The Second Piece
Dempsey Rowen was many things, and a complainer was most certainly one of them. The day after their visit to Meridell, Dempsey began to complain of a sore throat. Halfway through the day he began to cough, and by the time the four travelers reached Brightvale, the Halloween Kougra was positively miserable.
Theolounious Scrivenger was tempted to tell Dempsey that it was his fault for playing games with questionable people, in a kingdom where food items were rolled up and down hills; his natural politeness prevented him from doing so. Still, when Dempsey began to insist that the four stop by Faerieland to see the Faerie at the Healing Springs, Theo almost said it, along with several other choice things.
There was a sense of urgency in everything Theo did now. He felt as though the mission to discover what the Grimoire of Inkdeath was had begun abruptly, and so set off at a frantic pace. That combined with the strange Krawley brothers, three and Illusen’s reaction to a mere mention of the Grimoire made the red Gelert far more impatient than usual.
The four could not, though, continue on to Altador with a sick comrade. It was decided that they would make a side trip to Faerieland, not only to heal Dempsey but also to shut him up. “I feel terrible,” Dempsey wailed presently. His sense of decorum, which had not been very proper to begin with, had been completely gone for some time now.
“Trust me,” said Rosemarie Willow, a shadow Kacheek. “We know.”
“Look,” Edgar Ivange said, pointing ahead. He was also shadow, although a Shoyru. “We’ve almost reached Faerieland. You’ll be healed soon enough.”
Dempsey made a little scoffing noise in the back of his throat. Theo, who had been set on ignoring his friend for at least the past day, did his best not to roll his eyes. Dempsey could easily be the most insufferable of all of them. It would be best for all if they reached the Healing Springs sooner rather than later.
Faerieland had been grounded for the past few years, after a wild and well-known encounter with an angry Xweetok named Xandra. Despite its current location, now smashed into the dirt, with bits of mortar and cement crumbled around it, Faerieland was still beautiful. As it was now settled in a jagged crater, upon a massive piece of gray rock, happening upon the place was almost like finding a diamond in the rough.
Theo had never been quite sure that he liked Faerieland. He had only been there once before, back when it was still in the sky on its cloud. It had been more ethereal and angelic there, and Faeries had gone to and fro, practically gliding. As they entered Faerieland in its present state it was easy to spot Faeries walking around – but they were simply walking now, not gliding or flying. It was a little strange.
After following the winding path down the somewhat sheer side of the crater, the four friends halted. “I will take him to the Healing Springs,” said Rosemarie with a long-suffering air, when Edgar and Theo both turned to look at her.
“Thank you,” said Theo in all seriousness.
“Indeed, good lady,” Edgar agreed. He even took her paw and briefly shook it, the picture of gratitude. “Please do take him away.”
Dempsey, who had, upon reaching the end of the path, flopped to the ground, groaned. “I hurt,” he whined.
Theo winced and hoped nobody was witnessing this. How embarrassing. Dempsey should have known he needed to behave better. Theo, Edgar, and Rosemarie shared a moment of silent understanding; then Rosemarie turned and walked over to help Dempsey back to his feet.
While Rosemarie trooped Dempsey off to find the Healing Springs – which, by the look of it, were only a few hundred yards away from the main path from the entrance – Theo and Edgar tried to find a way to occupy themselves. Preferably away from the Healing Springs. “Would Faerieland have an archive?” Theo asked, as he and Edgar trailed away from the entrance and the Springs.
“I haven’t any idea,” Edgar replied promptly. “But we would have to go into the city to find out.”
Both of them paused and looked ahead. If they continued walking this path, eventually it would widen and lead them into Faerie City, the capital of Faerieland. Faerie City was very tall and very intimidating, with what looked like unexplainable mists about it and purple turrets of lavender towers poking through.
Edgar and Theo looked back at each other. “I’d rather not,” said Theo.
“We ought to find something else,” Edgar said at the same time.
Then both of them turned to resume searching for something productive to do with their time. Edgar pointed out the Wheel of Excitement, but neither of them wanted to waste Neopoints and neither of them was quite sure how the Wheel worked. There was the Rainbow Fountain, but it was back past the Healing Springs; and there was a cliff with a horrible little path winding up it, but neither of them wanted to explore the dark forest at the top.
“We could simply sit here and wait,” Edgar suggested.
Theo was already rather fidgety and kept playing with the strap of his shoulder-bag. “I’d rather move,” he said.
