Eliv Thade. Wasn't Always a Bad Guy. ...Right?
"You know, I bet Eliv Thade isn’t even that bad of a guy.”
Schyff, a blue Hissi, choked on the ghost pizza slice he was happily eating moments prior, however that may be possible. After a bit of hacking and coughing, he shot a confused look at the red Xweetok.
“Yottir, are you crazy? The guy’s gone mad. No Neopet I’ve ever met knows what he was like when he was normal. If he ever was.”
Yottir frowned and poked unhappily at his eyeball custard. After a sigh, he mumbled in argument, “But I’m sure he was just an innocent Kacheek before. I mean look how sweet those things are! They wouldn’t hurt a fly. They chase butterflies for crying out loud.”
Schyff rolled his eyes. “Well if you’re so sure about that, why don’t you just go and ask him? It’s not like he ever lets his guests leave.” The Hissi began to chuckle at his own joke, but the strange look the Xweetok was giving him nearly made him choke on his own laugh. “Don’t even think abou—“
“You know that’s not a bad idea. Maybe I will!” Yottir jumped up from the table nearly knocking over his custard, catching it just in the nick of time. An eyeball from it, however, rolled out onto the table. He frowned at it in mere disappointment for a moment (for that was always his favourite part) before looking back up to Schyff. “If no one else knows, maybe I could find out. He could just be lonely in there, that’s why he doesn’t let people leave!”
“Are you CRAZY? Mom would never allow that! If I were to let you go she’d probably send me to the pound.” At this point Schyff was also getting out of his chair, though not without finishing off his pizza slice.
“Well she doesn’t have to know. And you’re not stopping me, I’m going whether you like it or not,” Yottir argued defiantly and walked away to grab a backpack, clearly wanting to bring a couple of things for the road.
The Hissi began to frown more and more as though he were facing some sort of epic inner turmoil. Finally, just when he looked like he was about to explode, he yelled, “FINE! But you know what? I’m going with you. It’s puzzles Eliv works with and, well, you’re not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.”
“Nothing. Let’s go before Mom gets home.”
Rain poured, thunder cracked and a bright streak of lightning not only lit the sky, but gave the surrounding dead trees an ominous appearance. It was as though the leafless branches were reaching out to beckon them or ensnare them. A chill ran up Schyff’s spine, and not only because he was freezing his tail off.
The two Neopets, despite the eeriness in the air, walked on towards the castle of Eliv Thade. Yottir’s fur was soaked, as was the potato sack Schyff was wearing in an attempt to keep some warmth on the journey. Yottir appeared to not have a care in the world in terms of his surroundings, but was dead set on getting into that castle and drying off. Even with the chance that he could never leave. When they finally got to the door the Xweetok was much more excited than nervous.
Thump thump thump.
“This is it, Schyff!” Yottir whispered excitedly.
“Yeah, it could be,” Schyff mumbled back nervously.
Seconds ticked by, then minutes. There hadn’t even been a stir on the other side. Yottir’s eyebrows furrowed and, with sudden unspoken resolve, he pushed the door open.
“Oh that’s just great, Yottir! Breaking and entering into a crazy ghost’s castle!”
“And because you called him crazy I bet he’ll kill you first,” the Xweetok retorted with a toothy, sly grin.
It may have been a joke but the sudden realization hit Schyff hard. Yottir could have been right. Eliv Thade could be anywhere in that moment. For all he knew, Eliv could hear everything they were saying. Eliv Thade could be looking right at them. Schyff whipped around to run right back out of the castle only to find that Yottir had already closed the door behind them. He smacked right into it.
Yottir began to laugh, almost in hysterics. After calming down slightly though still carrying on laughing, he began, “Eliv Thade! I know you’re here. I simply wish to speak with you.” He paused, taking a moment to look around and take in his surroundings. Seconds passed without response. “I am eager to learn more about you. I know of your great knowledge and wisdom; there was never a puzzle you were unable to crack.”
A great gust of wind inside the castle sent Schyff and Yottir flying into thick wood of the door. Schyff groaned in both pain and irritation. “We’re off to a great start,” he muttered. Yottir rubbed at his head, glancing over to the Hissi in thought.
“Not every puzzle,” a deep, echoing voice snapped.
Both Neopets looked up in surprise. There he was. Eliv Thade, not quite in the flesh, but hovering up high about ten feet away, glowering down at them.
“Sorry, Mr. Eliv Thade, Sir,” Yottir said as he began standing up, only receiving a roll of the eyes in response. “To intrude and to… Insult you? I just wanted to know more about you. Neopia needs to know more about you and your greatness,” he explained as humbly as he could. With a sudden flash of light, Eliv Thade’s face was suddenly mere inches from Yottir’s, causing him to stumble backwards in surprise.
