A Single Prediction: Part Two
Demco stepped down carefully, his paw trailing along the wall. It was metal, like the sheets above his head that had revealed the staircase. The Techo still held Sir Edgar Avelin’s letter in his grasp, reminding him of the urgency. As he travelled farther and farther downward, however, he started to wonder if the Island Mystic’s prediction was true, or if he was just making it true. Shaking this thought, he proceeded.
It took a few minutes to reach the end of the staircase, but the Techo knew without a doubt his trip was over when he found it. The metal beneath his feet and paw changed into stone, and the air became warmer. The darkness started to lighten, and a lamp appeared ahead.
When Demco noticed the light, he also noticed the noise. The shattering of glass echoed throughout the cave. Demco walked forward, approaching the light as it approached him. The shadow of a Mynci flickered in the light, and its mouth opened, imitating the one who cast it. “Detective, please follow me. We’re glad you made it.”
“Are you indeed?” Demco asked skeptically when he reached the lamp. “These cryptic messages seem more like they were designed to keep me out.”
“We have to communicate in such manners, for our clients’ safety,” the Mynci stated. Demco could now see that the Mynci was painted a desert color, and the lamp was hanging from his staff. “My name is Polip.”
“Demco Archavius,” Demco replied.
“We have heard many good things about you, Detective. You are viewed with the highest regards by your previous clients.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” The Techo smiled at the thought of the 399 previous cases he’d had, from finding a lost Kadoatie to discovering the thieves of a missing antique.
They walked in silence for a few more minutes, and then Polip spoke up again. “Aren’t you curious?” he asked. “I know I was when I was brought here by Edgar.”
“It’s none of my business,” Demco replied. “But if you’re asking if I get curious, yes I do. It’s what allows me to ask questions to get answers.”
The Mynci looked at Demco strangely, his hat tilting with his head. “And you called us cryptic!” Polip laughed. “I understand, though. And here we are.”
They stopped in front of a rock wall, Polip searching Demco’s face with a twinkle in his eye. “Are you curious why we stopped?”
“No,” Demco said honestly. He had already figured out how to get in. The detective had noticed a too-smooth crack arched along the wall, forming a doorway. Protruding stones at the bottom also had dark outlines, revealing them to be pedals of a sort. He hypothesized that they were meant to be pressed in a specific order to open the door.
“Way to take the fun out of the mystery,” the Mynci replied, but he was still smiling. Demco looked away, out of respect, and seconds later the door swung open. “Come on,” Polip said. “Edgar really wants to meet you.” But all Demco could do was stare in amazement at the room that was revealed.
What seemed like an endless line of shelves surrounded the room. Each shelf was numbered and filled with a myriad of strange devices of all shapes and sizes. Some were sharp-edged weapons, while others were beautifully smooth art pieces. The edges of the room were in themselves a marvel.
The center of the room, in contrast, was a perfect picture. The red and gold colors blended softly, creating a relaxing scene. Stuffed armchairs, a coffee table, and a rug made it seem welcoming, and a kitchen nearby showed that it was meant to be lived in. Demco knew there would be bedrooms further in. It seemed this was Polip, Sir Edgar, and the Tyrannian Flotsam’s home.
“Ah, Detective Archavius, welcome to the Cove. I trust the password wasn’t too hard to figure out.”
Demco turned to face a golden-scaled Krawk wearing a flowing robe of crimson and a ruby-encrusted scepter. The Neopet’s gaze was piercing, reading Demco’s every movement, but also friendly. Demco felt like he immediately trusted the Neopet. His reaction was to bow, but he stopped himself, noting that the Krawk didn’t wear a crown. The Krawk was either not a prince, or an extremely humble one. Remembering the password, however, he favored the former explanation.
“No,” Demco replied succinctly to the question. He understood that whatever he was hired for was important enough to skip pleasantries.
“Sensible,” the Krawk said, reading Demco’s expressions. “Unfortunately, I must now pose to you another riddle. Do you accept the challenge?”
“Of course, if that is what you require.”
“For safety only, you understand.” Not waiting for a reply again, Sir Edgar continued. “A Flotsam, a Mynci and a Krawk are walking down the street. The Flotsam and the Mynci walk into the bar, while the Krawk ducks. Why didn’t the other Neopets duck?”