Edgar seemed to stifle a sigh. “What in Neopia is left?”
“There seem to be things happening there,” Theo said, pointing over Edgar’s shoulder. Edgar turned around to look. After a second of quiet, Edgar began to walk in the indicated direction. Theo hurried to catch up to him.
The two comrades followed another path, this one branching off from the wide main one, up a section of the crater, and over a sparkling teal river below. They crossed over a purple bridge, passing a couple of excited Unis and a Light Faerie along the way, and paused when they reached something that seemed to be of interest.
To be more exact, Edgar hesitated to glance over, and then continued to walk; but Theo halted and stared. Because, past an oak tree and a little glittery pond, there was the yawning mouth of a cavern. And as Theo looked he could have sworn he heard a faint female voice.
“Theo,” Edgar began, already exasperated.
“Wait,” Theo said at once, holding up his paw. “Can you hear that?”
The two of them stared at each other and waited in apprehension. Theo strained to listen: had Dempsey finally made him mad? Had he lost it? But then, just as Theo heard it again, Edgar’s blue eyes widened. “It is nearly the same,” said Edgar in a low, oddly reverent voice. “As the cemetery in the Haunted Woods – the old asylum.”
And the shadow Shoyru was right: Theo could feel the same strange feeling here as he had there, near the start of their journey. When he had felt this before, he had encountered Mr. Isaac Krawley, who had given him a piece of prophecy regarding the Grimoire of Inkdeath. There was something familiar about this place, something ominous, and yet Theo had never once been here before.
“We have to go in,” said Theo before he thought about it. Then he quickly looked at Edgar, assuming his friend would disagree.
Instead Edgar only looked determined. “Yes,” he said pensively. “We do.”
And thusly they entered the cavern. It was somewhat difficult to hop over the creek, trickling into the little pond outside, but once both of them had made it in, the cave was wide and smooth. There were only a few pointy icicle-shaped rocks jutting out of the ground. “Stalagmites,” said Edgar knowledgeably, when he caught Theo glancing at a cluster of them.
Soon enough they reached a crossroads. One tunnel led to the right, and another to the left. Although all of the tunnels were lit with steadily burning torches on the walls, for some reason the left one looked a little darker than the right one.
Theo opened his mouth to ask which one they ought to take; then he heard it again. It was the faintest of all sounds, brushing past him like a hint of a breeze, but he was certain that someone, a girl, had said his name. Scrivenger.
Just then a couple of disgruntled-looking pets – a Lupe and an Aisha – came wandering back out of the tunnel on the right. Edgar turned toward them with a polite greeting: and Theo turned and strode down the left tunnel. He could still hear a very slight echo – Scrivenger. He was meant to be here for some reason.
He took a couple of turns down the tunnel, and then took another couple of turns, and soon enough had no idea where he was in relation to the exit; but Theo was too focused on finding the source of the voice to care. He likely would not have stopped if he had not stubbed his toe on a stalagmite and nearly tripped.
Then Theo halted for a second, hissing, and shook his foot out in the air. When he experimentally set his foot back down a moment later, something caught the corner of his eye. He turned –
There was a little nook carved into the wall of the cavern. Theo took a few curious steps closer, stinging toe forgotten. There were several cobwebs covering the nook, but he was sure he could see what might have been a book behind them. With a grimace he reached in, took hold of the item, and pulled it back out.
He had been right – it was a book. A tattered leather-bound journal, it seemed, with most of the pages ripped out. Theo flapped it around for a moment in an attempt to rid it of the spiders and webs. Then he flipped it open.
There was nothing in the book when he first flipped through, though the pages did, strangely, feel indented, as if someone had once written on them. Theo frowned to himself and flicked backwards through the empty pages. Then he went through forwards again. He did this a few times, hoping to glimpse some little note scrawled in a corner. Then he found something.
Unfortunately the journal was wet, and the ink had run. Theo could not make out much of what was written on this one page, somewhere near the middle of the book. All he could see for sure was – Traverse…far
Look to the…family line
For with a Scrivenger…
Only Ivange can…slain
Upon realizing that both he and Edgar had been mentioned, albeit by surname, in the journal, a chill crawled down Theo’s spine. He snapped the book shut, turned, and hurried back down the tunnel, the way he thought he’d come. He sped up as he went, thinking about that voice and the fact that he had felt compelled to follow it, and before he knew it he was running.