Arthur: A Weapon's Tale: Part Two
”Yes, I know about these weapons. Immensely powerful, I tell you,” the owner began, fumbling through a hidden bookcase for books. He brightened up at an old, earth toned book and slowly pulled it from the shelves, pausing to inspect its details. “You see, a witch placed a binding spell on the two to enhance their strength. No one has seen either for centuries, and I must say, people have been looking.” He peered at Art, scrutinizing his appearance and lingered. “Why is it you wish to know?”
Art froze, trying to think up a reason for his curiosity.
“Well, I am an avid weapons collector, and I have the time to look for them myself.” The Ixi looked skeptical but nodded slowly. “I’m just looking for maybe the last known places of them and I’ll be on my way.”
The Ixi stared blankly at Art, nodding slowly to his answer. With a quick blow of dust, the shop owner began flipping through the book.
“I can’t guarantee this will be of any help, but the sword and the shield were separated and documentation for their whereabouts ran grim several years later. According to legend, the two weapons cannot be separated more than a certain distance away from each other. For someone like yourself, it could be great lengths, but compared to the overall world, it is not too vast.” He stopped at a page and held the book close to read its fine print.
“So, what you’re saying is, regardless of location, both have to be relatively close by? We’re talking, Haunted Woods to Terror Mountain?” Art questioned.
The Ixi nodded and held up the book to Arthur.
“These records show that the last known location of the shield was where Neopia Central now sits. Unfortunately, I don’t have any record of the sword.” Art thanked the old Ixi and headed back to the streets. As he continued out of Brightvale and towards the open field towards Haunted Woods, he briefly stopped to ponder over this new information.
The thing Art didn’t particularly like about travelling was being alone. While he was more reserved, he enjoyed the company he shared with his select few friends. He also knew they were in serious danger every second he waited, so he did his best to hurry. The summer weather made the open plains seem perfect, as the grass gently swayed from side to side. Walking through the grass was a nice change from the mud and rock of Meridell’s streets. Art felt himself getting closer as the grass turned to cracked clay and ultimately, the ravaged forest.
The change from the rolling greens of central Neopia to the shadows of the Haunted Woods was rapid. The brittle, grey trees were covered with a shroud of darkness. What was elsewhere leafy was threadbare here.
Voices began calling his name, but Art didn’t bother to stop. His instinct knew well enough that stopping was more dangerous than his journey as a whole. Stopping would make him an easy target. His moved his feet swiftly through the dead leaves that covered the ground, hoping that the forest would soon clear. After a few hours of fast-paced trekking, Art began to hear Edna’s chants and the screams of the Deserted Fairground.
The Haunted Woods was aptly named. Thade’s enormous castle stood at the center of the village, and Edna’s Tower lay in the east. The Esophagor groaned as Arthur passed by it, and its red eyes stared the dragon down. Art was heading straight to the information, not bothering with the other attractions. He headed up the gravel path towards the pumpkin orange Brain Tree, whose enormous brain pulsed at a rapid beat.
The Brain Tree looked at Art, who got down on one knee and hung his head in respect. The Tree watched his every move, staring at the intricate design on his face, determining the reason for the dragon’s visit.
“What is it you are here for, dragon?” the tree bellowed. Arthur stood, staring the Tree’s bright red eyes with dignity.
“I have come for knowledge that I believe you have.” Art was firm, knowing this was one of his only hopes. The Tree had been around Neopia for centuries, accumulating knowledge as people came and went.
The Brain Tree paused, his branches looming over Art’s relatively small body. “Normally, people do not request knowledge. I enlighten them with details after they’ve proven their worth. You seem different. Why are you here?”
Art bit his lip, remembering on his conversation with the bookkeeper in Brightvale. He took a deep breath, gathered his thoughts and began his tale. The Brain Tree nodded vaguely at certain points in the story. As Art neared the end of his tale, he nearly had to shout to be heard over the howl of the wind.
“I may be of some help. Now, silly dragon, this is not usual, and do not expect this kind of request again. Your people are in times of peril, this is an exception.” The surrounding trees seemed to murmur and taunt Art, but he kept his ground. Arthur nodded feverishly, eager to hear the information and leave the Haunted Woods.
“I understand. I’d like to keep this discussion and arrangement between you and me.”
“Very well,” the Tree started slowly. “The two were here for some time, but the sword was moved I believe to Altador. The shield, however, was lost. A greedy fool tried to take it but ended up losing it to a common hoarder, something much more vulnerable as he sleeps.” The Brain Tree trailed off, indicating the end of his wisdom. His branches twirled in the wind with their shapes casting eerie shadows all around Arthur.
The Brain Tree glared at Arthur, who bowed and quickly thanked him for his help. He turned around and dragged his feet, now sore from a day’s walking, through the mud.
Art walked in aimless circles, working out the clues in the Brain Tree’s riddles. He hated not being able to rely on his brute force sometimes; his brain wasn’t as sharp as it once was.
Then, it clicked. Eureka! The Snowager!
Gripped with his newfound realization, Art peeled away from the Haunted Woods, heading north on his quest to save Meridell. A surge of adrenaline scared the fear from his body, despite hours of trekking through the creepy and daunting forest. Art’s stride extended past its usual length.
