Shad and Saura: The Story of Elversti - Part Three
The Fortress rose above them, wide, grim and massive like
a rock. It was also as grey as a rock, built of rough chunks of stone, having
almost no windows at all except for high above them, and even then most of the
windows were tall and narrow. There were watchtowers in each corner and one taller
tower in the middle behind the walls. It was indeed a fortress worth a capital
letter. The main gate looked like it was designed by someone completely aware
of the fact that enemies always attack the gate - thus the gate was actually stronger
than the walls. It was made of dark tough wood and as thick as a small house.
Actually it was a small house - as the troop closed in, a tiny lid opened
in the gate, revealing a black hole. Then a pair of eyes appeared at the bottom
of the hole.
"Back so soon?" a voice echoed. Shad and Saura
blinked. They've built the watchman's booth straight into the gate!
"We brought visitors," Renor said. "The woods
are quiet today, there was no need to drag them around."
The pair of eyes moved up and down - a nod in
the dark - and the lid closed. They waited for a few minutes until the massive
gates started moving outside and apart. When the gap was as wide as two Unis,
they stopped. The troop strode in.
"Dude, it's like a tunnel," Shad whispered, pointing
to the fact that it took ten seconds to walk through the gates. Saura nodded
in awe. The Meridell and Brightvale castles were, well, castles, perhaps with
walls and guards and gates but still like tents compared to that stronghold.
This one was built for protection, not for a king to show off in. Yet once they
got into the courtyard, they could see that the fortress had many Neopets living
in there, and the place was suitable for living as well - even if the small
houses built inside and partly by the thick walls had thick strong walls themselves.
As the troop crossed the courtyard, many inhabitants shot curious glances at
the two brothers. No wonder - all the pets in the stronghold were unpainted.
Red, yellow, blue, green, yes - but nothing else.
"Melet, go find our guests a room, will you?"
Renor said a bit absently; apparently he had other things to worry about now,
possibly a patrol report. The same Acara of the Water clan nodded and invited
them along. Curious glances followed the three as they went up some narrow stairs...
and then a dozen other narrow stairs.
"We wouldn't want to abuse your hospitality for
too long," Saura said when Melet opened a door to a small, yet rather cozy room
that even had a stone fireplace and a narrow window.
"Stay as long as you wish, just ask for a troop
to escort you to the border of the land when you leave," Melet said with a smile.
"Anything I can get you? Perhaps some food?"
They were indeed hungry and the food Melet brought
them, though simple, was very tasty. Shad ate by the window with his neck stretched
out to see anything at all behind the thick wall.
"You can see pretty far from here," he remarked.
"We're higher than I've ever been unless you count that time in Darigan Citadel.
"We were on the second floor in that citadel."
Saura grinned. The room had two small beds and he was sitting on one of them.
"Should we go and have a look around, eh?"
"Leave that bag here, or I won't be able to sniff
our way back. This place is a maze!" The shadow Lupe glanced at Melet. "Say...
I'd very much love to see that chamber you talked about back there. Of the Seven
The Acara seemed hesitant for a second, then
nodded. "Why not? As said before, it's nothing interesting. None of us knows
how that chamber protects us, it just does. Follow me."
The chamber was deep down in the basement, not
standing separately as one would expect from such an important place, but between
the doors that led to, according to Melet, the pantry and the small room where
they kept their firewood when the other holds were full.
"We don't really come down here any more, but
it always stays the same whenever someone checks it," the Acara said, opening
the door. The two brothers peered in curiously - and blinked in disappointment
mixed with confusion. Whatever it had been they were expecting, they hadn't
expected to see that.
The small room, lit by torches, reminded them
of a miniature and very minimalist garden. A small underground stream trickled
from between the rocks, running over the room in a bed of stone and disappearing
by the opposite wall where the stones had cracked, revealing black ground underneath.
Old plants grew in those cracks, fed by the same stream and possibly by the
light of the torches. They had hardly any leaves left but the crooked stems,
strong and hard, reached over and above the rocks as if hoping to grow new ones
again one day. A small Spyder in its web by the ceiling curiously observed the
brothers as they stepped farther inside.
"If nobody comes down here, then who changes
the torches?" Saura asked, approaching one torch. It looked strange - not a
wooden torch in a holder but a cone made of iron and filled with something inflammable,
perhaps tar mixed with splinters.
