The Treasured Diary: Part Nine
By nightfall, a dozen of the most important Paladins of
Strain had assembled in the basement of a locally owned bakery shop.
A dignified yellow Lupe stood before young soldiers
of various stations. In public they would not acknowledge the other, but in
private moments such as these, they were brothers.
Their eyes were all glued to the Sheriff, the
Lupe whose amber eyes blazed passionately as he spoke with fervor and eloquence.
"A paladin is defined as a strong supporter of
a cause, a defender, a heroic champion," he proclaimed. "We are a brotherhood
of those who seek to bring light where there is darkness, to return what is
ours by right! When we took the oath, the holy title, we promised to bring honor
back to the wrongly shamed Gansvere!"
He held a forceful hand above his captive audience.
"Are we not defenders? Is it not our duty to take up our sacred title and defend
the honor of our homeland?"
The twelve stood and answered Sheriff Jay as
if he were their general.
"IT IS OUR DUTY!" Their voices boomed as one.
The sheriff held gleaming armor above his head
exultantly. "We will don the masks of Knights, from the days of old when chivalry
and honor were real! Like the armies of yore we will storm the castle that for
so long was doomed to shadows and darkness! And when light is finally cast upon
her, our glorious Treasure, we will bask in the splendor of pure and wondrous
They all waived their fists and shouted triumphantly,
each ready to face the sad fate that was surely awaiting them.
After walking through a maze of corridors and
secret passageways, Hayden, Ramaya, Sophia, and Fenmere were inside the stone
walls of Gallion's Keep. They crouched behind a large red tapestry in the main
"What are we waiting for?" asked Fenmere through
Ramaya was tense and on edge. She held the Diary
in one arm and the rusty metal box from Henry Delore's tomb in the other. "Do
you not see those pets walking around with Gathow rings and daggers? There are
at least twenty of them in the main hall alone! We can't just go waltzing towards
the library without them seeing us!"
"We need Jay and Jase to create a diversion,"
Hayden whispered. "We move as soon as they give the signal."
"And what signal is that?" asked Fenmere.
Suddenly the hinges of the great wooden door
at the entrance of the main hall heaved and shattered. The door fell to the
ground with a deafening thud.
In its wake stood fourteen Knights with the
tree trunk they'd used to ram the door at their feet.
In one gloriously fluid motion, one jumped on
the back of a familiar red Draik, who took to the air as his rider waived his
"The Treasure is ours!" cried the voice of Sheriff
Jay, who only hours ago couldn't stand the Draik he was riding.
The other twelve unsheathed their swords in
unison and ran, screaming in a furious blaze, towards the surprised Confidants.
"That would be the signal," said Hayden, jumping
to his feet. He pulled a black mask over his face. Sophia and Ramaya did the
same. It was almost funny how they were protecting their identity before their
The Gelert lingered, watching the battle unfold.
"Fenmere, come on!" hissed Ramaya.
He hesitantly pulled the mask over his face
and followed the others down the hall.
It seemed that for a while they would pass unnoticed
in all the commotion until they stormed past a group of three hooded Confidants.
"Intruders in the left corridor!" one cried
before chasing after them.
Five more suddenly appeared at the other end
of the corridor, heading them off.
They were surrounded.
But no sooner had the hooded Confidants unsheathed
their daggers then a piercing battle cry sounded from above.
Jase flew over them, snatching two Confidants
by the hood and throwing them into a wall. Jay followed close behind, locking
swords with a green Blumaroo.
"Go!" yelled Jay, grabbing the dagger wielding
arm of a yellow Aisha behind him and throwing him over his shoulder. "The Library
is just around the corner!"
Hayden and Ramaya nodded and took off.
Fenmere felt for the dagger on his waist as
a striped Cybunny came at him.
Jay leapt in front of the Confidant, parrying
to his thrusts.
"This is not your fight!" grunted the Lupe,
ducking and blocking the blows from his various opponents. "You must go!"
"Fenmere, please!" begged Sophia.
He looked back and forth between Jay and the
teary Zafara. This was not his fight.
He grabbed Sophia's hand and chased after Hayden
and Ramaya. The palace that had once been his home now seemed foreign and dark,
the corridors and hallways unfamiliar with the roaring clash of sword on sword.
They burst into the dimly lit library, where
Hayden and Ramaya were reading the Diary.
"What's the next clue?" Fenmere shouted frantically
over the noise outside.
Ramaya shouted it back at him;
"Only Ancient Knowledge
Can open the door
This journey starts and ends with Strain
And its strain you have in store!"
"Let me see that." Fenmere pulled the diary
out of her hands. "Look here," he pointed to the first line of the poem, "'Ancient
Knowledge' is capitalized like a name or-"
"A title," Ramaya finished. She held up the
old book they'd found in Henry Delore's tomb, the one containing one of the
first forms of written language in Neopia.
"Brilliant," mused Hayden in awe, "the book
opens the door."
Sophia looked around the enormous library. "But
where is the door?"
"What about this? The poem keeps referring to
the word 'strain'," Fenmere continued.
"You mean the part about having 'strain' in
store? I assumed it just meant that we have hardships ahead of us," Ramaya shouted
over the clanging of swords and battle cries outside that seemed to be getting
"I meant the other one that says 'your journey
starts and ends with Strain'. Strain is capitalized too."
Ramaya looked puzzled. "Maybe it's the last
name of an author?"
"It's more than that."
They all turned to Hayden, who looked troubled.
"For Fyora's sake," he said, "we're the Paladins
of it and none of you know its meaning?"
Fenmere was shocked. He'd simply assumed that
being a Paladin of Strain simply mean that they were the defenders of those
who worked themselves to the utmost of their ability.
