The Star Prophecy: Part Four
I hung my head down, defeated, hands over my ears to block out Mevolin's cackling. Even at his young age, the fervor in his voice ran deep. I was stunned, confused, and livid. This whole time he had been one step ahead of me. Somehow, he had captured Kisa, and was now treating her as a measly bargaining chip. Books were one thing, but people—that was a different story.
"Where is she!?" I roared. "What have you done with her?"
"I haven't done anything," he said snidely. "Why don't you stop wasting your breath and tell me—where's the secret library?"
"I don't know—"
"Don't play dumb with me!" he shouted. "I'm well aware the two of you are hiding something. I have eyes everywhere. Give me the location, and both of you can walk right out that door."
My gut feeling told me he wouldn't follow through on that offer. I was unsure what I needed to do next, or what Kisa would want me to do, but I couldn't just stand here and listen to his taunts.
"Take me to her," I demanded. "Show me that she's safe, first. Or my lips are sealed."
He brought me down to another dungeon, several floors higher than where we came from. He shoved me inside and slammed it behind me, the lock clicking shut. I ran down the corridor. All of the cells were vacant, except the one farthest from the door. The spotted Aisha was huddled into a corner of the floor, her body tiny compared to the large cell space. When she noticed me, she lifted her head and scooted to the door.
"You're safe, I'm so glad!" she exclaimed with tears streaming down her face. "What happened to you? You're a mess!"
"Well, I might've fallen down the stairs—you know me, total accident," I shrugged, remembering the hard landing at the wizard's place. "You knew I was here?"
"No, I didn't. When you didn't return home, I got worried. I went looking for you. In the marketplace, it was a mess... they told me you attacked a shopkeeper over a bad haggling. That you burned down his tent and then destroyed the fruit, and when the pirates tried to stop your rampage you crushed them. It's... it's not true, is it? I don't believe it."
"It's not! I'm not that bad of a haggler, and I would never do something like that! There was a pirate. He was causing a ruckus, so I saved the shopkeeper from those fiends. Never trust anything a pirate tells you!"
"That's good to hear," she breathed, relieved. "I was screaming your name everywhere. When they recognized your name, I was bought here. No one would tell me anything."
"It's alright now," I said. I sat in front of her, legs crossed.
"No, I'm afraid it's not," she said while shaking her head, her voice growing in severity. "Things appear to be grave."
"I'll get you out of here, don't worry."
"No, that isn't the problem—they're after the library."
"So? We'll worry about that later. Now, how to escape—"
"No, there's no later! You have to act now! If they get their hands on the Star Prophecy, all is lost!"
With both hands, I clasped the bars just inches beyond me. "Then we'll both get out of here and stop them before that—"
"It's impossible! There are pirates stationed all over the island; messages are sent by Bartamuses. The pirates near home probably got orders already. You need to get over there this instant!"
"I won't," I replied. "I can't leave you behind. It's not who I am!"
"Yes it is!"
"No, no, you don't get it! Do you want to know who I am? FINE. I'm nothing but a loser who steals and lies and cheats to get by. That, and I fail at magic. The League of Librarians, this island, is all just nonsense to me! And I... I don't believe in the Star Prophecy. It's a sham, a lie, a disgrace that has only hurt you—just like me!"
She turned her back to me.
"Please, abandon your faith in me. I don't deserve it! Not now, not ever!"
She remained silent.
"I have a confession to make," I began in a low voice. "I stole the Book of Prophecies from you. I found it on the shelf, and well... I wanted to become somebody important, somebody better. I thought that if I went out and took action by doing good things, that it could grant me instant fame, like some sort of recipe book for destinies. Boy was I wrong..."
"So you are like me after all," she said softly. "You're not the only one who dreams of fame. It's a lot to take in... but I understand."
She looked up at me, brimming with hope.
"I'm not upset. This was done by the hands of destiny. If it must be, there's a reason, even if you are currently blind to it. Remember, there was a Wocky seen in the vision."
"And you honestly think that's me!? Are you out of your mind!? It could be any Wocky—"
"It is you."
