The Wheel of Glory: Part One
The green Draik leaned over the old book... as the keeper of the Wheel of Knowledge, Miles considered it important to know as much about his own charge and the other four wheels as possible.
But what was this? A paper fell out of the binding of A Book of Wheels. Miles unfolded it. This is the oldest book I have, and this note looks nearly as old... it's probably been waiting here for centuries!
He held the old parchment carefully as the stained-glass windows of the Wheel Room illuminated words he never would have even dreamed.
There is a sixth wheel, a glorious wheel. The first wheel, from which all others were modeled. It dispenses no noisome curse or darkling devil to disturb the dreams of Neopians... only needful things, such as the least of us desire. I have found this wheel in my travels, on a green-shaded hill in the land of the sun. Yet I keep it a secret, as there are too many who would use this Wheel of Glory as a tool for their own use, rather than leaving it free to give joys to the little ones.
Be vigilant, keeper of the wisest wheel. Share only what you must. The Wheel of Glory must be kept safe, used for its intended purposes.
May the blessing of the Faerie Queen rest upon you.
It was too much for Miles to keep track of at once. Arcadius – the builder of the five wheels of Neopia – speaking of a first wheel, which he hadn't invented! A free wheel, a wheel which dispensed only good things... how could it even be?
He looked toward the wall, on which leaned four paintings –a Light Faerie, a Quiggle, a Flotsam, and a shadow that looked like a Gelert. His fellow wheel-keepers. Should he entrust this to them?
No. Britta was a nice girl, but altogether too light-hearted... in a moment of laughter, she could spill the secret to anyone. Thag and Plesio were caught in the entanglements of Tyrannian village elders and warlords, and this secret wheel could present a temptation to them best avoided. And the Doctor, as the keeper of the Wheel of Misfortune liked to be called... Miles shuddered. No, he didn't trust the Doctor at all.
So I've decided, then... this secret is mine to keep.
The scholar in him hated the idea of keeping something this momentous secret. Knowledge was supposed to be shared, not kept for personal use. But he knew Arcadius was right. A wheel as bountiful as this one would draw greedy profiteers like flies.
Despite the weight of the secret, he couldn't help the sense of wonder that he still felt. He said it out loud, just to try it. "A sixth Wheel. The Wheel of Glory. A Wheel that only does good."
Then he looked up at the clock and realized that he was late turning in the day's Wheel of Knowledge Neopoints to King Hagan. He acts as though it's only by his blessing that the Wheel turns... I could do it without the king! The items appear by the old magic, I know how to take care of the glass... I'm tired of being treated as some sort of jester!
Miles was so preoccupied by his own thoughts that he didn't notice the shadows outside, clinging to ropes outside of the Water Faerie window and peering through the colored glass.
As soon as the scholar was gone, two Meercas rappelled back onto the roof. One adjusted his goggles as he said, "Mr. Vile is going to like this, Merouladen."
The other nodded. "That's certain, Heermeedjet."
That night, Miles returned to the Wheel Room. Spinning hours were over, but he liked it in there... especially tonight, when Kreludor was full and the light shining in through the glass was almost as bright as the sun. He was currently working on organizing and cataloguing the varied books that had been stacked in the corners for decades, in the hopes of one day making this room a lending library as well. Then Hagan can laugh – when everyone comes here looking for wisdom, instead of hanging around the throne waiting for him to utter some impressive-sounding gibberish!
As he stacked several books in alphabetical order and arranged them on a shelf, his mind strayed... again... to the Wheel of Glory. He'd wanted so badly to tell Hagan about it, to revel in the feeling that he – eccentric, foolish little Miles at the Wheel – knew something the high-and-mighty king didn't!
But Miles had to be smarter than that. Hagan came from the same family as King Skarl over in Meridell after all, and while he hid it better, he also had some greed in him. He was one of those that Arcadius wanted the wheel protected from, and Miles couldn't fail the genius of old.
