The Wheel of Glory: Part Two
When Miles opened his eyes, he found himself lying in the little bed he kept in the corner of the Wheel Room, tucked under the covers. The screen was there was always, but he could see that the rest of the room was lit brighter than he ever kept it. He had a feeling he knew who was here... “Britta? Is that you?”
The screen was thrown back and the young Light Faerie practically bounced to him. Her girlish hair, her wide golden eyes – all of her spoke of boundless energy and enthusiasm. Fitting for the keeper of the Wheel of Excitement, but rather tiring for mere mortals. She asked, “What happened, Miles? I got here first, and you were just lying on the floor by the magic paintings, all tied up! Doc said that he thought he smelled sleep gas, but how did sleep gas get in here? I really don’t understand...”
A voice called from the middle of the room. “Oh, for crying out loud, you’re tiring me out and I’m awake.”
Another added, “Ug-ugg.”
Miles recognized the voices of Plesio and Thag, the keepers of the wheels of Mediocrity and Monotony. As he struggled to sit up, he realized that they were sitting at his table with steaming cups and absolutely no regard for his manuscripts! “No liquids by papers, please!”
“Ah, calm yourself. And Britta, don’t call me Doc.”
Miles tried not to flinch as the shadowy form of the Doctor rose up next to his bed. Whatever manner of Gelert he was, he never failed to creep the Draik out. I’m sort of surprised that he came... I really only thought Britta would show up. Thag and Plesio can’t be roused by much, and I would have thought that the Doctor would just sit back and laugh. Misfortune’s his thing, after all.
Though, after Malkus Vile, the Doctor doesn’t look nearly as scary as he used to... Miles shuddered, and decided to get down to business. “How long was I out?”
Britta shrugged. “It depends – when did you fall asleep?”
Plesio looked over at them from the table. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe when he made the funny gurgling noises at the end of his communication and we all heard him hit the floor? It’s been twenty-four hours almost exactly.”
Thag asked, “Ug-bug a ugga?”
Plesio translated, “He wants to know why you were tied up.”
Miles knew that, at this point, the four other keepers were his best resource. He took a deep breath and told the whole story of Arcadius’s letter and Vile’s invasion from the beginning. When he finished, Britta exclaimed, “A sixth wheel! That’s so exciting – we have to go find it! When can we leave?”
Plesio pointed out, “I think we all know what Malkus Vile is capable of – he trounced Miles. And he has a day’s head start. Is that really a good idea?”
The Doctor grinned. “It sounds fun to me!”
Plesio sighed. “Doctor, I’m pretty sure you’re already dead.”
Miles pulled himself out of bed – the room swirled unpleasantly about him for a few seconds, but then everything steadied. “I’m not letting Malkus Vile get to that Wheel without a fight. You know what he’ll do? He’ll make it into his personal Neopoint machine, and if he can’t, he’ll destroy it! Arcadius trusted the safety of the wheels to us – all of them! So you can come with me if you want, but I’m going regardless! I’m going!”
The Doctor laughed. “Miles, he already beat you up once, but I like your spirit. I’ll go with you.”
Britta bounced up and down. “I’m in! I’m in! I’m in!”
Thag raised his cup. “Gar ugga.”
Plesio groaned and laid his head on the table. “If you’re all going, I guess someone is needed to keep you sane. I’ll come.”
Miles said happily, “We leave at dawn!”
Britta was able to use magic to convince the Wheel of Knowledge to let them have food and shields for the mission – it also gave her a stained glass window and a copy of King Hagan. The Doctor left and returned shortly after midnight, gleefully carrying five swords and other assorted weapons, as well as passage up the river to Sakhmet on a ship called the Passing Fair. Miles didn’t even want to know where he got all of it. Miles collected maps, as Thag and Plesio sat at the table offering generally unhelpful comments in both Tyrannian and Neopian Common.
Plesio asked as Miles decided between Maps of the Deserte Loste and Atlas of Places – the Lost Desert, “Aren’t you going to tell King Hagan that you’re leaving for a while?”
Miles thought for a second. Maybe I should... But then he remembered all the ridicule that he had to go through whenever he appeared before the king. Or not. “No. I’ll let him do without me so he can decide whether I’m really as useless as he thinks I am.”
Doc laughed. “That’s the nice thing about running my own wheel – I don’t have to report to anyone.”
Britta pointed out angrily, “And you can curse scared little Neopians whenever you want to!”
