Nightfall: Part Two
A million thoughts were running through Grant's mind. Had Amy been kidnapped? Did she flee to complete Lamenter's job herself? Both possibilities were unlikely, but Grant had to know where she was. It was not like Amy to leave without telling him where she was headed. Grant held his striped vest over his right forearm. Lamenter's card peeked out from the pocket of it.
Grant had never been to Neovia before. He had heard stories of it being a bit brighter than the Haunted Woods. Now, as he stood feet from the entrance in a graveyard, he could not be so certain the stories were true. Surely, the thick haze around the city brightened it a bit. But it remained just as grim and eerie as the Haunted Woods.
Grant pushed open the wooden double doors. His bare feet felt the fine cobblestone path. Lights from candles jumped within the homes and shops nearest to the gate. Grant swallowed hard. He wasn't getting a good feeling from Neovia.
Before him stood a tall building atop a grey hill. The clock boasted eleven. Some lights were on within but the western wing of the building was dark. Near the building, a Cybunny was leaning on a lamppost. His black cane was perched on the wall surrounding the tall building. Its silver top glinted.
Grant didn't know whether to approach the Cybunny or keep walking. He was wearing a tight jacket, a monocle, and brown shoes. The Cybunny caught sight of Grant first.
"Yes?" the Cybunny called. He removed his monocle from his right eye and lowered his head.
"Uh," Grant said, unable to form a word. Instead, he fumbled for the card in his pocket and held it out to the Cybunny.
The Cybunny hobbled over to his cane and walked slowly toward Grant. When he was standing before Grant, he gently pulled the card into his paw. He replaced his monocle over his eye, looked at the card, and frowned.
"What business do you have with Proulx?" the Cybunny asked.
"I-I think he may know where my friend is," Grant replied.
"Very well," the Cybunny responded. He turned to look over his shoulder and pointed at a house with a turret. "That would be his home."
Grant nodded and held his hand out to receive the card. The Cybunny dropped it in his hand.
"I don't know what you really need from him," the Cybunny said, his back turned to Grant. "But be careful."
Grant didn't know how to respond to this. Instead, he pulled his vest on and tucked the card back into his pocket. He could only think that his suspicions about Lamenter were true.
After some dodging through the streets of Neovia, Grant fumbled toward the door of Lamenter's home. The turret was the most beautiful architectural work Grant had seen. Its design was intricately weaved in a diamond pattern. But the rest of the exterior of the home was crumbling. Its white paint was turning grey and its windows were caked with dirt.
Grant knocked twice on the door with no answer. After the third knock, the door swung open.
"Grant," Lamenter said, grinning.
"Where's Miz Amy?" Grant asked, without hesitation.
"Come in," Lamenter replied, ignoring Grant's question. Lamenter walked straight through the main corridor of the home to a small kitchen off to the left. Even Lamenter's house gave Grant a bad feeling. Photos lined the dark walls, hanging underneath candles.
When Grant had made it to the kitchen, he asked about Amy again. Lamenter slid a tea cup over the table to Grant.
"I don't know," Lamenter said, sighing. "Last time I saw her was with you last night."
"Don't lie," Grant shot back.
"I'm not lying," Lamenter chuckled between a sip of his tea. "Maybe she went to do the task you were not ready to do."
"You told her, too?" Grant asked.
"Why, yes," Lamenter said, sitting down. "She had only invited you because she thought you were more capable. I disagreed, but agreed to meet you anyway."
Grant could not believe for a second that Amy would take on a job that was beyond her. Grant knew that Amy knew that he was the one who did things like this. Grant turned his back to Lamenter. This entire day was becoming too confusing and overwhelming.
"Tell me where you think she went," Grant said reluctantly. Lamenter reached inside his plush coat pocket and pulled out another card, similar to the one he left in the tent.
"This task is not easy," Lamenter said. "These are people who would rather not be associated with me."
"I am looking for Amy," Grant said, trying to hide the whole of his anger. "I am not interested in helping you."
Lamenter tucked the card back into the pocket of his red coat. He got up and passed Grant. Grant turned to follow him. The Poogle was staring at a photo at the end of the hall. Grant walked carefully over to him and peered over his shoulder.
The photo was of a striking Acara. She was wearing a green cape in the photo. Her face had a serene look to it. The hair poking out from the cape was the color of roasted chestnuts. Her light green eyes were piercing.