"Our janitor takes care of that, not that anyone
has asked him to do that but he's very old and respects the traditions, so he
keeps an eye on the chamber," Melet said. "From what I know, filling the iron
torches is the only thing he does down here. But he's very strict with that."
"So what's the Seven?" Shad wondered, sitting
down in the middle of a stone plate. "I only see a stream and some torches.
Okay, and the twigs and," he sniffed the air, "dust and Spyder webs. Doesn't
sound all that powerful."
The Acara shrugged. "We don't know. The old books
aren't very specific about that either. We just prefer to stick to the fact
that the Seven are here, whatever they are, and protect us from the forest creatures."
"Why do you live here anyway, so close to the
forest?" Saura asked when they went up the stairs again. "The Fortress is incredibly
big and takes a lot of force to run... can't you just leave and build a village
farther on the plains?"
"Most of our folk did that," Melet smiled. "They're
founding a new homeland for us farther east. The ones that remained in the Fortress
are here to complete our mission. Once we're done, we'll follow the others as
Shad and Saura gazed at him in confusion. "Wait-wait."
The Lupe hurried up to hear better. "You guys have some kind of a mission here?"
Melet nodded. "The forest folk have terrorized
us long enough. Now we're planning a war so that we could finally defeat them
and live in peace, without having to fear that the creatures will come after
our children at night. Without having to live behind strong walls all the time."
He didn't notice the two brothers' concerned frowns behind his back - luckily.
"But I don't know much about it, really. You'll have to talk to Melor; he's
the strategist here."
"Yes, thank you, where can we find him?" Saura
asked while his brother was still trying to figure out what to think of all
Melet pointed towards some stairs. "The first
door you'll see when going up, the sign says Library. In case you don't need
me any more..." He hurried off, leaving the two standing there and listening
carefully. When they were positive that nobody was in hearing range, they sat
down on the step at the same time and gave a sigh in unison.
"From the frying pan into the fire," Shad stated.
"I don't think they'll want us to participate
in that war, guests as we are," Saura guessed. "Though you'll never know."
The shadow Lupe glared at him. "I didn't mean
that, though I wouldn't like that either. No, I mean... those forest creatures
are Faeries, as surely as I'm standing here. The castle guys are planning to
wipe out Faeries. Pretty much all of them as I reckon, they don't know anything
about Faeries, didntcha notice? So they're planning to destroy all Faeries.
Bad thing. Very bad." His ears twitched. "Hoo boy..."
"We're not in the past, from what I understand,"
Saura remarked. "They can't destroy all Faeries because the rest of Neopia outside
this land is swarming with them."
Shad grumbled. "Don't think it's that easy. In
a way we are in the past. I think that this land somehow got stuck in
time long ago. When it got crumpled together, time was trapped in here, so it
never really passes. Who knows, maybe it circles around somehow, which would
explain why the trees are so much older... Anyway, that means that if they destroy
all Faeries, it just might affect the rest of Neopia and all other Faeries may
disappear as well. We don't know, do we? I personally wouldn't take that risk."
The spotted Zafara gazed at him with his eyes
widening, partly because he got the horrible point and partly because Shad rarely
spoke that seriously. "So you're saying that these castle people are the bad
guys. And that we should go warn the Faeries."
Shad whimpered. "No, I'm not saying that. That
would be complete and utter madness. But we don't have a choice either, do we?"
"Wouldn't want to become backstabbers for those
nice hosts," Saura sighed, getting up.
"Wouldn't want those nice hosts to blow the Faeries
up," Shad stated with a scowl. "And we'll just have to show them that the forest
Faeries are no evil creatures."
His brother, already half way up the stairs,
stopped. "How do we know that?"
"Well," Shad said, "if it's the past, then it's
the time before Faeries were introduced to Neopia and thus the Neopets don't
know them and are afraid of them. If it's just some other weird dimension..."
Puzzled, they stared at all the multiple choices
to be made - and only one had to be the right one. Finally Saura came to the
decision and continued up the stairs.
"Let's talk to Melor and find out as much as
we can," he said. "Then we'll talk to Tsuki and see if he can help. Come on."
Neither brother noticed two small pairs of eyes
gazing at the two as they left.
To be continued...