"How dare you, Hayden, of course I know it!"
Ramaya seemed devastated at his assertion that she didn't know something so
The shadow Nimmo nodded towards Fenmere and
Sophia. "But they don't."
A pained yelp sounded outside the room.
The battle was escalating; Fenmere could see
Jay and his knights were losing ground. The Confidants could defeat them at
any moment and burst into the library.
Sophia had noticed too and she looked towards
Hayden and Ramaya with fearful eyes.
"Guys, we better find that door fast."
Hayden didn't notice her. With twinkling excitement
in his eyes, he grabbed a copy of Medieval Dictionary from the shelf.
Hayden read the definition out loud:
"Strain: any of the various lines of ancestry
united in an individual or a family." He set the book down with knowing eyes.
"We're the defenders of royal ancestry and lineage."
"Then if our answers rest with Strain, all we
have to do is find some account of royal lineage and we'll find the door," Fenmere
Ramaya shook her head. "There is no account;
you of all should know it. The family tree was lost long ago, that's why Gansvere
is such a shamed Kingdom!"
"It doesn't necessarily have to be written documentation,"
Fenmere murmured, his eyes resting on something that, before now, had never
really fazed him. When he'd been unconscious in the servant's thatch on Lord
Cyril's manor he'd dreamt of it. It was the beautiful portrait, the one of him
and his mother and father, all looking noble and regal. A new one was painted
for every royal family that had ever lived in Gallion's Keep.
He looked closer, and though it rested high
up on the wall, he could make out the scrawled signature of the artist.
Alvayn Strain. Fenmere remembered what Hayden
had said long ago, how Queen Arin loved using words with double meaning. Strain
stood for both the family in the portrait and the last name of the painter,
which was why it was capitalized. Fenmere also knew the name was a pseudonym;
it had been used by the painters of every royal family portrait.
"Alvayn is a Paladin name," Ramaya said excitedly.
"People of stature often change their name to something with the letter 'y'
in it when doing Paladin business. Take mine and Hayden's name for example.
It's a way for other Paladins to recognize their fellows! Strain is probably
a fake as well!" She was almost breathless now. "This is it! This is the door!"
"And Ancient Knowledge opens it," said Fenmere.
At that moment they heard Jase cry out in pain,
followed by the roars of victory from the Confidants.
"Fall back!" Jay yelled, and the dozen knights
ran and limped into the library looking bloodied and weak. Jay followed slowly
behind them with Jase's arm over his shoulder. The Draik's left wing was crumpled
and battered like a crinkled up piece of paper.
Jay threw his armored knight's mask to the ground.
"We can't hold them back, Hayden," he gasped, struggling for breath. His eyes
still burned fiercely, as if were the fire inside him that left him breathless
and perspiring rather than the fight.
"Oh no," murmured Sophia.
The Confidants began running through the doorway.
There were at least twenty of them.
Jay slowly put the mask back over his head and
stood directly in front of Fenmere. The other knights followed suit, even Jase
who looked as if he could barely stand. They formed a wall around Ramaya, Hayden,
Fenmere, and Sophia.
"It is our duty, men," said Jay. There was the
metallic swoosh of them unsheathing their swords. He then turned to Hayden.
"I suggest you all find whatever it is you're looking for," he said, "because
we've just run out of time."
The twenty Confidants collided with the wall
of Paladin knights.
Fenmere grabbed the Ancient book from Ramaya
and ran towards the shelf beneath the royal portrait.
A red Cybunny dove at him, his eyes blazing maliciously,
silver dagger gleaming.
"Duck!" a masked knight yelled out, and Fenmere
did, barely missing the edge of the knight's sword as it knocked the dagger
from the Cybunny's hand.
Fenmere crawled on the ground like a soldier
in a marsh, dodging pivoting feet and collapsing pets with the old book under
The fighting was clearer by the portrait and
Fenmere stood, staring up at it.
"How can this book open the door?" he silently
asked the painting.
Then his eyes caught the titles of the books
The Strain of War, read one.
Straining to Fish was another.
The Missing Strain of Gansvere.
Battledoming Without Muscle Strain.
Every single book had the same word in common.
"This journey starts and ends with Strain," Fenmere remembered from the riddle.
An empty spot on the shelf called out to him; it was the only spot unfilled
in the whole library.
He slid Ancient Knowledge into it.
There was a clicking sound that was almost inaudible
over the fighting.
The portrait above him swung open.
Like a door.
Without missing a beat, Hayden lifted Fenmere
and practically threw him into the dark opening. As he lifted Sophia, Fenmere
grabbed her white paw and pulled her up. Their eyes met in the darkness, their
faces were so close.
But the Confidants caught on; they knew the
Prince had the diary and now he was solving its clues. They had sworn to protect
the Treasure, and so they charged at the four with wild screams. The twenty
hooded Confidants burst through the wall of Paladin Knights as if they'd been
"Fyora help us," Ramaya murmured, staring in
terror at the line of silver swords coming towards her.
Hayden tossed her hurriedly into the opening
with surprising strength and she landed with an "oof" on top of Fenmere. The
Nimmo pulled Ancient Knowledge out of its spot on the shelf and there was another
clicking noise. The portrait door would be locked from those outside once it
Fenmere leaned over the edge of the opening,
arm outstretched. "Hayden, grab my hand!"
The Confidants were only feet away.
Hayden looked anxiously between Fenmere's paw
and their enemy.
"Close the door," said the Nimmo strongly.
"Hayden, no!" Ramaya cried.
"CLOSE IT!" he ordered as several Confidants
pulled him down. Others were shimmying up the shelves; they were close enough
to see their fingertips.
Fenmere slammed the door.
To be continued...