Southward Bound: Part One
Osa, a Christmas Vandagyre with long, blonde hair, looked eagerly at the pink Gnorbu in formal Neovian attire.
“Your proposal to go to the southernmost continent via flying vessel is most inspired! But I’m afraid that you’ve come here at a rather bad time Miss Darlington. Most of the Seekers, including Roxton, have gone with Lilian and Hugo Fairweather to further research the Lost Isle while the rest are busy protecting our claim to the Obelisk in Tyrannia. My niece, Katie, a few of our older fellow Seekers who are no longer fit for active duty, and myself are all that remain here. I’m sure Katie would be delighted to go with you, but I’m equally sure her parents would not. I’ve gotten quite the earful just for allowing her to participate in the battle for the Obelisk! I mean it’s not even as though she actually fights herself…” Professor Lambert sighed.
“I do understand, Professor, but I was rather hoping I could arrange for something. While Rasala is open to the idea of working with the other groups, most of my fellow Order members are still a bit distrustful. I had tried to talk to the heads of the various other factions as well. Lanie and Lillie were…not interested. Captain Flint didn’t think it would be a good idea to split his forces. Kanrik was interested but didn’t have anyone to spare either. The Duchess was…inscrutable.”
Professor Lambert chuckled. “Yes, she is rather good at bluffing. I’m not sure that her aid wouldn’t have ultimately been more of a hindrance. I’m sorry I cannot be of much more help either. There is a flying vessel available here—it is rather small, though, and could hold at most four people and some cargo.” He rose and picked up some rolled up maps. “These are all copies, and you may keep them.” He unrolled one and Osa saw the outline of the southernmost continent including its connection to Lost Desert. “Now the sea around the continent has a number of islands, and the darblats make their nests on these islands and the shores nearby. Further in it gets colder and there’s not much in way of land features. It’s very easy to get lost. What’s really exciting is this range of mountains. There’s a large canyon running around them, but there are a couple of points where it can be crossed.” He pointed to a couple notations on the map. “There is a major river running from it, but it’s unfortunately buried in ice. Still, it’s fairly obvious if you need a landmark—it’s almost directly due south of Meridell.”
“And beyond the mountains?”
Professor Lambert sighed. “No one knows. No one who’s gone into them has ever returned. Expeditions dating back to the reign of King Coltzan II have simply vanished.”
“Didn’t I hear one of your members also vanished there? Frostbite?”
Lambert laughed. “Frostburn and no; old Frostburn simply retired to Mystery Island. He wanted to explore there but soon found it was even colder than the Ice Caves. The poor fellow simply cannot stand cold.”
“Well, that’s good to know, but I would still like to try. If you showed me how to operate the ship, I could probably go by myself, but I’d really like at least one other person along…”
Gladstone knocked on the door. “Pardon, I hate to interrupt, but there’s a pair of Neopets here who seem to need some help.”
Lambert looked to Osa and she nodded. “I can wait.”
A Blue Ixi in thief clothes and an Orange Kougra in the armor of Faerieland came into the room. Lambert stood up. “As I live and breathe! Hanso and Brynn! This is indeed an honour!”
“Thank you Professor Lambert,” said Brynn. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”
“It’s a nice place you got here! Lots of interesting and valuable stuff!”
“Um, thank you Hanso. I assume you’re here on some mission from Fyora?”
“Yes. We just came back from Lost Desert with an artifact when Fyora mentioned they’d found evidence in Xandra’s notes that there could be a Faerie artifact somewhere in the southern continent. Apparently Xandra had been looking for artifacts to help her for years and traced down many different ones. She’d actually gone to the places and made notes of their abilities, though she didn’t remove them. She only wanted the amplifier, but thought the others might be useful at some later date.”
“If she’d only had more benign purposes, I could admire her methods. But you mentioned an artifact in the southernmost continent? Osa here was planning to make a trip down there to explore.”
Osa quickly introduced herself to Brynn and Hanso. “Since you’re both going to the same place I am, we could join our forces together. I must admit that I’d feel much better with two heroes along with me!”
