absence left the Kingdom dishonored, orphaned like a child robbed of its right to know its own past, its own family. Not having family is like not having an identity, like being a person floating along without a guide or purpose.

     And for the first time Frayinth was reminded of his. He wasn't cold and stiff, far away in his aloofness. He was right there. Holding Fenmere back.

     It took a death neither of them experienced to make the King Fenmere's father. His family. His Greatest Treasure.

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» The Treasured Diary: Part One
» The Treasured Diary: Part Two
» The Treasured Diary: Part Three
» The Treasured Diary: Part Four
» The Treasured Diary: Part Five
» The Treasured Diary: Part Six
» The Treasured Diary: Part Seven
» The Treasured Diary: Part Eight
» The Treasured Diary: Part Nine



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