"She has what I need," Lamenter whispered. His Zombie appearance had faded at the sight of her. Grant was confused but thought it best to say nothing.
"Tuleu Delmas," Lamenter continued, his head hung toward the floor. He drifted away from the image back down to the small kitchen. Grant followed. "We knew each other in Brightvale. We lost touch. I need my items back."
"So why don't you get them yourself?" Grant asked, annoyed at Lamenter's self pity.
"Because, like I said, they would rather not deal with me."
"So you want me to steal these things?"
Grant sat in the nearest chair. Lamenter slid the card over the table. It read:
T. Delmas, 4007 Scholarly Crescent, Brightvale
"What am I looking for?" Grant asked.
The two locked eyes. Grant was not intimidated by this Poogle. Lamenter raised his chin and began talking.
Armed with a map, Grant began the trek to Brightvale. He had been there before but it was during a time when things were better for him. The Haunted Woods and the Gypsy Camp hadn't existed as a thought of living there. They had been places to visit, places of curiosity.
The terrain was mostly easy going. Grant saw many travelers along his paths but none that he cared to speak to. No one stopped to talk to the young Techo traveler with his hat placed firmly on his head and his ragged vest buttoned up to its collar. No sign of Amy, either.
Lamenter's directions proved to be faulty. Grant had to rely on his own instincts. Lamenter was seeking two books that had come into his possession as a gift from King Hagan. Grant could only run one question in his mind: if the books were so important, why had they been left behind? With no answer to this question, Grant continued to move about Neopia. The journey took some days but Grant was prepared. This was much like his usual work: long days away from the camp, sleepless nights under the stars, and dodging capture to claim the skeleton keys. Nothing new.
It was with this mentality, then, that as he walked into Brightvale, he wasn't the least bit daunted. It was early morning there. The sun was rising over a clear sky. Clouds were few and far between in the sky. Grant sat on the grassy knoll nearest to a thick brush of trees. He hadn't felt this illuminated in some time. The sun kissed his arms and legs. It wasn't like the dark hug of the Haunted Woods. This was pure simplicity.
Vendors were passing by. The day's work was beginning. Grant stood and gathered up his map. Scholarly Crescent was not too far away from the main hub of the city. Brightvale Castle could be seen up ahead. The water from its moat gleamed. It could have been magical except that Grant was not there on vacation. He needed to complete his work, find Amy, and go home.
A Blue Draik wrapped in a green cloak shouted a greeting to Grant. Grant tipped his head in a response. The Draik was setting up his items: fur trimmed robes, tunics, suede hats, short capes, boots. Grant stumbled over to his stall.
"Excuse me. Am I anywhere close to Scholarly Crescent?" Grant asked.
"Why, yes. You are quite close, just keep going up that road." The Draik pointed at the one Grant had been on.
Grant smiled awkwardly and continued down the road.
4007 Scholarly Crescent came faster than Grant had anticipated. It was a fairly small house on a fairly large plot of land. A orange fence surrounded the property. Wild brush grew around the fence and a stone walkway led up to the porch. A Skeith sat on the porch. He turned his head and called into the house.
The Acara from the photo walked out onto the porch. She looked exactly as she did all those years ago. She was wearing a red tunic that reacher her knees. As the Acara walked up to him, Grant could see her brown trousers underneath. Her hair had dulled mildly with age, but her green eyes were the same.
"Yes, traveler?" Tuleu called, almost standing toe to toe with Grant.
"My lady, forgive me," Grant said, taking his hat off of his head. "I seem to be lost. Is this 4005 Scholarly Crescent?"
"No such address," Tuleu replied.
"The two stood staring at one another. Grant broke the silence first and reached into his threadbare bag. He handed Tuleu a card.
"Reorna has sent you?" Tuleu asked.
"Yes," Grant lied. Lamenter had told Grant to extend the card to her. It was sure to work.
Tuleu looked at Grant closely, her green eyes boring into his own. She motioned for him to follow her into the house. On the porch, the Skeith grunted. Grant decided not to make eye contact with him.
The inside of the house was bright. The furniture was airy and the sun poured into every corner. On a beam at the top of the stairs, a photo hung. A photo of a group of young Neopets outside of Brightvale Castle. Lamenter was smiling in it.
To be continued...