Covert - Archives:Part Two
We flipped through the pages for at least an hour, reading and rereading key elements of the translation.
"Wait. Where did you learn of all this? And how did you gain this lodestone here?" I asked curiously, and the others raised their heads, besides Steyr, who was still too intrigued by the book.
"I believe I've already told you, Ser Vorack. Through my travels, I obtained the knowledge which lead me to the lodestone," the Voice was too steady, as if those words had been carefully thought out to hide something. Before I could open my mouth to protest more, the parade of servants from before came bustling in with food and beverages fit to serve King Skarrl and his entire army. Evan began to reach for the book, but before he could snag it from Steyr's grasp, I snatched it for myself.
"It's nothing but rubbish," Steyr mumbled as he grasped a piece of bread, slathering it is warm butter. "Seriously, seems like these prehistoric Neopians were just a few colors short of a rainbow Slorg cake. Does he have any proof that any of this even took place? Is there proof that the world wasn't this way from the beginning?"
“Of course there is, my good Ser," startled at the reappearance of our patron's Voice, each of us jumped just slightly. "I have in my office documents from the official scientists of both Illusen's Glade and the Haunted Woods, both indicating a massive drifting from island to island. The currents, even now, push them farther and farther away from their point of origin." As he spoke the last sentence, Evan entered the room yet again with what appeared to be the documents he was speaking of.
He handed them to Steyr, who seemed eager to disapprove of anything at this point. However, his ears became less tense and as he read, his eyes went from angered to intrigued.
"It's... correct. I know these scientists and all these notes. They prove what this disembodied Voice is saying. There is a great shifting taking place." Steyr handed the docs back to Evan, who then offered it to the rest of us to see, each of us shaking our heads in turn.
"You see, I wouldn't waste my time of falsehoods. Of course I had people look into these allegations. And, over the years, more and more evidence has reached me. Traces of lodestones similar to mine have been found deep under the surface of the earth. This leads me to believe that there is even more awaiting, hiding about this unexplored lands." There was a brief pause of silence before the Voice continued. "That's where you four come in. Individually, you each have such unique talents that you will undoubtedly become infamous for. Together, you would be the most impenetrable force this world has ever seen! All of your thoughts and ideas, I have no doubt you'd be able to reach no less than amazing. And that is why I have called you here, to ask for your aid in finding if this story is true, if this legend really exist."
"So, you thought you could spark our curiosity and get us to work for you? Just like that?" Steyr questioned the Voice yet again.
"Oh, no. I wasn't going to make you do this for nothing. Evan!" Evan slowly reached into his coats inner pocket, pulling out what appeared to be a tiny notepad. Flipping it open, I observed that it was really a checkbook. Scritching tenderly on the paper, he wrote a number, ripped out the page, and handed it to Steyr. "I am willing to go to extraordinary lengths to have you all as my colleagues."
Steyr's eyes would have popped out of his skull if this were some crazed dream. "2 Million neopoints?!" We each gawked at Evan like this were some kind of joke, yet his naturally downturned lips stayed as they always had been.
"As I said, your collaboration is very much valued to me. So, do we have a deal?”
The rest of the evening was a complete blur to me, our heads were all buzzing with such excitement. We talked more about working together and getting all the bits and pieces of the deal sorted out. We talked of expedition neopoints, equipment, and other such necessities, all of which he agreed to also fund for us. When the topic of transportation came up, we seemed to have hit a stump though. None of us can fly, and even if we could, I think it wouldn't help us much. That's when Tainea spoke up.
"I can make us a ship. I have loads of spare parts and I've always wanted a reason to craft something of this caliber," she grinned, at which we all spoke in praise and agreement that that was a great idea.
Our Patron's Voice rang out, "Let us not waste anymore time here tonight. Each of you should go to your home, gather what belongings you will need, and return here this time tomorrow night. I invite you all to come stay in my home as Ma'am Tainea works here to build your transportation mode. This way I can provide you with..," He paused before continuing evasively, "everything you need to prepare yourselves for this task. Evan! Show them out, please."
We each rose enthusiastically from the table, following Evan's shuffling. The others had all left the room when I heard again the Voice, this time near my head. He spoke again. "Please, join me for a moment, Vorack." Another servant shut the door in front of me while another ushered me to a small chair in the far left corner I hadn't noticed there before. I sat down cautiously, unsure of what was to come.
I found my Voice. "What is this, Ser? Do you not wish the others here for whatever you’re going to tell me?"
The Voice chuckled. "Vorack, I have sent Evan to your home to pack up your belongings. I would like you to stay here tonight. You have much to learn before the others return."
"To learn? Would it not be useful for the Steyr to be here, then? He is by far the smartest of the gr..."
The Voice interrupted me, somewhere to my right. "I have my reasons for choosing you, Vorack. You shall lead this expedition."
I choked a little. "Me, Ser? I am just an Archivist. Perhaps you should choose Steyr to be the leader, as he is more knowledgeable..."
"Than me?" the Voice roared in my ears, closer than the Voice had been thus far. He chuckled. "No, Vorack. The reason you find yourself unworthy is the very reason I have chosen you. You know how to document well your findings. Unlike Steyr, who has knowledge to spare, you have the wisdom to see the world around you, write it down, and learn from it. Yes, I think you will do quite well as the leader Vorack."
I started to protest again, but I was cut off. "Never mind. It will be as I say it is. Now, look. Here is your first assignment, Vorack. You will listen as I give you all the background you will need on your companions."
I knew better than to protest, so I sat back in the chair to listen to the tales the Voice wove together. That night I learned many things about my future companions. How this strange, invisible Neopian had gathered such details on my fellow companions, I do not know nor did I ask. But I listened and listened until I felt sure I began to feel my eyes sag with the weight of the night.
