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Eisian and the Amulet of Thilg: Part Two


by thropp

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The dungeon was a damp alcove in the very last level of the palace. Iron bars separated prisoners from guards, and each prisoner had their own space. A steady trickle of water dripped above the Aisha’s head, but she did not seem to notice it. She lay on her back, allowing the liquid to drop on her forehead, slide down to her ears, drop on her forehead, slide down to her ears, in an endless cycle. There was so much she had to do, but being locked behind those bars did not allow her much choice.

     Footsteps echoed down the hall and the guard from the market materialized in front of her. He nudged her side with the toe of his sandal and spoke: “Tell us how to get the amulet off Eisian.”

     The Aisha closed her eyes. While there was a way to rid the princess of the amulet, it was nearly impossible. She delighted in the thought of giving the girl a hope of freedom, but that delight was quickly quashed by her reminder that she was held captive. Why give one Neopet freedom while she was imprisoned? It did not make sense to the Aisha.

     “Did you hear me, you insolent creature?” Greyson challenged. “I said, ‘Tell us how to get the amulet off Eisian.’ That means now.”

     The Aisha lifted herself up on her elbows. Who did this fool think he was? She was going to be the aide to the future ruler of Neopia, and he thought he was going to order her around? She peered into the guard's eyes.

     “When Shkanum-Da returns, you will be the first Neopet he takes his revenge on,” she warned.

     “I am not afraid of your Shkanum-Da,” Greyson replied. “You said in the bazaar there was a way to take the amulet off and you will either tell me what it is now and we can negotiate a release for you, or you will stay here for the rest of your life.”

     The Aisha weighed her options. On the one hand, she could tell the guard how to remove the amulet. Just because they knew what they had to do, that did not mean they would be able to. If they released her, she could flee to the hidden tomb and be there to welcome Shkanum-Da when he finally returned. She could finalize the plans they had written so many years ago, plans that would help Shkanum-Da take up his seat on the throne once again. On the other hand, revealing how to detach the amulet could be seen as an act of betrayal. She would sit in that cell until Shkanum-Da came to rescue her. Either way, she would be released. Either way, Shkanum-Da would have a reason to be upset with her.

     “I will tell you,” the Aisha decided. “But you must set me free.”

     Greyson turned toward the King. The King nodded briefly, distress apparent on his regal face. Eisian stood at his side with the contraption swaying at her neck. She nodded as well, determination set in her features.

     “Done,” the guard allowed. “Tell us first, and then we will unlock your cell.”

     The Aisha sighed. She saw the princess’s eyes light up when she learned there was a way to release the amulet. She wondered how long the princess would be joyful after she discovered how unachievable the steps were.

     “You must perform three tasks,” the Aisha said. “You must find light in darkness. You must find safety in a monster. You must make a rope of sand. And you must do it all in five days.”

     Five days?! Eisian thought. Five days was not nearly enough time to perform those tasks. The tasks themselves were virtually impossible – how do you make a rope out of sand, anyway? – but adding such a strict deadline on top of that? She was never going to get that wretched amulet off.

      “Are you serious?” Greyson laughed. “Those jobs are not possible. How are we supposed to carry them out?”

      “You only said I had to tell you what to do,” the Aisha stipulated. “You said nothing about how to do them.”

      “Have it your way, then,” Greyson said, and he turned away from the cell. He joined Eisian and her father in the shadows by the large wooden door that marked the exit of the jail. He heard faint cries from the Aisha just before she shouted after him, “I told you what to do to get the amulet off! You said you would release me if I did that!”

      “Indeed, I did,” Greyson agreed, knowing the terms of their bargain. “But I didn’t say when.”

      Two could play that game.

***

      Eisian once again found herself in the library, a notebook and quill laid out in front of her. Written down were the three tasks. She did not have any clue as to how to complete even one, but she knew she had just a little time to figure it out.

      A soft knock startled the princess, sending her quill and ink bottle to the cold stone floor.

      “Sorry to alarm you, princess,” Greyson apologized. “I just wanted to tell you some ideas I had.”

      “Ideas?” Eisian asked. “About how to get these stupid tasks accomplished and take this thing off me?”

     “Exactly,” Greyson answered. “We need to find someone who knows Neopia like the back of his hand. Someone who has read every book and newspaper in Neopia. Someone who can bring guidance to us in this quest.”

