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Into the House of Answers

by kushbi


Deep within the Haunted Woods lived a talented Techo who could paint, write and who thirsted for knowledge. He wished that he could spend all his time reading and painting beautiful pictures instead of taking care of his large house. It was mundane work, sweeping the floor and cleaning every nook and cranny. Having many servants would be nice, but he had no money, only a mansion, an inherited library filled with rows and rows of books, and the magical ability to enchant them.

      Ah, the ability to charm books...


           Gaiahue slumped onto the ground. She had exactly thirty-six minutes and fifty-nine seconds left to complete the quest that the Brain Tree had given her, without the faintest inkling about when and where Michael Jetsam had died.

      It was already ridiculous that the monstrous vegetation expected her to know such inconsequential trivia, but to have it sneer at her in such a mocking manner, like it was doing so now, was more than a Hissi could take.

      Since her arrival in Neopia, she had heard from new friends near and far that the Brain Tree gave rare and valuable prizes as rewards for completing its quests. Unfortunately for Gaiahue, these items seemed far out of her reach.

      As she pondered on her unfortunate lot, a shadow loomed above, casting a grey shade on the sulking Hissi. She looked up and saw a Techo staring at her curiously.

      "You wouldn't happen to know when and where Michael Jetsam died, would you?" asked Gaiahue glumly, secretly grasping at a sliver of hope that this Techo was a trivia master.

      A spark of realization shone in the Techo's eyes.

      "You're on a quest for the Brain Tree? My name is Storius and I have the largest library in the Haunted Woods. You can find the answer to any question there. Now, hurry up, you haven't got much time left!"

      Gaiahue flapped her wings in excitement and slithered after the sprinting Techo. By a stroke of luck, she had found someone who had the answer. It was simply too good to be true.

      Wasn't it?


      Storius the Techo stepped proudly into his mansion and beckoned the Hissi to enter. When she stepped in, a row of torches lit themselves, emitting a soft glow in the main hall. Storius barked out in a sharp voice for a servant, and a Wocky hurried out of a darkened hallway, carrying a white quill in his hands.

      "Master, your quill has been repaired," said the servant reverently, handing it to Storius.

      "Bring the Hissi into the library and show her the books," ordered the Techo.

      As Gaiahue followed the servant silently through a corridor, she admired some beautiful paintings that hung on the walls. They were detailed landscapes done by an artist who clearly possessed great talent. A hint of envy rose in her chest when she contemplated the home of Storius: large and opulent, with a servant in tow. The Techo certainly did not have to worry about housework. She passed yet another painting on her way down the long corridor and curiosity got the better of her.

      "Who painted all these landscapes?"

      The servant gulped and replied, "Master did."

      Gaiahue raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Storius seems to be quite talented," she said, slithering on with the servant, without slowing down.

      "Why of course, Master does nothing but read and write and paint," whispered the Wocky, "That's why he needs so many servants."

      "So many? But I only see you...oh."

      Gaiahue almost bit her tongue in surprise as another Wocky appeared from the shadows along the corridor. She gazed around and noticed a skinny Lupe dusting the floor, and realized that she must have missed other servants along the corridor while her attention was drawn to the paintings. Besides, it did not seem out of place for the gigantic mansion to have many servants.

      Suddenly, the Wocky stopped in front of a large door and pushed it open. It was the library, which Storius had claimed to be the largest in the Haunted Woods. Gaiahue was inclined to believe the Techo, as she stared, marveling at the sight of rows and rows of books. At a glance, she knew that the shelves were made from expensive rich wood. A fireplace sat at a corner of the room, the flames a glowing amber. She wandered further in, still in awe, when the Wocky servant cleared his throat.

      "Call out your question and the book with the answer will fly into your hands."

      With that, he left.

      The Hissi looked around and wondered which direction the book that held her answers would come flying to her. She did not wish to be knocked on the head by a flying volume, and stood with her back against the door as she asked when and where Michael Jetsam had died.

      There was a loud whirling sound and a thick brown book dislodged itself from the bottom shelf. It sped toward the Hissi, who caught it with relief. She flipped the flimsy pages quickly until she saw her answer:

      Michael Jetsam died in 29 BN, in the Haunted Woods.

      With a hiss of relief, Gaiahue placed the book on a table by the fireplace and hurried back to the entrance of the library, ready to face the Brain Tree. But before she pulled the door open, a nagging thought lingered in her mind. Storius claimed that his library contained the answers to any question. Would that mean that she could finally know if her brother had stolen her cookie jar last Christmas, as she had suspected?

      The Hissi looked back and the huge library of answers seemed to call out to her. Just one more question, she thought, as she took a deep breath.

      "Did Ez filch my cookie jar last Christmas?"

      Once again, the whirling sound echoed throughout the library and a book from a higher shelf flew into her hands. She did not have to flip far, for the third page of the thin book read:

      Ez stole Gaiahue's cookie jar last Christmas.

      "I knew it, that rascal," muttered the Hissi as she slammed the book shut, "How can I ever thank Storius?"

      At that, a similar book flew towards her, already opened at the middle. She grinned when she read the answer to her rhetorical question. The Techo's books certainly had a sense of humor. Written in scratchy ink across the page was the statement:

      Serve Storius for the rest of your life, for he needs someone to dust the kitchen.

      "Yeah right. I would love to stay in this mansion but not as a servant, no way," muttered Gaiahue, as she recalled the fear that the Wocky servant had of his master. She glanced at the clock atop the mantelpiece. There was time for another question.

      "Now, what should I ask?"

      Immediately, a book bound in leather flew off a top shelf and landed at her feet. She picked it up with a curious hiss and opened the heavy volume. On the first page, a statement told her to ask about the landscape paintings along the corridor.

      "Well then, where did Storius get his landscapes from?" asked the Hissi, fascinated and curious by the interactive books.

      To her surprised, the book that she was holding flipped on its own to another page, which read:

      From his servants' memories of their old homes.

      "Wow, Storius must be quite sentimental to paint memories of his servants. But why are they afraid of him?"

      There was a soft rustling of pages, and Gaiahue had her answer:

      He bound them to the mansion.

      She frowned. Apart from a rather fierce master, there was little to keep the servants from leaving, was there? Storius was a harmless artist, albeit temperamental, but he did little else other than write, read and paint. Those were the words of the Wocky, as she remembered.

      If so, how could the Techo bind others to his home?

      The Hissi looked at the book in her hands, startled, as the pages began to flip quickly once more. She realized that she must have spoken her thoughts aloud. Soon, the rustling pages stopped and the answer was scrawled right before her eyes...

      Instantly, Gaiahue dropped the book in shock and slithered out of the library in a bid to leave the mansion as soon as she could. She flew down the corridor, surrounded by dark hallways on both sides, unsure of where to turn. As she hurried past some paintings, the Wocky servant appeared from the shadows and stood right in front, blocking her path. A familiar shadow loomed over them and Gaiahue turned around in dread.

      There stood Storius, with a duster in his hands, which he held out to the Hissi. With horror, Gaiahue noticed that the gleam in the Techo's eyes was exactly the same as the look she had seen earlier when she had asked about Michael Jetsam. It was the gaze of a greedy Techo who could never have one servant too many.

      And just down the corridor, in the largest library of the Haunted Woods, an enchanted book laid open, face up, on the ground. No one but its owner, Storius, could sense the evil spells planted between its magical pages. The only visible thing were the very words on the page that had spelled doom for the Hissi:

      They were trapped forever when they read from a cursed book like this.

The End

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