The Fall of Eliv Thade
"Wow, master Eliv! That's another impossible puzzle solved!"
The young Green Kacheek grinned proudly at the servants crowded around him. "It was nothing, barely even a challenge."
"It's incredible. How do you do it?" a young Wocky asked.
"I'm just the smartest being in Neopia, that's all." Eliv smirked.
"I bet you know more than anyone!" a Flotsam cheered.
"More than King Skarl!"
"More than Sloth!"
"More than Fyora!"
Eliv Thade smiled, enjoying so much attention. He loved the praise, loved the attention. These people practically worshiped him. They revered him, even. And why wouldn't they? After all, he was Eliv Thade, the puzzle solver, the code breaker. He could solve anything.
"Master Thade, a the mayor has arrived to check on your progress," a voice said, a voice that swept through the room, quieting it. Eliv looked up to see the Shadow Lupess that served him. Her piercing eyes met his, making him shiver. She had always scared him. She had served the Thades since he was but a young Kacheek, and she hadn't once aged in all those years. He'd learned to fear her, to never anger her. Everything about her scared him. Her fur, darker than the darkest night. Her claws, as sharp as knives. Her white teeth with fangs sharper than any vampire's. But it was her eyes. Her eyes were her most terrifying feature. They hinted of seeing things that would drive any normal pet insane, hinted of being older than time itself, being wiser than anyone, even Queen Fyora herself. "Shall I let him in?"
"Ah, yes, of course." He tore himself away from her gaze and sat upright in his golden chair. The servants scrambled to both sides of the room, making a pathway. The Shadow Lupess opened the doors wordlessly, not even glancing at the mayor.
The mayor, a Skeith, strode inside, grinning. "Eliv Thade, good to see you." He stuck out a paw, covered in gold rings, for Eliv to shake.
"Likewise, sir." Eliv smiled slyly, obliging.
"How goes your progress? Slow, I would assume. That puzzle has been in my family for generations, and no outsider has ever been able to solve it. Don't be discouraged if you can't-"
"Actually, sir, I've already finished," Eliv cut him off, pulling out the piece of paper that contained the puzzle and his answer.
The Skeith smiled doubtfully, then that smile turned into a frown, and then a gasp. "Impossible! That puzzle was unsolvable!"
"Actually, I found it rather easy." Eliv grinned. "It was a very, vary simple one. I was rather astonished that you handed me something so basic.
The mayor scowled. He looked around the room of servants. "If anyone of you can come up with a riddle that he cannot solve, I will reward you handsomely!"
There were several gasps and murmurs of shock, but no one stepped up. The Skeith glared at the crowd. "Not one of you has a puzzle for him to solve?"
"There is one." Many gasps sounded throughout the room at the voice of the Shadow Lupess. She stepped between Eliv and the mayor, her face almost serene.
The mayor smiled. "Well then, let us hear it."
"Don't mind her, sir," Eliv said quickly. "She's nothing but a servant. She's been here for years, her mind must be wandering. Just ignore her."
"Do my ears deceive me? Eliv Thade, afraid to receive a riddle?" The Lupess sounded faintly amused. The mayor laughed.
"Of course not," Eliv spat. "Go ahead."
"Very well." The Lupess met his gaze. "I am older than you, I am older than these woods, I am older than most of Neopia, I am older than the Faeries, and I have wandered this world for my entire life. What is my name?"
The servants all turned to look at Eliv, who was speechless until he noticed everyone staring.
"That's easy! It must be, um, well, ah..." He racked his brain, searching for an answer as to who it might be. Sweat ran down his forehead as he grew more and more nervous. Was it possible he couldn't solve this? No, he wouldn't accept that. Nothing was unsolvable. But he'd never heard this riddle before...
"I will return in three days for your answer," the Lupess said, smiling coldly.
"What do you mean, return? You work here!" Eliv exclaimed, glad to direct attention away from his anxious self.
"No, I do not. I stayed here to test you, Thade," the Lupess said. A cold wind began to spiral around her, swirling her silk skirts. "I work for no one but myself." Dust and shadows swirled around her before there was a flash and she was gone, leaving nothing behind.
He was rendered speechless once more. A mage, in his home, and he never even knew. That explained her powerful presence. But he had no time for this. He had three days to solve her riddle, and he needed to get started.
"Have you solved my riddle?" the Lupess asked, emerging from the shadows.
Eliv didn't move from his place, curled up in front of the window, barely acknowledging her. "Fyora, no. Brain Tree, no. Esophagor, no. Spirit of Slumber, no. Tax Beast, no. Sloth, no. No, no, no."
"I will take that as a no," the Lupess said, smirking. "You will never solve it, Thade. Many have tried, all have failed. The name belongs to one whom history has long forgotten, one that it only knew for a short time. A happier time. But those days are long gone, swept away in the tides. And now, I bid you farewell." she turned to go when-
She whirled around, dark eyes widening. "What?"
"Swept away. Ghost Lupe."
She snarled at him. "What about the Ghost Lupe?" She took a menacing step forward.
"He haunts here, he haunts there, he haunts, haunts, haunts," Eliv muttered to himself. "Ghost Lupe. The name, the name, the name. Sylva, Sylva, Sylva?"
The Lupess stared at him, shock visible in her eyes for the first time in years. Then she took a deep breath to steady herself. "Your mind is gone. You are of no concern to me, not anymore." She turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
Eliv barely noticed. He rocked back and forth, his matted tail curling up around him. "Ghost Lupe. Must be. But. No, someone who has to do with, but not anymore. Who? Who, who, who?"
No one knew.
The Brain Tree didn't know. The Esophagor didn't know. No one in the Haunted Woods did. He'd consulted thousands of books, thousands of people, thousands, thousands, thousands!
Eliv Thade opened his eyes as the moon rose. The riddle. The impossible riddle. It truly was impossible.
No, he just had to think! His eyes closed once more. She had been shaken when he'd mentioned the Ghost Lupe. Why?
What he knew about the Ghost Lupe was little. He knew that there were rumors that he had died on Mystery Island trying to save his bride from the natives. There was speculation about being first mate Sylva, but he wasn't looking for the name of the Ghost Lupe. From the way the Lupess had been acting, he was looking for a girl.
Wait. The bride. The Lupess. The Ghost Lupe. Could it be that...?
Possibly. But he couldn't be sure. Only the Lupess could confirm that, and he hadn't seen her for many, many years.
He smiled. It wasn't much. It wasn't a name. But it was a start.