A Forgotten Promise: Part One
Almost all adventures begin in the library, usually at the comfortable reading chair. The reader opens up a book to the first page and is often swept away on a journey of discovery, through danger, holding onto hope against great odds, all the way to two very short words: the end. Sometimes, though, an adventure that begins in a book can spill out into real life ... and that is where things get interesting.
Blossum the Disco Blumaroo absolutely whole-heartedly completely loved writing her very own books. It was her favorite way of introducing others to the world she created within. Her masterpieces had already half-filled one row of the miniature bookshelf in her room. Sadly, ever since she finished her latest book, she had been fighting her very first bout of Writer's Block. It had put her in such a terrible mood that she wasn't sure she would ever write again.
One rainy morning, she went in search of inspiration at the local library. Nothing in the rows of shelves caught her eye. The few that she did pick out didn't sound the least bit interesting. So she went to the librarian's desk to ask about new books.
The assistant librarian was a Starry Wocky named Miss Celes who was a little young for the work. Celes showed Blossum the new arrivals - a box of books sent from Shenkuu of all places. There were all sorts of books filled with facts and drawings of the far-off land. With little better to do, Blossum and Celes worked together to organize the new books and place them among the old ones where they belonged according to the Neopian Decimal Organizational System.
"Miss Celes, there is one book left ... but I'm not sure what it's called. I can't tell," Blossum stated as she handed the last book to the assistant librarian. She carefully opened the cover and began flipping through the first few pages. Then she tilted the book 45 degrees and suddenly the words on the page went from incomprehensible scribble to carefully written and very small words.
"Shenkuu Mystery by Empress Solara, ruler of Shenkuu ..." Blossum read aloud.
"This is an extremely rare book - I don't think the meant to send it to us. We should return it to the royal family. It is a gem that should have never left their library," Celes stated. "But while it's here ..." She smiled mischievously. "The first thing I learned was how to magically duplicate books - it's a very useful spell for a librarian to know."
Blossum watched as the librarian pulled out a blank book from below the desk. She waved her hands over Shenkuu Mystery and said a series of complicated phrases. She picked up the blank book and a small cloud of letters appeared out of nowhere. When the cloud disappeared, the blank book looked exactly like Shenkuu Mystery.
"Now we can send the original to Royal Palace of Shenkuu and we can enjoy the copy. It's not every day we find a book written by our ancient rulers - you might learn something interesting. Please return it in two weeks time," Miss Celes stated. She carefully wrapped the original Shenkuu Mystery in paper and stored it below the desk - out of harm's way - until she could make arrangements to return it to the Royal Palace of Shenkuu.
Blossum went to the big comfortable reading chair, tilted the book 45 degrees and began to read:
"Shenkuu Mystery by Empress Solara, ruler of Shenkuu.
Beyond the Palace Gates,
Beside the Stone Sentinel,
Below the Bustling Streets,
Behind the Rocky Shield,
"Behold the Un-kept Promise."
That's an odd little poem, Blossum thought to herself. She continued reading. The book itself was a story about how an evil force threatened Solara's kingdom and destroyed everything in its path. Its evil scared her bravest warriors and caused them to flee each battle. She sent her fastest messenger to seek the Good Heart - a treasure that was strong enough to defeat her foe. After the final battle, the fastest messenger was ordered to return the Good Heart to its guardian. He returned reporting that the guardian and all his people had vanished. So Solara hid the Good Heart away somewhere safe until it was needed to destroy evil.
It was a fascinating story. The evil force reminded Blossum of the terrible Wraiths from around the time of The Faerie's Ruin - though she was certain it was purely coincidence. Perhaps like her, this ruler had a dream to be an author.
The next day Blossum returned her copy of Shenkuu Mystery to the library.
"Miss Celes, do you think that Empress Solara actually existed?" Blossum asked the assistant.
"Back so soon? I'm not surprised. I thought you'd ask, so I found some historical books. You might want to take a look at the page with the bookmark," Celes stated, pointing to a few books that were left out on the table.
"Rulers of Shenkuu," Blossum read. "Solana was the daughter of Emperor Youki & Empress Yuri. As a teenager, her father's kingdom was attacked by the Shadow of Evil. Solana sought out the power of the light and used it to save her people. She ascended to the throne and ruled over Shenkuu wisely."
"So, what do you think?" Celes asked her.
"It's not an exact match, but it's very close. The story sounds similar, too. I guess ... languages and spelling and pronunciation changes over time, but the truth of the story and those events remains the same," Blossum said thoughtfully.
"That's a great observation! Now take a look at the other book. Tell me what you find," Celes instructed her.