"Well, then, whatever. I'll go find a key."
"Listen to me, Renny! It's not your time to be the hero, not yet—you have to protect the books. That is your duty, to protect Neopia from the Star Prophecy. Thousands of stories from the past threaten to be silenced. You need to be their voice, the voice of the future. Their warnings must survive for future generations to hear."
"Then why not you?" I pleaded. "You can be their voice. You're smart, you know far more than I'll ever know."
"Because you care far more for people than I ever could. I gave up; I shut myself away, living vicariously through the pages of other's histories. Eventually I lost touch with the people I wanted to protect. Don't let this all be in vain, Renny. Now, go!"
She kicked the bars in frustration. "Why do you have to be so stubborn!?"
My attention moved to finding a way out of here. There may have only been one door, but that didn't stop me from poking around the corridor. I patted the large stones embedded in the walls until I noticed one was loose. There was enough of a gap to slip a few fingers under it, and I wiggled it until I was able to pull it towards me. With it gone, I could see the other room very clearly, and I stuck my head through the large hole. Although it was dimly lit, it was a clearly supply closet, filled with everything from mops to cloaks. I was ecstatic to see a key ring on the wall within my reach, and the small key resembled the one the Lupe had used earlier. This had to be it.
After sticking the rock back in place, I returned to the cell again with the key in my hand. In the pale yellow light, I could see it that its shape was rather familiar.
Immediately, I stuck the key inside the lock. It turned a perfect 90 degrees, but no click followed. I shook the door and it failed to budge. I tried it again, again, and again fruitlessly. Finally, I lost my patience. I crammed the key in the lock and beat on it repeatedly.
"It's probably enchanted," she said in disappointment. "It's no coincidence."
Of course, Mevolin was still one step ahead of me. With the key, I cut the ropes on her wrists. Then, she examined the iron key close to her face.
We were both in agreement. It was indeed the same key depicted by the rune, like some kind of sick joke.
"It's the only clue..."
"Not quite," she said. "There is one other."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm sorry. I was keeping it from you. I was so close to solving the mystery, it's only fair I wanted the solver to be me. It's the book of faerie tales about the Casting, however, the pages we need have been destroyed. They have been soiled, drenched in ink. If, like you said, you can restore them..."
"It's impossible. And besides, I was kind of kidding about that."
"You'll find a way. The answers you need are kept within those pages. The book is hidden under a floorboard in front of the ladder. Bring it with you. Now, listen closely. There's a port near the home. I see pirate ships arriving there all of the time. Stowaway on one of them headed for Sunshade Pier and that will bring you within minutes of the library. The rest boils down to a foot race."
"Got it," I nodded. "I lost my wand, though."
"Use the key. If it's indeed enchanted, and if your will is unmovable, it should do you well. Your magic is... different than our land's."
"Your hand, please," she murmured. Gently, she unfolded my fist, placed the key in my palm, and closed it. "Make me two promises."
"As long as they don't involve cleaning duty, sure," I nodded.
"Number one. Do everything within your power to protect the world for the Star Prophecy."
"You have my word. I will not stop until the prophecy is vanquished."
"And number two. Don't do it alone."
"Fine, whatever," I grumbled. "Now it's my turn. I promise that I will return."
"I said two promises, not three."
"Who's keeping count?"
My ears twitched. I heard footsteps approaching from the echoes bouncing off of the stone walls. I blew out the candles, and I waited beside the doorway in the darkness. Luckily enough, Mevolin had stepped through. I wasted no time tripping him and springing out toward freedom. Running, I retraced my steps from earlier and soon saw the stone door in my sights—the exit. It was still propped open.
"Stop the Wocky!" I heard him shout, but it was too late. I was through. I turned back to see the Draik standing in the doorway, with his cloak fluttering behind him, shrouded in moonlight. He delivered a barrage of green orbs as a parting gift, but they missed, fading off into the night.
I had thought my lungs were spent, but the free air was invigorating, propelling me forward. Minutes later, I found myself at a dock, where nearly a dozen ships were stationed.