“Are you mocking me?” he asked, clearly ready to do something about it if the answer is yes.
“No! No, of course not,” he replied as he regained his balance. “I—“
“We really just want to know more about you. Books only give us so much and for someone like you, we feel it’s a shame,” Schyff added, finally getting up himself.
Eliv Thade looked back and forth between the two intruding Neopets for a moment. Wondering if they were lying? Taunting? Or perhaps he was even sizing them up. Whatever it was, he finally sighed and looked Yottir in the eye.
“Not every puzzle. There were so many that had an instantaNeous answer, others that took mere minutes to solve. It was rare for me to have any single difficulty with one and I was renowned for it,” Eliv explained. “But there was one,” he continued, then paused. He was clearly even angered by the memory of it. “A servant gave me a puzzle so complex that I couldn’t even begin to answer it. I tried for days. Months. Then, eventually, years. It was almost like the servant was taunting me with it. The twisted beast must have enjoyed watching me suffer.” By the end of his last statement he was almost beginning to growl in his words. His ghostly paws had turned to fists.
Eliv took a moment to recompose himself, leaving the two Neopets to look on inquisitively until finally, he continued on. “This puzzle, it drove me into madness. My servants grew so afraid that they had all left me here alone. Hence…” he indicated the collection of cobwebs and broken walls and floors. “It wasn’t until after I died that I realized… The puzzle didn’t have an answer. It couldn’t have, for I would have found it. Even in death it haunted me and I continued searching only to find… Nothing.”
“But every puzzle should have an answer, don’t you think?” Schyff asked, only to receive a glowing red glare from the spectre. He began to shrink into himself slightly.
“If there was an answer I WOULD HAVE FOUND IT,” he thundered, synchronized with the thundering outside the castle. The wind of his anger blew them backwards slightly. Schyff offered a nervous, apologetic look.
“Now I spend my days returning the favour, only my puzzles are solvable. Unlike that vile creature. And unless you two can solve mine, you are going to stay here in my castle for all eternity.”
The wide-eyed Neopets stared at Eliv Thade in disbelief. He couldn’t be serious. They couldn’t stay here. And of all things, puzzle solving?!
“But you didn’t tell us about you,” Yottir began to argue. “We should at least get that.”
“I already told you about me,” Eliv Thade answered.
“No, I mean you. Before this. Before all of that puzzle stuff ever started.”
Eliv stared at the Xweetok for what felt like a long time. He was determined, that was for sure. And clearly upset by the turn of events. He groaned in annoyance. Why he wasn’t seizing them both by their necks he just couldn’t figure out. If they were going to stay here forever he may as well give them what they wanted beforehand. It wasn’t like they were leaving any time soon.
“I was a yellow Kacheek happily raised in the Haunted Woods by two loving parents before eventually being adopted. My owner was great. He read to me a lot. But the more books I read, the more curious I grew. I took a great liking to anagram and puzzle books, you see,” he began to explain, though audibly irritated and arrogant. “I began to write my own, and to get my owner to try solving them. And other Neopets I encountered. Eventually I went off on my own, finding success in the puzzles. I loved what I did, and my name became a household one because of it.” He stopped all of a sudden, then glared at the two. “And I still love what I do.”
The two Neopets suddenly fell through a trap door with a shriek and landed hard on a stone dungeon floor. They both looked up in horror as Eliv Thade smirked down at them, a hint of malice in his eyes.
“But wait! This isn’t fair!” Yottir called out angrily.
Eliv Thade’s grin only grew. “Everything is a game. A vile, evil, delightful game! And if you’re going to play the game you at least have to play fair. That’s why get three tries!” he began with a small cackle. “If you get the correct answer, I set you free. If you don’t, well…” He began to laugh maniacally as the trapdoors slammed shut. The echo of his laugh slowly began to drift away.
“But we don’t even—“ Yottir argued, but Schyff swiftly nudged him and indicated the dark stone wall before him. Glowing white letters began to form before them. Their hearts sank. This was no simple anagram.
“Ym roiirgem, ym ulmeat, ym rdwos dna ym ihlsde, iprosuec nad cnnatie, utb keat wlodegekn ot ildew.”
For a long, long while, Yottir and Schyff stared at the apparition. It remained on the wall in a pale, steady, taunting glow. Both Neopets were restlessly going over the jumble of words in their heads trying to make sense of them. It was almost the equivalent of trying to decipher an unfamiliar language altogether.
“This is all my fault,” Yottir said, covering his face with his paws. “If I would have just listened to you we wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Hey, if I wouldn’t have let you leave we wouldn’t be here right now. But right now, what’s important is that we focus,” Schyff replied. “If we want to get home at all, let alone soon, we need to figure out this anagram and we need to do it carefully,” he added, turning back to look at the wall. If you really look in-between the intimidating bits, we already have some of it solved.”