"Diagram of the Ancient Palace of Shenkuu" was written on the page where the bookmark was inserted. She saw a picture of the palace, its gates, and the courtyard beyond it, all the way to the hillside.
"It makes me think of the odd little poem at the beginning of Shenkuu Mystery," she said as she traced over the map with her finger. She started at the palace gates and slid all the way to the Monument of the Guard at the far side of the courtyard. Just beyond that there was the edge of hill. "Does the Monument of the Guard carry a shield?" she asked finally.
"I don't know ... I couldn't find any record of it - but it certainly sounds like a Stone Sentinel to me," Celes replied. "Which brings me to a once in a lifetime sort of offer. How would you like to go to Shenkuu and investigate this mystery for yourself?"
"Would I ever! It'd be fun just to take a field trip to Shenkuu and see what the other side of Neopia is really like," Blossum agreed.
"Good! I'm not really an assistant librarian, not always anyway. I'm actually a licensed archaeologist and I think that there's really something to this story. Most myths have a basis in fact somewhere and I'd like to dig up the whole truth. I thought you might like to come along and provide some insight as we investigate this ancient mystery. It'll take some time to convince your family and make arrangements ... so I suggest you read up on the customs and culture of Shenkuu," Celes told her.
The journey to Shenkuu was uneventful for Celes and Blossum. Most of the time was taken up by Celes discussing her earliest archaeological finds. It turns out her twin sister was actually the assistant librarian at the school, but needed somebody to take her place temporarily so that she could help their cousin's flower shop through a Chrysanthemum crisis. (In actuality, she was taking an extended vacation on Mystery Island - but nobody really knew that.)
Arriving in Shenkuu was certainly exciting. Blossum had never seen such a lively market town. They walked through the packed streets and looked at all the kiosks where venders were offering the finest Shenkuuvian wares for sale at the best prices. It wasn't long before they reached the Palace Gates - the busiest of all the areas of the city. Celes certainly made sure that the trip sounded educational so that nobody knew what they were really up to.
"This is where the Monument of the Guard should have been, according to the old diagram. I'm afraid that only time knows what happened to it - and when. Maybe we should look around, in case there's something that is easy to miss," Celes stated.
Blossum unfolded a copy she had made of the poem and read it to herself:
"Beyond the Palace Gates,
Beside the Stone Sentinel,
Below the Bustling Streets,
Behind the Rocky Shield,
Behold the Un-kept Promise."
She realized that the direction of the Monument of the Guard might have been looking could have been a clue. He was probably looking away from the palace and at the hillside. She carefully knelt down at the edge and peered over. Could the way be down? She told Celes her idea about the poem. She agreed that it was a brilliant idea and pulled some rope from her pack. She secured one end to a small stone spike that she drove onto the hillside and she carefully lowered herself down. Several minutes later she returned - smiling and with excellent news.
"I'm certain of it - there's a small pathway just below us - it's leads down to where there's a large carving on the rock wall - it looks exactly like a Blurgah Shield," Celes reported. Blossum carefully climbed down - she wasn't used to this sort of height. It seemed to take awhile to walk down the pathway - probably because there was no room for error and she certainly didn't want to be hasty. Finally she reached the Blurgah Shield.
"Now the question is how to get behind it. As an archaeologist, I feel it is our duty to preserve this ancient carving for future generations to enjoy. But if it is meant to be a door-way, then there must be some way in. What do you think?" Celes asked her.
"I think it is a trick of the eye - we can plainly see no way in from looking at it in front, and we know that it's just rock wall the way we came, but from the far side of the shield - it's open." Blossum picked up a rock and threw just past the side of the giant shield. It bounced against the far wall and onto the floor of the tunnel.
Celes led the way down the tunnel, using a Friendly Glowing Lantern that she had picked up in Moltara to light their way. Soon they came to a massive chamber, the exact size of the courtyard above. Standing guard was a statue of a warrior - probably identical to the long lost Monument of the Guard. It occurred to Blossum that it could actually be both; the monument that belonged aboveground and was lost. It was likely brought down here at some point for safe-keeping where it was eventually forgotten. There was a small moat in the center of the massive chamber, with a small bridge across it leading to an island with a stone pedestal and a lonely box. The rest of the chamber was shrouded in darkness, making it feel very gloomy.
Celes gave the Friendly Glowing Lantern to Blossum so that she could open the box. It opened easily - revealing its treasure: A small glass circle with an ornate golden rim. It slightly glowed with a yellow hue.
"Is it the Good Heart, the un-kept promise, or the power of the light?" Blossum asked.
"Perhaps ... it's all of the above," Celes answered her.
To be continued...