Beauty Hides in the Deep: Part Three
Part 3: The Legacy
There are three days until the full moon, which will reveal the Maractite Arcanum when Navi is in the correct position. Now that she's decided to share what she knows with us, we just need to figure out the map. "I thought there may be some clues in the Altadorian Archives, but it is one of the younger libraries. Most of the information contained there is only copies of texts held in the other archives."
"Would you like me to arrange a meeting with Finneus, the keeper?" Calder suggests, but Navi shakes her head.
"So you said there are five main libraries around Neopia, right?" She nods. "Faerieland is the oldest, then the secret one, then Brightvale, Altador and Moltara?"
"That is the chronological order, yes."
"And the ancient faerie language outlining the map tells us how to reveal the secret library, but not how to find it..." I'm at a dead-end again and can't help but groan. Why couldn't the Seekers have left clear instructions on how to get there? I answer my own question: Because the Librarian has to prove worthy of the knowledge within. That must mean the library itself has never found any Seeker worthy. What if after all this work, Navi doesn't have what it takes? I banish the thought; of course she does. I believe she will devote her mind, heart and soul to the Maractite Arcanum.
One of Calder's attendants interrupts our study. "An emissary from Maraqua is here to see the ladies." Navi and I exchange confused glances. Who do we know from our brief stay that would have sought us out? Surely it couldn't be King Kelpbeard. We follow the Flotsam outside and I gasp upon recognizing the unexpected guest.
"Kale! What are you doing here? How did you find us?"
He bows to us. "His Majesty sent me to locate you so I may deliver this." He proffered a rounded package to Navi who gingerly accepted it. We waited for her to open it, but she just kept staring. As soon as I started to berate her she tugged on the string keeping it closed, and the wrapping fell away to reveal a crystalline orb set on a seaweed base.
"This... is incredibly old and powerful," she says in awe. "It was rash of Kelpbeard to send this through the sea without better protection."
Kale's nostrils flare. "I didn't run into any trouble at all, and if I had I'd have been perfectly capable of dealing with it."
"I did not mean to insult you, Lieutenant," Navi replies earnestly. "But your life could have been in danger if a mage realized what you were carrying. This orb is a source of magic... it calls to those who can wield it, summons them from the depths of the sea and the lands above."
"Maybe Kelpbeard put a protection spell on it," I muse. "In any event, what does he want you to do with it? Oh! Maybe it'll help us find the library!"
Navi gently sets the orb down. "A location spell, even amplified through this, will not reveal the archive."
"What archive are you looking for? Is that why you came to Altador?" Kale asks.
"It lies below the water, somewhere, holding the knowledge of centuries past. My duty as a Seeker is to protect this knowledge for as long as I am able..."
"But first we need to get there," I finish a bit dejectedly, then indicate the map. "This was supposed to lead us there but so far hasn't been any help at all." I watch Kale float over to the scroll and study it in silence for a few minutes.
"Is the archive supposed to be indicated by this missing dot?"
"Yes," Calder says.
"What do the other dots mean?"
"They're the other libraries around Neopia," I supply.
Another silent moment. "Does this white ring mean anything?"
"Not that we have been able to discern," Navi says.
Kale looks her right in the eye. "You know this is a map of Neopia as a whole, right? And the dots represent the lands of Brightvale, Moltara and Altador. This is the 'Golden Kingdom', after all."
"Green is the official color of Brightvale..." I say, "and Moltara is full of red-hot lava. Maybe Calder was right when he mentioned the elements. If a watery blue dot is missing..."
"It would indicate Maraqua," the captain finishes with a grin. "I have a feeling you passed your library a long time ago."
Navi is staring at us with wide eyes, like she's been frozen in amazement. She suddenly dashes over to the map, almost shoving Kale out of the way. "Of course... Of course! Geniuses, all of you! How did I not realize it before?!" I don't think I've ever seen her look so happy. "The white ring indicates Faerieland before the fall, showing how the knowledge was divided between the four libraries. The Maractite Arcanum was never discovered, thus the others were built out of necessity. Clearly King Kelpbeard has given me this orb as a sign of good faith– he knows I will find it. We must return to Maraqua!"
The four of us journey to the marvelous city with Kale leading the way. Navi batters him with questions about its history and surroundings while Calder and I speak of more mundane things. "That petpet of yours is a very loyal companion," he remarks of Quinn.
"Well, he chose to follow me. He must have thought I was the right one to take care of him." My gallion swims alongside me under the flowing cloak. I appreciate that he doesn't react to my emotions like Hex does with Navi; since she's excited he zips through the water like it's electrified. Kale takes us around the edge of the city which consists of cliffs, sudden trenches, caves and secret passages.
Navi flashes me a smile. "Neither the Chasm Beast nor the Drenched are any match against us while I have the orb." She must know that in crossing the entire sea I've grown to fear them no longer. And I realize that during this journey my sister learned to trust. Out of the blue I give her a hug. "What is this for?" she asks.