     “So, in other words... we need to find a wise old king?” Eisian guessed. She could tell by the excitement on her friend’s face that her deduction was correct.

     “King Hagan is supposed to be the smartest Neopet in Neopia!” Greyson exclaimed. “If he cannot help us, there is nobody who can.”

     Brightvale, the kingdom that Hagan ruled, was a day’s journey. They would lose precious time, time that they could not afford to waste. Eisian told Greyson about her reservations.

      “It would not hurt to try,” Greyson comforted her. “At least we would not be sitting here hopeless. We do not have to stand by and let this amulet take over. Think of your responsibilities to the people. If Shkanum-Da returns, they would be enslaved again, or worse. Think about your family! There is no way Shkanum-Da would let them go; they stand for everything that Shkanum-Da destroyed all those years ago.”

      Eisian knew Greyson was right. She could not stand idly by while the fate of her kingdom rested on her shoulders – or around her neck. Even if she tried and failed to solve these tasks, that would be better than not trying at all.

      Thus, Eisian had only one response: “When do we leave?”

     ---

     Greyson and Eisian began their journey that evening. The King sent a messenger Weewoo along with the pair, in case they ran into trouble or needed supplies. The white Weewoo seemed to understand what his duty was and chirped eagerly. The Weewoo flew at Eisian’s right side, and Greyson flew at her left. For once since the whole mess started, Eisian felt safe.

      The distance between the Lost Desert and Brightvale was great, and Eisian had never been so grateful that she had wings. When she was at the palace, all she desired to do was fly away and visit exotic places. She longed be on the Tiki Tour in Mystery Island, sunny skies above her head and soft, white sand between her toes; in Qasala, exploring hidden tombs, long abandoned palaces of ancient Royals, and running her fingers over the delicate pottery Neopets had created so many centuries before; dancing around a campfire with the vagabonds of the Haunted Woods’ Gypsy Camp, the ringing of a tambourine keeping perfect time to each footstep she took, her only partner the silhouettes cast by the inferno.

      She was finally getting her chance to see Neopia, but the circumstances were unfortunate.

      The flight to Brightvale was calm, over land and sea. Eisian and Greyson saw the outskirts of the Haunted Woods and vowed that, should they be successful in removing the Amulet of Thilg, they would one day visit. Soon after, the emerald tips on Brightvale Castle were visible. The faint aroma of new books snaked its way up Eisian’s nostrils; she could almost feel herself getting smarter!

      The team slowly descended upon the rolling hills and tiny cottages of Brightvale. It looked so different compared to the tall, stone buildings they were used to seeing. Wooden houses with straw roofs peacefully dotted the sides of hills while the enormous castle watched over. Green, yellow, and white flags seemed to cover every empty space possible. Citizens milled about, faces kept hidden behind gigantic novels. The group made their way up the long bridge and into the castle.

      “Good day to thee,” called a jolly Kacheek, peering over the top of his book. Eisian and Greyson smiled in response, but before they could speak, the Kacheek was already reading again. Deciding not to disturb him, they continued to search for King Hagan.

      Brightvale Castle was nothing like Eisian had ever expected. Instead of portraits of past rulers, as were displayed in the Lost Desert palace, Brightvale Castle had massive stained glass windows and framed documents, written in swirling calligraphy, lining the cold walls. The castle was silent, except for the soft whoosh of a page being turned.

      “Good day, Princess Eisian!” boomed a deep voice from atop a spiraling staircase. “I am happy to see thou hast made thy journey safely!”

      King Hagan, a large, Green Skeith, slowly descended the staircase, each step he took with a regal flourish. He wore a cape of deep emerald and gold that shined like the sun. His crown sat perfectly straight on his round head, as if it always had been and always would be there.

      “Good Evening, King Hagan,” Eisian greeted, curtsying. “I do hope you are able to help us.”

      “Your father told me you needed guidance with a conundrum,” Hagan informed her. “There is no problem too big or too hard. I know all there is to know and by the end of the night, you shall have your answers. Now, come children, there is much to discuss!”

      Hagan whisked Eisian, Greyson, and the Weewoo off to his private study.

      The group from the Lost Desert told King Hagan of the Aisha, the Amulet, and the pharaoh. Of every story Hagan had ever heard, every question Hagan had ever been asked, no other had left him so puzzled.

To be continued...

 
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