“Ah, you’re too harsh. I give them plushies, too.”
“Deformed plushies that give children nightmares!”
“The Pant Devil and Master Plague like your Wheel just as much as they like mine, so you really have very little room to throw stones, dear Britta.”
Miles started to wonder if he should have gone on his own. It would have been quieter, at least...
But then he remembered the Skeith in the trench coat and his two henchmen – and how utterly he’d failed to even show them down. I can’t do this alone. I need help. Even if my help is obnoxious.
So the others were with him – the Doctor invisible in the darkness before dawn – as they hitched a ride in a farmer’s cart to the closest harbor, where the Passing Fair awaited them.
A week later, Miles held tightly to the mast of the ship, trying not to be seasick. The Doctor floated next to him, laughing. “It’s just a little feisty wind, Miles – shouldn’t Draiks like wind?”
Miles moaned as the water ran into his eyes, “It’s a storm, Doctor. And gravity doesn’t affect you like it does the rest of us!”
The captain ran past. “At least it’s blowing us in the right direction – we should be sailing up the River Sakh by nightfall!”
Thag asked, “Thak ugga gug?”
Plesio looked out at the heaving sea through the driving rain. “Yeah, you’re the only one of us who can’t breathe underwater or fly.”
Britta fought her way through the wind over to them. “I’ll keep close to you, Thag. If anything happens, I’ll make sure you make it to shore.”
The doctor drawled, “How very sweet.”
Britta scowled. “Be quiet, Doc! That’s not nice!”
“I’m not nice, darling. And don’t call me Doc.”
A sailor yelled, “Hey, you four!” They seemed to believe the Doctor was a figment of their imaginations. Oh, I only wish! “Either make yourselves useful or throw yourselves over!”
Miles looked around – the winged pets seemed to be trying to keep the sails tied down. He flew up to join them – knots were one of the few practical things he was good at. The wind pulled at his tunic and his wings – he resisted as much as he could, knowing that being blown off the ship would probably be the end of him.
He caught onto the sail as another gust hit – beside him, an Eyrie was hurled down to the deck. One of his sandals was ripped away, lost in the storm. He kicked the other off – he didn’t have a use for it now – and finished the knot he was working on.
Then the lookout in the Crokabek’s nest called, “Beware! Rocks on the horizon! Rocks off the desert shore!”
The sailor next to Miles said in horror, “Sweet Fyora! The captain was wrong – we’ve been blown too far south!”
Britta screamed, “Miles! Make for the lifeboat!”
Miles let go of the ropes, diving down toward the lifeboat and pulling up at the last minute to make his landing. Thag, Plesio, and Britta were already there. As he sat down, the Doctor threw two packs over the edge of the Passing Fair and into the smaller craft. He drifted down the rope to them, and then cut the line with a sweep of his knife.
They were immediately pulled away from the ship by the crashing waves. As Miles held on for dear life, he cried, “Why’d we leave?”
Britta shouted, “I’ve seen these rocks before – the Passing Fair is too big! It can’t possibly make it to shore! We may stand a chance in a smaller boat!”
Miles looked back toward the Passing Fair, feeling bad. It’s as if we betrayed them... leaving them to their fate and escaping. Maybe I could fly back and warn them to prepare...
But it was too late. As he watched, the ship was thrown up against a rock, smashing the hull open. In the stormy waters, it was quickly swallowed up by the sea.
Plesio yelled, “Neopia to Miles! We aren’t out of the woods yet! Grab an oar!”
Thag got to it first, grunting, “Ugg.”
After several close calls, they made it to shore. As the Tyrannians dragged the boat above the tide line, Miles looked out through the already-clearing rain. He could only see scrubland and palm trees, but he knew that, not too far beyond the horizon, this landscape would give way to barren sand.
He realized he ought to check and see whether his atlas was in one of the bags that the Doctor had saved. But he found it hard to want to do anything besides magically go back to his warm little Wheel Room.
Britta smiled. “Cheer up! We’re alive, and we’ve made it to the Lost Desert!”
The Doctor pointed out, “Well, I’m not technically alive...”
It was Plesio who most neatly summed up the way Miles was feeling. “We’re shipwrecked at the very edge of the Lost Desert. Excuse me for not jumping for joy.”
But then the green Draik looked back out at the sea. “We’ve got nowhere to go but forward. Let’s make camp. We’ll need the whole day tomorrow.”
To be continued...