Demco started to laugh dryly. This wasn’t a riddle. Well, it actually was, but only because the Krawk had claimed it to be one. The trick was to realize it wasn’t a riddle.
“They didn’t duck because they didn’t see the bar.”
Sir Edgar smiled. “Indeed. I’m glad that you have lived up to expectations. I presume you are wondering about your assignment?”
Demco confirmed this with a nod.
“Then please, sit down.” The Krawk motioned with one clawed hand at an armchair. Demco sat down slowly, watching Sir Edgar.
“Long ago, before the Cove was built, I owned something. It was something very close to my heart. It was a crown, but not the normal Royal Krawk one. This crown was special, with certain powers that could be used for extraordinary things. With that power, I built the Cove. It was meant to be a haven for anyone who didn’t trust the Safety Deposit Boxes with their items. I built it to be impenetrable and so that it only needed to be guarded by three people. Those three people were, and are, a gatekeeper, Filia, a passage protector, Polip, and myself.
“I offered the protection of the Cove to everyone, without questions asked. One day, however, the Darkest Faerie asked me to guard an amulet for her, and I accepted. Queen Fyora found out about this and demanded the amulet, but I refused. For that, the faeries punished me. They took my crown, leaving me powerless. All I had left was the Cove.
“The problem now is that the Cove is not completely safe, which is why you are here. Someone broke in and stole a very important item, belonging to an extremely impatient client. I would like to get that item back with the utmost haste, before my client finds out.”
Demco listened to all this carefully. No one knew this about him, but he could hear the changes in a Neopian’s voice when they lied. He had trained himself to hear even the slightest difference in their voices. Everything Sir Edgar was saying, though, was the truth.
“I’ll help you,” the Techo said. “Just tell me what the item is and show me where it was kept.”
“Follow me, please.” Sir Edgar walked off towards the kitchen, and Demco followed. Polip stayed in the lounge area, looking bored.
The Techo followed Sir Edgar through a maze of rock-walled hallways. After the first ten turns, he stopped trying to memorize their path and just hoped he would never have to come through here without a guide. Eventually, however, the turning ended.
They had reached an alcove in the passageway, barely visible in the shadows. If they hadn’t stopped, Demco would never have seen it. This was very good security, without even needing a Neopet to keep watch. He admired the Krawk’s imagination, to invent a place with such an abundance of natural security. But what did the Neopet have that was important enough to need this amount of guarding?
“I sense your curiosity has finally reached a peak,” the Krawk observed, looking at Demco patiently. “So without further delay-” He motioned at the alcove, which was now revealed to be a door.
Demco allowed himself to be ushered in to the new room. It was much like the lounge, only obviously designed for a single person. One chair, a small rug, a table in the corner, and a lamp were the only furnishings. The color design was the same. Finally, Demco spotted what they were here for.
A large metal square was built into the wall, with familiar-looking pedal formations below it. Sir Edgar walked over, and again Demco turned his head out of respect. When he looked back, the safe was open and Sir Edgar was standing beside it.
“This is where the item was stolen. As to what it is, I can’t reveal that until you tell me who stole it.”
Without replying, Demco walked over and studied the safe. The lighting was dim, but it was obvious that the safe was empty. The Techo would find no clues there that wouldn’t have already been found.
“Okay,” he said, thinking aloud. “What do we know?”
“The thief would have had a hard time finding this safe. It’s the best-protected item in the entire Cove.”
“But they managed to get past all of your defenses, including Filia, Polip, and yourself. Finding the safe wouldn’t have been a problem. But to get the item, they did have to open the safe.”
Sir Edgar contemplated this. “When I open the safe, I often scratch my claw against the rock.”
“And if they were a furred Neopet, they would have caught hair in the pedals.” Demco crouched down, studying the protruding formations. There wasn’t fur, but...
“Sir Edgar, I apologize. I have a suspicion, but would rather not voice it until I speak to them first.”
“You can tell me, Detective. I won’t act if you advise against it. Besides, what makes you think they’ll admit to the theft?”
“I implore you to trust me, Sir Avelin. As to if they’ll tell me, I’m almost positive they would not lie. They have a strong sense of right and wrong.”
The Krawk sighed exhaustedly. “All right, Detective. Is there anything I can do to assist you?”
Demco paused. “As a matter of fact, yes, there is. Do you know of a quick way to get to Faerieland?”
To be continued...