"For being my sister," I answer, smiling. "I don't care if I can't remember where I come from or who I really am. I'm just thankful you saw something in me, whatever it was, that was worth taking a chance on."
Her eyes are almost glimmering with tears. "I saw in you... everything I am not. You were brave when I cowered; you asked questions I thought were too dangerous to receive answers. You see past exteriors to the true nature of others when I am too quick to judge." She glances at our new friends. "When I was prepared to give up on myself, you would not let me. You keep looking for answers, just like a Seeker."
I don't know what to say, if there's even anything that can be said. I use something I've learned from her over the years and remain stoic. Night falls on the world above but down here with Maraqua at our backs the area is still well-lit. Calder, Kale and I examine every nook and crevice for some hint of a maractite building that could be the library, but we find nothing. I do, however, see something winking up at me from the sand. After a little digging I discover a mirror set on a blue scallop shell. "That's a pretty sight," Calder comments as I scrape the glass clean.
"It is. I wonder how it got out here."
He gives me a shy smile. "I meant the Uni in the reflection." In case you didn't know, when a blue-skinned Neopet blushes it looks purple. "Part of being a military leader is helping others discover their confidence, but I think you've done that on your own."
And in fact I do feel confident in who I am. It doesn't matter who I was before, where I came from. The Uni I am right now, at this very moment, is exactly who my friends need me to be.
We return to Maraqua to rest and prepare for a full day of searching, the penultimate day before the full moon. King Kelpbeard gives us the same room and Calder goes to stay with Kale in the barracks. I take Navi to Kelp to celebrate. "What are we celebrating?" she wants to know.
"This is your 'almost a Librarian' dinner, my treat! And it's really expensive so you'd better eat all your food."
She laughs a little. "You sound like a mother."
"We've been together for two years," I say thoughtfully, "but you've never talked about your parents. Not once. Why is that?" A shadow falls over her face and I regret asking. "You don't have to tell me—"
"No, it is fine. I knew you would ask eventually." We swim behind a coral fan for some privacy. "My parents passed nearly four years ago. They perished during the fall of Faerieland, when it came crashing down from the clouds and landed to the south of Brightvale. Their home was in that bay, the home I nearly forsake because I was obsessed with studying magic." Navi gives me a smile filled with more regret than anyone should ever bear. "That magic led me down a dark path... I ended up becoming a minion of Darigan and was even an apprentice of Jhudora for some time."
"You, an evil sorceress?" I snort disbelievingly. "That's impossible!"
"It is who I was before the ruin of Faerieland. Once the damage from the fall had been assessed and I learned my parents had perished, I knew I had to change my ways. I renounced my studies and tried to flee, but I did not get very far. King Hagan accepted me despite my dark affiliations and it was because of him that I realized dark magic cannot be controlled; it controls you instead. That was why I became a Seeker and strove to learn as much as I could about ancient arcana and Neopia's history lest I fail to respect either ever again." She guiltily looks up at me. "I know you think I am perfect, Nene, but in truth I am far from it."
"No," I declare. "You are perfect, Navi. You'll always be the best, most perfect sister I could hope for. I don't care that you were a Darigan minion; who's to say I wasn't one, either? I don't know! I accept you for who you are just like you accepted me without knowing my past. Who knows... it could be darker than yours!"
"I doubt that," she laughs, and we enjoy our dinner as if nothing's changed, because nothing has.
The four of us meet at the edge of a valley outside the north gate on the sixth morning. We split up to cover the most ground, Navi using the seaweed orb as a searchlight to illuminate caves and grottoes. Hex can fit in most of the holes in eroded rocks and Quinn, with his big eyes and good vision, helps me look for tiny details that the water may have worn away over the years. We are assuming the library is vast so we search all over the valley, but all I succeed in finding are things like shells and vanity items, until something sticking out of a pile of rocks earns my attention. Quinn wiggles between them and helps me pull it out. It's a book ribbon... attached to a book made of maractite. "Navi!" I yell. "I found something!"
Everyone swims to me and when Navi sees what is in my hooves her eyes grow large and sparkly in wonderment. She takes it gingerly, scanning the cover which is covered in runes. "The title of this book, written in ancient Faerie, is 'The First King of Maraqua'."
Kale and Calder both look at the mound of boulders where the book came from. "It must be in there," they say in unison, and we set to work tugging the bottom row free. As the seaweed and algae-covered rocks begin to shift, they start falling and soon there's a gap at the top.
Navi shines her orb into it and hums in consternation. "It is still so dark. I can hardly see."
"Then let's get all these rocks out of the way!" Calder uses his strong legs to push them down; they bounce and roll, one after the other, eventually revealing a perfectly flat part of the cliff face. Yet there is no door, at least not a visible one. Navi points the orb's light all over it but nothing is reflected back at us.
"The scroll says your heart will open the way if you honor the past," I tentatively offer. "Maybe you have to say something."