I spotted a single pirate Xweetok on one of the decks. He was sipping grog and looking out in the distance, distracted by the full moon high in the sky, the only thing on the horizon.
"This ship," I said, suspending him above the railing with my left hand. "Where's it headed?"
"Sunshade," he said, trembling.
"Good to know, thanks!"
I let go and tiptoed down a staircase leading to the inner cabins. From what I could see behind some barrels, the night crew was a scanty one, with only three pirates out and about, playing blackjack. Still, I needed to wait until it was clear to use the staircase, which was blocked by their round table. After many rowdy games, they finally vacated.
My mouth was so dry and dehydrated that I took a gulp of a mug of grog. I spit it out everywhere, but the aftertaste remained, and I fought to hold back more unpleasant reflexes. Disgusting! How could they drink something so putrid?
In the cargo hold, most crates were sealed and tightly packed, but I found an empty sack next to a crate of potatoes. I sighed at the thought of yet another potato sack, and crawled in it like a sleeping bag. I was overdue for some shuteye. We would arrive at sunrise.
I awoke to the sound of crates being shuffled. While the pirate was distracted, I snuck up a few floors, to where dawn was breaking. The first rays cast pink light on the deck. I could see the shore emerging from the horizon, gradually increasing in size. I hopped inside an empty barrel on the deck and twiddled my thumbs. This was it. I hoped desperately that the library would still be left intact, just as I last saw it a day ago.
The ship docked a few minutes later. Once I heard no pirates on deck, I scampered to the dock. The sky was now a pallid light blue. Not too far in the distance was the hut, still standing. I let out a sigh of relief, but I knew it wasn't over yet.
I did not have a key of my own to get inside, so I decided the window would suffice. I chucked a rock through it and it shattered nicely. In one of the kitchen cupboards, I grabbed as many bags, totes, knapsacks, and backpacks as I could carry. Then I paced the checkered floor back and forth with uncertainty. I was torn between removing the books to relocate and defending the fort. Under the sink, there were only two pots and pans—hardly an arsenal.
Then the reality set in. I was about to be homeless yet again. I didn't plan on living here for long, but I had no plans to leave, either. Even with no books in my arms, I still felt the crushing weight of the world.
Suddenly, something exploded in another room. The ceramics in the cabinets shook from the shockwave. It could only mean one thing: the pirates were here.
I rushed down the ladder, grabbed the book under the floorboard, and ran to the bookshelf in the darkest corner of the room. Immediately, I retrieved the one drenched in coffee. In less than a minute or two I had almost all of the books around my arms, hanging on my shoulders, my back, and in my hands. There was a sudden thud, and the pirates had made the same mistake I did: forgetting to use the ladder. Four of them were staggering to their feet. If I were to defeat them, I knew they would just keep coming. Six more pirates entered after them.
If I had my wand, maybe I could summon a giant wave. Without it, I was nearly powerless. My only chance was to escape.
A pirate Kacheek raised his sword and it lit aflame. In horror, I watched the orange flames jump from shelf to shelf, consuming everything in its path.
"No!" I pulled out the key but it did nothing. The fire was already creeping toward me. It was time to go.
I was ascending up the ladder when one of the pirates kicked it over. As they laughed, I tumbled to the floor, and as fast as I could I picked up the fallen books before they lit aflame. There was no way out now. Helplessly, I watched as the pirates filled their grubby arms with Kisa's treasures, laughing manically.
When the smoke starting billowing, they teleported out. But at the least, I had the relief in knowing not one book they stole mentioned the Prophecy.
"You're not getting away this time!" I rasped after a fit of coughs. Closing my eyes, I raised the key. My destination was clear in my head: their pirate ship. This time, I was confident I could teleport without messing up. I had to—Kisa, the world, everyone depended on it. For once, someone depended on me.
With a flash of light, I was on board a pirate ship. All around me dirty pirates were piling the books and celebrating, splashing grog everywhere and singing. Someone was dropping loose pages from the Crokabek's nest like it was confetti. They disgusted me.