“Hey, that sounds great! Her magic, your sword, my expertise in acquiring stuff!”
Brynn rolled her eyes. “Anything you can provide in way of useful information would be appreciated, Professor.”
“I’m afraid our knowledge is limited. I can give you maps up to a few neokilometres in, but, as I was telling Osa, no one who’s tried to go past this range,” he pointed to a long ridge that formed near the heart of the southern continent. It was circular, though not a perfect circle, “has ever come back. We know that expeditions have been sent to the southern continent by various rulers in Lost Desert over the years and a few others have tried, but the cold, barren landscape has proved impregnable.”
“Why would Xandra think there was an artifact there? As far as anyone knows it’s simply a frozen wasteland,” said Osa. “I mean, I’m not complaining since it helps me out, but it does seem odd.”
Brynn nodded. “I thought so too. According to Fyora there were once Neopets living there and the whole area was much more hospitable, but one day bout six hundred years ago there was a terrible storm that froze the whole region into what it is now. No Faerie could get through it, and it was assumed that everyone was lost.”
“How terrible! And she suspects some Faerie artifact was involved?”
“Well Xandra certainly did. And the Snow Faerie can certainly freeze things with her wand if she wants. So an artifact could potentially freeze the whole area. In any case it’s about time someone investigated down there.”
“Yeah, plus if there are ruins I’m sure they’ll have lots of treasure we can keep!”
“What? It’s not like the former owners are going to need them.”
Osa chuckled. “Well, let’s get started!”
The southern continent rolled out in all directions, a seemingly endless plain of white. It glistened in the sun and the wind played with the snow.
“Brr! Here I thought Terror Mountain was cold!” said Hanso.
“It’s very beautiful, but also sad. No one lives here. It’s like the world simply ends,” said Osa.
“Personally I’d feel better knowing whether or not we’re going to have a welcoming committee past those mountains. People must keep disappearing in them for a reason!”
“That’s what I like about you, darling; your optimistic view of the world!”
Osa giggled. “I can put an invisibility spell around us once we get close to the mountains. It should last long enough that we ought to be able to view things without being seen in turn. We should be able to make better decisions that way.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” said Brynn.
“I’m all for being unseen!”
Osa managed to follow the frozen river until they started to reach foothills. The mountains grew closer and closer. Finally they were able to see the canyon surrounding them. It glittered like gems in the sun.
“Woah! Can we get closer? I want to get a good look at that!” said Hanso.
“Why not? We’re here to explore!” Osa maneuvered the ship down to the canyon.
“Aww, it’s just coloured rocks covered in ice!”
Osa and Brynn both chucked at Hanso’s disappointment. The walls of the canyon were beautiful with multiple layers of differently coloured stones. At the base a river still flowed at the bottom of the canyon.
“This is really amazing!” said Brynn.
“I know; the water has worn away at this over millennia! But look at how the river meets with the base of the canyon—it flows up! But you can see right where it starts freezing near the top.”
“A waterrise is neat, but personally I’d have preferred if the canyon was made of actual gems!”
Both Osa and Brynn laughed. Osa maneuvered the ship out of the canyon and back on course for the mountains. The winds picked up a bit as they approached, so Osa cast her invisibility spell. The winds remained steady, but not too bad for the small ship. Osa changed elevation and the wind eased up.
There were many valleys among the mountains, places that seemed like they’d be perfect for inhabitants. But the bases of all of them were the same—completely flat white, as if all defining features had been removed.
“I really don’t like the look of this,” said Brynn.
“I’ll say. Any treasure has to be gone too!”
“Um, well, I hate to be the harbinger of worse news, but we’ve made it through the mountains and, well, look!”
Looming ahead in the heart of the mountains, the valley was covered in a large, black, metallic complex. It had sinister, glowing red lights around it. There was only one person in all Neopia who could have created the structure.
“Dr. Sloth!” the three said in unison.
To be continued…