As he pushed some of the bindings in to make the books on the shelves line up neatly, the door was thrown open, slamming into the wall behind it. The Draik whirled around, almost tripping over his overlarge sandals.
A green Skeith in a trench coat and matching hat filled most of the doorway, with a brown Meerca on each side. Something in Miles's stomach warned him that these Neopians could mean nothing but trouble, but he still tried to be polite. "Good evening, my friends."
The Skeith pointed. "Bind him, boys!"
Miles backed up hurriedly, running through the weapons he had at his disposal. Fiery breath – no, not in here with the books! The books themselves – far too precious to use forcefully. I'm a scholar, not a warrior! I can't... oh, Fyora help me...
It was over all too quickly – his hands were caught behind his back as the cords were looped around his ankles. Miles could see that both Meercas had knives, and there was no telling what the Skeith had under his coat. He stammered, "I-I'm just a s-scholar – w-w-what do you w-w-want?"
His assailant stepped very close, making it clear that he was a good deal bigger. "I am Malkus Vile. And I w-w-want the parchment about the Wheel of Glory!"
Miles couldn't help gasping, "No!"
Malkus Vile pulled him up by the collar of his tunic – Miles's feet didn't even touch the floor. "Care to rethink that, pipsqueak?"
The Draik didn't know what to do – he'd heard of Malkus Vile. Who hadn't? And never in his darkest nightmares had he ever imagined that one day he'd be at the crime lord's mercy. The smart thing to do would be to cut my losses... give it to him...
But that would mean failing the solemn charge that Arcadius had set for him. It would mean giving up this mysterious, lost wheel to someone who would certainly use it poorly. He couldn't say it as strongly as he would have liked, but he repeated, "No!"
Vile threw him against the wall – bound and half-stunned, Miles couldn't do anything to stop the Meercas as the Skeith ordered them, "Find it, boys! An extra thousand Neopoints to the one who finds it!"
The Draik cursed himself as several kinds of an idiot... he'd only left the parchment in the cover of A Book of Wheels! Vile and his henchmen must have been spying on him to know about the Wheel of Glory – they'd know he'd been reading that book! He'd even left the stupid thing on his desk!
Sure enough, the Meerca in the blue hat picked up the book and opened it, grinning as he pulled out the fragile slip of paper. "I've got it, boss!"
Vile grinned as he took it. "An extra thousand Neopoints to Merouladen!"
The Meerca in the goggles scowled.
Miles tried not to draw any attention to himself as the Skeith read the letter about the wheel. He smirked. "Lots of warnings and better-than-thou... but we're looking for a ‘green-shaded hill in the land of the sun.'"
Merouladen said, "We've done desert work before, boss. No problem."
The other Meerca asked, "You sure that means the desert, brother?"
Merouladen replied, "Don't be an idiot, Heermeedjet. What other land in Neopia is as sunny as the Lost Desert? We're looking for an oasis there – and we've always known that the Lost Desert has the best treasure!"
Vile adjusted his hat and put on a pair of sunglasses. "To the Desert we go! And..." he looked back at Miles, who cringed. "Do something about the brainless bookworm, will you?"
Heermeedjet said, "Sure thing, boss."
As they left, Heermeedjet tossed a small disk onto the floor behind him. Miles squirmed away from it as best he could, but it soon burst, sending blue smoke into the air.
Sleeping gas! Miles knew he only had a few seconds to do what needed to be done. He rolled himself over the wall to where the portraits of the other Wheel-keepers were, and in a mighty thrust, used his wings to push himself off the ground and to a place where he could hit the small image of his own Wheel in the center of them.
All at once, the pictures came alive, showing where each of his fellows were and what they were doing. Their heads were cocked, listening.
Miles could taste the sickly-sweet smell in his mouth – he didn't have any more time. He croaked, "Help! I need... help! Come quickly!"
That was all he could manage before the unnatural sleep covered his eyes. He thought, It's enough. Someone will come. And I'll show Vile who the brainless one is!
Then everything went black.
To be continued...