Yottir sniffled and blinked out the forming tears, looking back to the anagram as well. Schyff was right. Due to the fact there was literally no other option for some of the words, they weren’t at a complete loss.
“Okay, so far we have ‘My roiirgem, my ulmeat, my rdwos and my ihlsde, iprosuec and cnnatie, but take wlodegekn to ildew.’ So maybe, just maybe, when Eliv uses ‘my’ he is referring to something of his own. Or it could just be part of the anagram. But if we look at it as though he is referring to his own belongings, maybe this anagram just got a little easier than he intended,” Schyff said, analyzing the scrambled sentence. As he said certain answers, the glowing letters actually rearranged themselves if those certain words were correct. Even if none of Eliv’s belongings were involved in this, there were only so many possible answers. At least, answers that made sense.
Yottir stared at the anagram for a long time, looking at each individual scrambled word. After what seemed quite the while he finally said something. “This one, the fourth one we haven’t figured out yet. It must be ‘shield.’ And not the very next one but the one after, it looks like ‘ancient.’ The last one could be ‘wield.’” Yottir pulled a notebook and a pen out of his pack and began to scribble out the sentence along with possible answers.
Schyff looked over this finding and promptly agreed, “I think you’re right. Let’s keep going. Two brains are much better than one.” And with that, the two Neopets continued to try figuring out this puzzle.
As it turned out, not all of the words were so easy. The minutes turned to hours before they even realized it. Puzzles weren’t exactly their thing, after all. They did make quite a bit of headway in their time spent mulling it over, though.
“So much for making it home for dinner,” Yottir complained. “Mom is probably worried sick.”
“Mom is probably still throwing balls at coconuts,” Schyff responded with a hopeful tone. “We’re really getting somewhere here, don’t give up on me now,” he added as he grabbed the notebook. He took a moment to look it over before scribbling into it once again, then took a moment to read it out.
“My roiirgem, my amulet, my sword and my shield, precious and ancient, but take knowledge to wield.” Schyff and Yottir watched the glowing letters make their changes until they matched exactly what they had on the flashlight-lit notebook in front of them. Both of them stared at the one missing word as if there would be some random epiphany that just didn’t seem to be happening.
“My amulet, my sword and my shield,” Yottir murmured with another thoughtful frown, then looked over to Schyff. “It almost sounds like some kind of battledome or warrior thing,” he suggested, but couldn’t think of anything to fit the missing word. The letters were just too weird for him and didn’t really fit with anything in his vocabulary. “Maybe some kind of weapon? Or…”
Schyff was staring hard at the word, almost like the word had just thrown him a huge insult. Yottir wasn’t even sure whether or not the Hissi was even blinking. “Yottir,” Schyff said quietly. The startled Xweetok gave Schyff his full attention. “What is coupled with strength and weapons? Part of being a great warrior?”
Referring to the sentence they were creating, Yottir’s eyes rested on one word. “Um, knowledge?”
“Exactly. And where does knowledge come from?”
“Books…” Realizing what the Hissi was getting at, he too looked back at the remaining word. The answer was right under their nose. Tip of their tongue. It was to the point that Yottir’s fur began to stand on end with anticipation of the answer. “Eliv Thade wrote a book a long time ago,” he stated. “Legend says that anyone who read too far into it went insane.”
“Almost like magic,” Schyff mumbled, but then realized what he had just said. “Almost like magic,” he repeated, looking back up to the glowing letters before them. Eyes widening, as were Yottir’s, they both looked at each other with a sort of excitement in their eyes.
“GRIMOIRE!!!” they both shouted in unison. As they said this those very letters rearranged themselves. Together, they almost seemed to chant (albeit excitedly), the full sentence of the completed puzzle:
“My grimoire, my amulet, my sword and my shield, precious and ancient, but take knowledge to wield!”
Upon the very last syllable, the trapdoors swung open with a bang. They had done it. As quickly as they had fallen in, they climbed out, burst through the big wooden doors to the storm outside. Yottir didn’t bother closing the door this time. The two Neopets took off running, and didn’t take a single moment to look back.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! NO ONE ESCAPES ELIV THADE!!!” they heard the sickly familiar voice booming in the distance.
As soon as the two Neopets returned home, they flopped onto the floor in near exhaustion. Neither of them have moved that fast for that long in a long time. But one thing they noticed, however, was that their home was silent. Was their mom sleeping? Was she still gone? Or was she out looking for them?
“…If we can help it, Mom doesn’t have to know about this,” Schyff said quietly.
“Agreed,” Yottir said with a relieved sigh.