Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 120,791,029 Issue: 244 | 16th day of Relaxing, Y8
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An Evening in the Archives: Part One

by shadowcristal


Also by precious_katuch14

Raindrops drummed fervently on the opaque, large windows of the Archives, but it was promptly ignored by a light blue Lenny who was grunting heavily, busy with the task of moving books. Finneas grumbled, a bit regretfully, as he picked up the last stack and started once again populating the gaping holes of the shelves. Despite his weariness, the Lenny remained gentle, carefully placing each ancient tome of marvel in their right place.

     When he was done with this chore, the Lenny strolled back to his study table, which was currently void of anything interesting to study. Sitting down in the comfy chair, Finneas picked up his Meepit and wondered if there was anything else to do.

     That last research piece had been concerning about another world. It was strange, but possibly true. A world called Neopia, similar to his world but still different. The text had been hard to read, and the research extensive, but there were still many mysteries shrouding that place.

     And so far he hadn't had any luck uncovering those secrets. Finneas wondered if should start with anything else. Better to do something than to sit and laze around, the Lenny decided and got off his chair.

     With determined strides, he entered the Archives once again in search of a good book. A book that would be interesting, no, compelling, that would contain a whole story that would satisfy his hunger of curiosity, not just a few fragments...

     He scanned the spines of all the books he could find along the shelves, but none of them seemed to be the one that he was looking for. The Lenny tapped each and everyone as he went on and on, and as he got to the end, he frowned. It felt as though he had searched just about the entire Altadorian Archives... and yet, he had not.

     And indeed, he had not. Finneas turned a corner and saw a bare shelf at the very end of the large room, bare except for a few scattered volumes here and there, which were mostly uncategorized books that he kept forgetting to arrange, simply because of that research project of his.

     But one book in particular caught his attention. The silver-embossed letters on its ancient brownish spine spelled out, "Is Neopia Not Alone?" and it looked like something that had not been pulled out in a while, if it had been taken out at all.

     Nonetheless, Finneas was curious. Could it be the book that could perhaps solve the unanswered questions of his research? He reached out and got it, blowing a protective cover of dust off the cover before taking it back to his table, pushing away several bits of paper and a couple of huge encyclopedias that tumbled to the floor with a crash that made him wince.

     After picking up the fallen books and putting them neatly aside, the blue Lenny began to page through the yellowed, somewhat weathered leaves of his found tome.

     Strangely enough there was no mention of the author, and as he flipped over the page, Finneas noticed that the letters had been meticulously imprinted in the old Snarkian Script, all fancy and flowery. Thankfully it wasn't too hard to read, the ink still black and unmarred by the teeth of book-loving petpets.

     Finneas' wings trembled from excitement. Perhaps this would answer the questions that last book had left him? Maybe this... He took a deep breath and started reading.

     "It was a rainy day," the book begun. How prosaic, the Lenny thought but kept reading. "The Lenny inside that lone Archive wasn't paying any attention, however. He was sitting in a comfortable, old chair, left to him by his ancestors. Just like how they had left him this whole library. It was his inheritance, and in no way did he shun it, though sometimes the work was a bit Boring."

     Finneas stopped and blinked in surprise. How odd, he thought as he looked up from the book and spotted a lone droplet making its way down the stained glass window. Just like that Lenny in the book, he had been one in the long line of Lennies to become the warden of the Archives. But, the blue Lenny told himself, I'm at least not bored by my work.

     "The Lenny sighed and traced his wing along the window, following a droplet that shifted colors as it ran along the mosaic-patterned window."

     A droplet... Suddenly Finneas remembered the first page that he had skipped over in haste, after finding no author. There! He had glimpsed that word, but it was not just a random sentence. No, it was a poem.

     A droplet so simple

     A droplet so little

     Watch it slide in the rain

     Down the window pane

     Such a wonder of nature

     Shining, beautiful for sure

     Finneas remembered that poem. He had created it himself not too long ago, during one stormy night just like this one. It was free verse, but then again, it was written under five minutes. It was amazing how a droplet could spark such inspiration. Smiling to himself and remembering that whimsical moment, he turned back to the pages he had been poring over.