Art, with his battered feet, was relieved when he felt the wet blades of grass tickle his soles. The bleak forest paved way to a beautiful open field that acted as the meeting grounds between Terror Mountain, Neopia Central and the Haunted Woods. Art felt his pace slowing down and took a much-needed rest after his time in the dark forest. The sun that was forever expelled from the Haunted Woods gave warmth to his navy scales and sparkled brightly in his face.
As he got closer to Neopia Central, Art resisted the temptation to take another rest at the NeoLodge. He knew when he reached the shores near Roo Island it would be a long and draining boat ride to Terror Mountain.
Arthur trekked further north. His thick skin shivered as the temperature began to plummet towards the icy cold levels around Terror Mountain. Art could sense he was close when he heard with the sounds of the tide splashing against the rocks, then retreating back to the ocean. As he strained his body over a small hill, he waved down to one of the local Meerca boaters, who recognized him with a huge grin and frantically ushered him down. Art’s claws gripped the ground as he slid down the muddy hill, evidently softened from a recent rainfall.
“Art! What brings you ‘round this part of Neopia?” the pirate Meerca questioned. He was chubby, but very built in the arms, giving him an awkward stance.
“Just need to head to Terror Mountain for a few days. Need to find something, you see.” Art gave a quick grin, trying to keep the conversation about his motive to a minimum. He rolled eagerly on the balls of his feet, unable to keep his limbs still.
The boisterous Meerca nodded and ushered him towards the vessel they would take across the ocean. The boat was made of a dark oak wood and was large enough to hold about ten people comfortably. The mast in the middle rose about twenty feet and its sail was white, adorned with varying hues of blues in a sailor’s pattern. Art watched as the wind tossed the boat around, flinging it from side to side.
Climbing into the boat, Art nestled himself into his nook and felt the lurch of the boat as it was pushed off the wet sand. The crew worked tirelessly to make the trip seamless and softly hummed old sea tunes to pass the time. The waves slapping the wooden boat and the creaking of the mast were the only audible sounds during the second half of the trip, once the rowers’ throats were too sore from singing. Art used the voyage as a resting period, given his needed time to relax and formulate a plan to steal back the shield. The weight of his exhausted muscles and the gentle rocking of the boat lulled him into a deep sleep, a few loud snores escaping his mouth.
Art felt a hard hand shake his shoulder and his eyes jolted open. He sat up, the sweat clinging to his body and his heart racing. He blinked a few times, trying to clear his eyes and he squinted at the person who woke him up.
“Art, we’re here! Boy, you slept the whole way! Coulda used a hand or two, but no harm done my friend!” the Meerca chuckled, punching Art’s shoulder playfully. He abruptly turned on his heels, whistling a tune while he took down the sail on the mast. Art rubbed his head, cracked his back and staggered off the boat. His knees wobbled as he walked for the first time in hours. He left some change for the crew and thanked them for the safe voyage.
Amidst his deep sleep, Arthur was unable to formulate his plan for stealing the shield from the Snowager. He was more worried than ever that this would not run smoothly.
He trudged up the snowy slope, the harsh winter air filling his lungs. He buried his hands deep into his pockets in an attempt to maintain some warmth. The loud crunch of each footstep broke the silence as Art made his way to the peaceful and festive village of Happy Valley.
The crest of the hill marked the transition to the town, which was brimming with life. Several Bruce skated in circles, while chairlifts brought Neopians from the bottom to the top of the mountain, and vice versa. There was a fixed holiday cheer that added to the ambiance, despite the month of Celebrating’s being several weeks away.
Arthur meandered around as he looked for the specific cabin King Skarl had purchased several years ago. It was for Art’s use almost exclusively during his travels and adventures but was hardly ever used. When he turned around the corner of the Advent Calendar cabin, he spotted his shelter. The snow was piled high, but Art recognized it from several years before.
Home sweet home, Art thought as he brushed the steps. He staggered on the black ice, hidden on the porch. There was a shovel pitched into the snow from the last occupant to help clear a way to the door. Arthur heaved the mounds of powdery white snow from the pathway leading to the door and climbed the few steps to the main porch landing. He took one final deep breath and headed inside.
He felt the chills run up his spine in the near freezing cabin (Wouldn’t the cabin be warmer than the outside?). Art felt his body shake vigorously as he waited for his fire to grow and exude the heat he needed. His breath escaped with every sigh, the cold illuminating its shape. Arthur lay by the fire and watched the flames flicker fiercely. Knowing he had several hours before his big chance, he succumbed to his exhaustion and slept soundly on the cold wood floor.
Blinking slowly, Arthur rolled on his side, fumbling in the now pitch black room. He forced himself up and felt around for the lamp, its light brightening the room. In the kitchen, Art plopped himself on one of the smooth oak chairs. As he chewed his breakfast sandwich, he mulled over his plan once more. The ticking grandfather clock on the wall signaled the time - each tick a second closer to his one opportunity.
He changed into his darkest attire and pulled the cloak over his head. He would be almost invisible in the dark, perfect for camouflaging in the night.
To be continued…