“What time is it?” I grumbled, beginning to feel like I was ready to start snoring. I looked at my Old Victorian Pocket Watch. It read "2:43."
The Voice chuckled. "Evan, please bring Vorack a large cup of hot Spiced Pumpkin Coffee? We have a long night ahead and I want our guest to remain...agreeable."
When Evan had entered the room, I confess, I had not noticed. At his master’s command he shuffled out of the room, quickly returning with a steaming mug of Spiced Pumpkin Coffee.
"How..." I faltered, not sure if I wanted to poise the question, "how did you know I always drink Spiced Pumpkin Coffee? Always Spiced Pumpkin Coffee and never anything else?"
The Voice clicked his tongue. "Tut, tut. Not a very thought out question. I expected better from you, Vorack. As leader, you need to be able to put the puzzle together better than that. Do you not think that I have carefully and meticulously chosen each member of such an important venture? Have you not already seen what measures I am willing to take in order to insure this venture's success? Why should I do any less for the one I have chosen to lead?”
"You have been watching me as well." It was a statement, not a question. "How long have you been doing so?"
At this the Voice laughed outright. "Vorack, I have seen you enough to know what foods you eat and drink, when you sleep, how you think...I could tell you all about your fear of Spyders. I know that you wear your socks for 3 days before washing them. I know that you are allergic to Meowclopses. I know that you never eat fish if you can help it, but will do so to be polite. And if I recall correctly you are also organized, efficient, like-able, and quite capable of computing massive amounts of information in a way that even Steyr would be jealous of. You are a highly gifted Archivist - the best in the field. So, drink, Vorack. We have more important things to discuss than this."
I remained silent and unmoving. I was unnerved, my gut clenching with fury and confusion.
"Your sister, Vorack. Remind me. How old will she be this year?" The Voice softly interrupted my fuming.
I nearly spilled my coffee. "How...how did...you?" I sputtered. I was completely unnerved. How could he possibly know about Aubretia? I had not been to Neopia Central to visit her in well over a year, not since Mother had quit working at the Chocolate Factory so that she could stay at home with Aub. I had left to find work to pay for the personal 24-hour nursing care Aub required. My position as an Archivist allowed me to do this and have additional money to support several small medical research teams.
"She'll be twelve this year," The Voice continued, quieting his tone till it was barely above a whisper, "If she makes it that long."
I stood up, fuming. "How. dare. you." I hissed, the words burning my throat as I spoke them again. "How. dare. you."
The room stood still, silent but for my angry, hot breathing. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to start chucking items around the room. After a few moments I composed myself, to some degree, and hastily strode towards the door. Things had gone far enough...
"The lodestone can cure her, Vorack." The Voice sounded...hopeful? Sympathetic? I couldn't be sure, but his words made me stop, hand poised on the doorknob.
"You're lying." I seethed, not moving an inch.
"Are you really willing to take that chance? On your sisters health? You've sworn to yourself, to your mother, and to Aub that you will do anything to find a cure. Is that not so?"
I hesitated. Yes, I was willing to spend a small fortune on private nurse care and medical research, but was I willing to give up those financial responsibilities to chase a mythical lodestone that sounded too good to be true, too impossible to even dream about?
"If you know about my sister, then you must know that I alone am financially responsible for her care. I cannot possibly afford to join you." I forced myself to speak more calmly than I felt.
"Taken care of." The Voice dismissed the concern as if it were not one. "Your 2 million Neopoint reward will be doled out in monthly increments equal to what you currently pay."
I did the calculations in my head. That gave me at least 5 years. "And if my sister does not last that long? You are asking me to travel half way around Neopia. What if I am unable to return...in time?" I choked and couldn't continue. I shook my head and turned the doorknob.
I flung the door open.
”We will not fail, Vorack. You want the truth? I chose you because we - together - can save your sister. I know you will stop at nothing, that you will risk everything for her. If you help me find the Lodestone you can finally fulfill your promise. Or you can choose to go back to work and leave her fate in the hands of research.” The Voice spat out the last word as if it might bite him.
My mind was reeling, searching for the right answer - the answer for Aub.
I sighed and turned back into the room. "I'm in.”
I sat down at the table and waited for my next instructions. As I sat, Evan brought what appeared to be a blue makeup compact.
"I myself will not be able to travel with you, so I expect to be neomailed detailed reports regularly. You are also to document the events which take place in this journal and report them to me each evening. I will reply via neomail at my convenience.”
"Sounds easy enough." I replied as I took the small leather journal and tucked it into my coat pocket.
"Aside from archiving all the information gathered by the team, you will also be in charge of guiding the team through the various tasks involved in uncovering the legend." The Voice continued. "First, you must make sure each of the others has enough crew members to be efficient, but not too many to become burdensome."
I nodded in agreement.
"The first place you will visit will be Mystery Island. There you will take on recruits for the various crews. After this is completed, I will be in contact. Do you have any questions?"
“Only a thousand, none which you can answer…” I thought absently. I said, "None at the moment, Ser."
"Right then. Evan!" Evan shuffled forward. "Please situate Vorack in the Sachem Room. Good night Vorack. I'll be in touch." There was a light CLICK from overheard somewhere and then silence.
Evan motioned towards the door. "This way, Ser Vorack."
And that was how I became the leader of the Secret Society of Neopia, fondly referred to as Covert, and why you might occasionally see our ship at various ports and excavation sights set up as we search for the elusive lodestone. But our first stop was Mystery Island..
Want to know more? A shadow Lupe in a top hat and cloak was seen on the petpage www.neopets.com/~musket. Dare do follow him?