     Strange, the Lenny thought. Here he was, watching a droplet outside glide across the intricate mosaic of the window, and then...

     He paused for a moment and flipped again to the first page. How did his poem get into the book? Finneas had never asked for any of his poems to be published, and here was this particular verse, in the same script as everything else in the book. How did that happen? He had the feeling that this was no ordinary book... definitely not just a dusty volume to be picked off the shelves...

     Chills ran down his spine, as the Lenny recalled the creepy images his imagination had showed him upon reading scary stories. Impulsively Finneas bent down and picked up his Meepit plushie, a toy that had been long forgotten. He squeezed it for reassurance, before he continued to read the book.

     "He shook his head, determined to do something. The Lenny got up and started looking for a book, for something interesting, something that would quench his thirst for curiosity. He looked everywhere, ran the tip of his wings along the antique spines. But there wasn't anything of interest, nothing that appealed to his sense of adventure."

     Finneas stopped and looked at his plushie, with a faint smile on his face as he recalled how he had just done that. But how would a book know? I'll bet he finds a book beside a lone shelf now, the Lenny thought with some amusement, though he could not deny the teeny tingle of creepiness that was growing larger and larger by the second.

     "The Lenny swept through the rooms, trying to find the perfect book to read, but there was none to be found. At last, he threw a glance into a dark corner beside an empty bookshelf, its jaws open and unhinged; ready to devour any new arrivals. The pile of books was messy, but one particular book caught his attention."

     It couldn't be! Finneas hugged his plushie, took a deep breath, told himself not to get too excited and turned to the next page.

     "It was a book of old, perhaps much, much ancient than the Archives themselves, of silvery script and mud-colored binding. The cover read, 'Is Neopia Not Alone?', and even the title itself aroused the would-be reader. He picked the tome off, loosening a bit of dust in the process, and made his way back to his table, eagerly setting aside all he had been doing."

     He tightened his grip on the Meepit plushie so hard that it seemingly threatened to burst open. His suspicions were confirmed.

     It was as if the book was chronicling his life behind its pages and its rather deceptive title... if that WAS its title. But before he could linger any more on the relation of the cover to the inside of the book, a new thought crossed Finneas' mind.

     Could there be more to this book than meets the eye? What more was inside?

     A burst of lightning outside the stained glass window briefly numbed his sight, and spots exploded in front of the Lenny's eyes. And before he knew it, something flashed before him again. Finneas gasped aloud, knowing that the second blaze was definitely not lightning. He felt frigid winds blow past him, despite the fact that all the windows in the Archives were closed, and they threatened to pull him off his chair.

     Which they did.

     The Lenny found himself falling through a sudden array of color and light, and he felt so dizzy that he closed his eyes, unaware that he still held the plushie in one wing. For a while, everything was dark and swirled Finneas about like a toy sailboat in the choppy waters of the sea.

     "What is going on?" the bewildered Lenny murmured softly as he hugged his plushie tightly, hoping that this scary trip would end soon. The rough wind hit his face and brought unwilling tears to roll down his face.

     "I don't know," a strange voice replied.

     That was it. Finneas knew that some lunatic pets would talk to the empty air, and that he might as well as be crazy. But to have a voice replying to his talk... that was too much.

     Suddenly he felt himself materialize somewhere, and his feet touched soft grass. Settling his ruffled feathers down and shaking them back into place, Finneas opened his eyes.

     It was a beautiful day, with the bright, cheery sun letting its golden rays bounce across the plain. The green grass beneath his feet felt so real, and sharp enough to tickle him.

     Was this Neopia? Surely it could not be so perfect, with an endless blue sky floating above that was free from the tiniest cloud, the grass evergreen and all rhythmically following the wind...

     In any case, it was quite a contrast from the room the Lenny had been sitting in, shrinking into his comfy chair with each minute. He had been gripping that book tightly, too scared to read but more than afraid not to do so.