Four of them sprung at me at once, but I was not afraid. I could feel the key in my pocket, the dark energy pulsing and flowing through me once more. With my bare hands I summoned round force fields protecting me from their blows. One step at a time I advanced, pushing them back into a corner until they plunged into the shallow water.
In no time I was alone. I had no clue know how to steer the ship, or how to accelerate, so the ship was stuck at this speed. But I took reassurance in knowing that more than likely it would return to Arugamere Island, the pirate headquarters. Most of all, I was impatiently waiting to save Kisa. An hour later, however, storm clouds were moving in. The wind picked up speed, working against me. But I would brave a storm any day then face what I saw in the distance. Another pirate ship was following my trail, fast approaching.
"Give me a break!" I roared, feeling the cold raindrops on my forehead.
Time was running out, so I dumped all of the books on the ship onto a small lifeboat, piling them high, as well as some food and water. I threw a tarp over the books to protect them from the pouring rain. When I felt the winds batting against my tail, I tied several ropes around the boat until it resembled a Spyder web.
Minutes later, the first cannons were fired. One ripped right into the ship and it quivered from the force. The second struck the lower half of the bow, and I realized a hull breach was inevitable. Pulling on the ropes with all of my weight, I started lowering the white lifeboat. Fortunately, the pirate's line of sight to me was blocked by the ship. I could make a clean getaway.
Cannons fired in succession. The booms erupted louder than the thunder. Splinters and debris flew in every direction. Soon the Crokabek's nest and every support beam fell. Pirate sails bared holes until they were carried away by powerful gusts. Yet even the wind couldn't lift the stench of blasting powder. Tears, rain, and sweat became one and drenched my face. More and more the ship grew unsteady, taking on more water as it began to sink. Worse, the waves just beyond me were ruthless. This was the true nature of pirates: sheer destruction.
Finally my lifeboat hit the water and straightaway it was a battle to hold on. I ignored the soreness in my arms as I clutched onto the sides. Hastily, I tied rope around my waist and secured myself to the boat. When a wave had splashed water inside, I had to act fast. I remembered the water spell Kisa had mentioned. In seconds, the boat basked in a blue glow, and when it faded I saw the transparent force field cover the entire boat. The water inside had disappeared. I felt not a raindrop touch my face, but the tears remained. No spell could dry them.
As I stretched my legs, I felt something against my hip. I pulled out the compass from my pocket. Unsurprisingly, the pirates hadn't stolen this from me. It looked like nothing more than a plain wooden compass. They probably had a million of them. It was worthless to them, but not to me.
To take my mind off of the storm, off of Kisa, off of all of my failures, I stared at the spinning needle, begging to see where fate would lead me next. And it spun, and spun...
As long as I was spinning with this world, would it spin, too?
* * * * *
A small sailboat was cruising along. In the blistering heat, two Kyrii were lounging on beach chairs, sipping lemonade and looking out at the sea. They were passing a tiny island, consisting of only a few palms, until a Pink Kyrii noticed a boat beached on the shore. Beside it was a collapsed figure lying motionless.
"Someone's there!" she turned to a Blue Kyrii beside her and pointed at the island.
They anchored their boat and hopped on the shore. It was a harrowing sight. A brown Wocky was laying on his stomach. Under him were dozens of Chia pop wrappers. His clothes were tattered and his ruffled furs were drizzled with sand. In his palm was a compass, the needle spinning endlessly.
* * * * *
"What have you gathered from the report on Mr. Willicks?" Judge Hog asked his assistant walking beside him, a blue Lenny.
"He tells us he was marooned on an island for three weeks," he said, "and that's not all."
The Lenny flipped through his notepad and continued. "He keeps murmuring something about the stars. That, and fear itself. Over and over again—it's the same thing. He's quite a nutcase, if I say so myself."
"So, all in all, he was found with 137 books?"
"Yes, most of them intact. At present, we've been unable to identify some of the languages in them."
The Moehog stroked his chin. "Curious indeed."
"We did a background check on the guy and learned he's a thief."
"Thief, or perhaps a hero," Judge Hog mused. "In any case, I'm sure he has quite a story to tell."