She nods and audibly gulps, looking at the vast blank space before her. "The Seekers... have been searching for the Maractite Arcanum for centuries. They believed they had the mental fortitude to read what was contained within and keep it to themselves, and Fyora, Queen of the Faeries, trusted them. She accepted their blood oath to protect the Arcanum if they ever found it, but until now, it has remained asleep at the bottom of the sea. I, Navarakka Eorossa of Brightvale, a proud member of the ancient order of the Seekers, am here to fulfill that oath. I swear on my life that as the guardian of the Maractite Arcanum, no one shall ever use the knowledge within for selfish purposes or to commit villainous acts upon the beings or lands of Neopia. Those who enter shall only be enlightened by the lessons of history, as I am."
"Me too..." I mutter, watching as Navi places both hooves on the smooth rock face. I can only describe what happens next as pure magic.
The seaweed orb lights up with the intensity of the sun, giving off a light so bright Calder, Kale and I have to turn away with our eyes squeezed shut. Then the whole area starts rumbling and we try to see what is happening, but our vision swims with spots and nothing is clear. I feel Navi swishing her tail in my face so I reach forward to take it. "Tell the boys to hold on to you," she says, her voice breathy with excitement. I assume the door has opened and she is leading us into the library, the second-oldest source of knowledge in all of Neopia. Thinking that makes my stomach flip and I wish I can see where we are going. I trust Navi to say something eventually.
The temperature of the water is perfect and I can smell maractite all around us; its scent is something like iron mixed with hot glass and salt. Even though I possess no magical prowess whatsoever I can feel the arcane energies the books gives off. It is a very humbling sensation, being surrounded by things a hundred times my age or older. I try to open my eyes and am glad to see the blackish teal glow of maractite. That is another indication of the library's age since new maractite is more bluish in color. My vision clears up enough for me to watch Navi swim to the top of a glass dome and place the seaweed orb up there. It releases a wave of energy that brings everything to life, banishing algae and coral and everything else that has managed to infiltrate the ancient borders.
I can perfectly see that we are in a grand central rotunda surrounded by thick pillars. There are desks along the walls around us and numerous hallways glowing with gentle light, leading to other parts of the library. I know Navi has indeed been chosen as its Librarian and it is her virtuous heart that has brought everything to life; the Arcanum is probably grateful for that. I look at her, then, and we just smile shyly at one another, like we are strangers who don't know what to say. "You did it..." I comment lamely. "You're practically immortal now."
"Only until I choose someone to take my place," Navi replies. "I can never leave until then." She appears downcast.
"I'm not going back to Brightvale, you know," I grin. Her eyes return to me, curious. "I'm going to live in Maraqua. It's where I've always belonged." I glance at my satchel full of the treasures I'd found in the sand. "I could run an antique shop or something."
"Good idea!" Kale says. "We don't have one of those. I'm going to request that Talek make me a gate guardian, someone to keep an eye on all the Seekers coming and going."
Navi smiles at that. "With me here, the library is now open to everyone. But yes, I will need your help if a particularly powerful sorcerer with selfish intentions attempts to do something foolish."
That rarely happened. At the time of my writing of this tale, the Maractite Arcanum's Reveal, only two wizards have tried stealing tomes of power. The punishment was severe– Navi used her formidable abilities to take away their memories, giving them clean slates. Her appearance changed a little, too. Her mane grew longer, her eyes became filled with the sort of look a constant daydreamer has, and she grew wings. When I saw her hovering with those pearlescent wings I was astonished. She admitted that she had always been jealous of mine, however useless they were underwater, and I returned home thinking about all the silent comparisons we both made. Why couldn't we have been happy with who we were? I knew the answer: it was because neither of us really knew what our purpose was. After Navi became the Librarian I discovered mine.
She showed me a vaulted room in the Arcanum filled with empty shelves from floor to ceiling. There were glass cases too, and I wondered why this room was vacant if it was meant to display things. The next day, during my treasure hunt with Calder, I found something in the muddy sand near the ruins of Old Maraqua. It turned out to be a helm for a Peophin, a piece of armor once worn by a brave warrior. We searched some more and found a matching shield, sword and flute. When Calder played it he gained a little bit of control over the water, but there were no enemies around. These things were too valuable to be sold in my shop so I took them to the library, to the empty gallery, and arranged them on a shelf. Navi came in and nodded her silent approval.
Since then I have slowly been filling the shelves and cases in the gallery. Some objects radiate power and need to be kept there, others are simple things like old instruments made from coral. They all help reveal the history of Maraqua and the sea. They will help future generations understand the sacrifices warriors made to maintain their way of life. And they will teach promising magi to respect magic instead of taking it for granted, the ultimate lesson Navi learned.
What did I get out of all this? I suppose you could say I learned the value of self-worth. Other Neopets saw the real me right from the start, like Kale and Calder. I had always compared myself to my sister and thought I was unworthy of accomplishing great things like her. She was smart and talented, I was nobody. But that wasn't true at all. It took both of us to find the library, Navi with her brilliant mind and pure heart, and me with a discerning eye and the strength to persevere. Yet even we could not have revealed it without the aid of our friends.
There will always be someone who can see you for who you really are. They will help bring your true beauty to the surface regardless of how deep down you may have hidden it.