     The book! Of course! But... it all felt so real, as if this was the real world and his own simply a distant, blurred memory, like a bad nightmare.

     "What a nice day," said that strange voice, the one that Finneas thought he had imagined. He looked around, but could not see anyone.

     "Down here," the voice said, and the Lenny looked down.

     Finneas nearly jumped out of his feathers when he realized that the voice came from the mouth of a Meepit at his feet. It didn't take him long to realize just where that Meepit came from, especially since it still had its seams and stitches.

     "Wait, are you REALLY talking?" he asked, shaking his head as if trying to get it off his shoulders. "This... isn't a dream, right?" The Lenny reached down and picked up the Meepit. It still felt soft and fluffy, the way plushies were supposed to be, but it was staring straight at him, arching one eyebrow. He rubbed his eyes with his free wing and blinked repeatedly.

     "If it is, would you feel this?" The Meepit jammed one of its tiny paws into the Lenny's right eye. He gasped, and both his wings flew to his eye, dropping the living Meepit plushie. It gasped too as it fell onto the grass. "Hey, watch it, will you?"

     Finneas tried to take everything in, wondering if it would be a good idea to explore this new world. He didn't know what other surprises would be in store for him, besides his plushie suddenly talking, with a smart mouth, no less. But then again, there seemed to be no danger, and he could probably learn something out of all this.

     "So, what now, genius?" asked the Meepit, glancing up at the Lenny, who suddenly fell silent and was staring off into space, deep in thought about something.

     "I guess we should explore this... place," Finneas said after a moment of thought.

     "Sheesh, I could've thought of that," the Meepit replied sarcastically.

     The Lenny didn't reply, but was scrutinizing the surroundings, trying to find out if there was a way out of this endless, repetitive plain with its lush, green grass.

     If only he could find a path or something... Finneas blinked. There was a dark, shadowed path beneath some of the tufts he had just been looking at. He could've sworn that it had looked absolutely normal just seconds before. Was this yet another aspect of that strange book?

     It wasn't as if he wasn't bordering on insanity, anyway. Talking to a Meepit plushie come alive just felt unreal enough, but this was almost too much. The Lenny took a few careful strides, and felt the slight tinge of asphalt tickle his feet.

     "Hey! Where are you going?" the Meepit shouted in a high-pitched voice, obviously upset at being left behind.

     Finneas bent down and scooped the plushie-creature up, squeezing it near suffocation with a hug to reassure himself before he continued walking.

     "Watch it!" exclaimed the Meepit in short gasps of breath.

     "Sorry," Finneas replied. "I forgot. But in response to your question, I don't know. But since a path has appeared, we ought to explore further."

     "I guess so..." the Meepit said gruffly, "but carry me like you usually do. And if we meet a seamstress, ask her to patch me up. My right arm is feeling a bit loose."

     "If we meet a seamstress," muttered the Lenny under his breath as he lifted the Meepit plushie up into his wings, carrying him gently as though it were a real petpet - which it almost was. He continued on the path, looking around warily, but there was nothing that caught his attention much. Either nature was deceiving him, or he was just being too paranoid.

     "Wait a minute," whispered Finneas, glancing around for the umpteenth time.

     The plushie fidgeted in his grip. "What now?" it drawled.

     Its owner shrugged. "Never mind, I guess we're just going deep into... a forest of some kind. The trees are getting thicker and closer as we go on."

     "Well, so long as there's nobody else in here, we're fine, okay?" grumbled the Meepit plushie impatiently.

     Just as the words were out of its stitch of a mouth, they heard the crack of a twig and the rustle of dry leaves. Finneas focused on an ominous shadow skulking between two large trees. He stopped walking and stood there, regarding it suspiciously.

     "I think there's someone in here now," he replied.

     "But who in their right mind would want to take a walk in these woods?"

     The Lenny glared at the Meepit plushie briefly. "We would, but who else?"

     "Are you adventurers?" a small voice asked, rustling some leaves.

To be continued...

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