Masquerade: Part Three
Also by bookworm7
After a long and somewhat nauseating boat ride with a Blumaroo for a captain that kept rocking the boat, we finally reached Brightvale Port the next morning. The sunlight and the warm ocean breeze helped dispel the gloom we had acquired while dwelling in the Ice Caves. We walked up the busy dirt road into Brightvale.
While passing shops on the way to the castle, Yuruyuki exclaimed, "Let's stop by Fruits of Brightvale and grab some food. I'm sure we could use the energy."
I chuckled and patted her on the shoulder. "Remember what happened last time? Maybe you'll find the Sand Negg hiding somewhere in the fruit baskets!" Zaira looked at me and smiled warmly at my joke. I continued, "Well, I brought plenty of Neopoints with us for the trip. Let's take a quick break." We left the path towards the castle and detoured into the shops.
After eating various strange fruits and spinning the Wheel of Knowledge hopelessly for an avatar, we walked to the castle gates with the largest Parchment Fruit we could find as a present to King Hagan. The castle guards welcomed us in to see what utter nonsense we had to offer to the King just like every other Neopian.
As we walked down the marble hallway into the King's court, Yuruyuki gazed at the magnificent clothes that many Neopets were wearing. She was very humble and never asked for much, yet I felt glum for consistently working and not doing enough for her. I was glad that Yuruyuki was always kind enough to understand my busy nature.
I decided that someday I would give into Neocash and buy her those special clothes that I could tell she secretly wanted.
We were soon welcomed into King Hagan's presence where we offered him the Parchment Fruit. A guard took our offering and brought it to King Hagan. With a wave of the King's scepter, the guard took the Parchment Fruit and left the room for the royal chambers.
There were several guards that lined the court, but King Hagan was the only royalty present. I felt King Hagan's downward gaze on us as he sat upon his throne. In a boisterous voice he said, "What words of wisdom do you have to share with me, the wisest of all?"
I smiled and astutely exclaimed, "Pity those who underestimate the allure of a pineapple." King Hagan pondered upon the meaning of my words. Zaira covered her mouth and tried to restrain her giggles, but Yuruyuki let out a sudden squawk of laughter that echoed throughout the court.
After a few moments of deep contemplation, King Hagan announced, "Ahh, brilliant! It's good to know there are intelligent Neopians out there. You are certainly worthy to receive my glorious avatar!" The guards behind us gave a slow applause while chuckling to themselves. Surely Hagan is growing tired of hearing such nonsense every day and just wants his kingdom to reduce tourism. He continued, "We would also like to present you with—"
"Excuse me, Your Wisdom, but I have little need for such things." Interrupting the King was a risky move, but I knew I needed to handle the situation with confidence. "In fact, I already earned your avatar a few months ago when I preposterously stated, 'The last thing anyone needs is wisdom.' I have more serious matters to discuss with you. They pertain to a legend of old: an artifact known as the Glass Negg."
King Hagan let his head rest on his hands. As if lost in thought, he closed his eyes and began to grumble. "Guards," he commanded, "inform the awaiting Neopians that I have begun my afternoon study session early. I am intrigued by such curious visitors." Several guards hurried to the doors behind us and left to attend to the avatar-hungry Neopians outside. Other guards pulled the enormous curtains across the exterior-facing, stained-glass windows. The room became isolated and much darker than I had ever seen it. In a subdued voice, he asked, "What is your business with such a bizarre and ancient legend?"
Zaira immediately spoke out of turn. "Why didn't Hurok the Knight deliver the Glass Negg to Brightvale?" She sounded confident, but I wasn't pleased with her question. Hurok obviously had successfully delivered the negg to Brightvale since King Hagan knew about it.
King Hagan wasn't pleased either. He leaned forward in his throne and raised his voice. "One mustn't state their ill-founded knowledge as fact! Hold your tongue on this matter." Zaira was hurt by his reaction, but I harbored no bad feelings towards her. "Hurok the Knight delivered the Glass Negg to one of my fathers many generations back. Hurok's intention was for the King in his wisdom to find the perfect hiding spot for the negg that allegedly held no power on its own, but Hurok did not understand the nature of the negg he was entrusted with.
"According to the books that we keep purposely lost in the Altadorian Archives, the King's mind reacted violently with the negg he was given. When he gazed into the Glass Negg, he saw visions of the endless success and fortune he could obtain strictly for himself if he were to exercise true power over his kingdom instead of his prior benevolence."
"Did the Glass Negg seem to affect anyone other than the King?" I asked.
"As written, the Glass Negg was handled by everyone in the royal court, but the only one affected by the Glass Negg was the King himself."
"So the negg was selective of its victim, and, when the negg delivered false visions directly to the King's mind, he awoke the power of the negg?"
"That is partially correct. They were not false visions. They were a possibility that he soon realized." I tried to connect the dots in my mind, but I couldn't see where the story was going. Brightvale had never heard of an evil, greedy king in their history. "You see, he kept the Glass Negg 'hidden' in plain sight, atop his scepter, and continually looked into it for guidance. He ruled with an iron fist, but nothing that he did gave him the happiness and success that he saw in the negg. His citizens were still prosperous and he was no better off than they; they were equals in his very own kingdom, and he began to despise the fact.
"As years passed, the Glass Negg drew its power from his gluttonous greed. When he lost his very soul to the power of the negg, it transformed him into a monstrous beast."
Zaira regained her composure and tried asking another question. "How did Brightvale banish the monster to Terror Mountain?"
King Hagan smiled. "I have already told you that the King realized his wish: to obtain all of the riches of his very own kingdom. When the citizens of Brightvale heard of his lust for their riches, they took all their possessions and hid them far away in Terror Mountain. The King took the bait and now dwells within the icy caverns, sitting upon the ghost of his throne."
"King Hagan," I said, "what can you tell us about the other decoy neggs?"
The King paused in thought as he tapped his scepter lightly against the floor. "Hurok did not tell the King or his court that there were other such neggs elsewhere in Neopia, and Brightvale dared not to tell any other kingdoms of the embarrassing encounter with the Glass Negg. We knew not of the other neggs until the Festival."
As I thought about what to ask next, the back of my neck began itching irritatingly. I shifted my shoulder bag to see if it would stop the itching.
After a brief moment of silence on our part, Yuruyuki ruffled her feathers. She then pulled out the Glass Negg and held it in the tip of her wing. "So this is the only thing that the Snowager treasures more than treasure itself: the visions of things that he already had?"
King Hagan turned his face away from us and closed his eyes. "Continue your search in the Altadorian Archives. You will there find more information on the nature of the Glass Negg."
Zaira breathed in audibly. "The Archives are infinite and filled with useless information. How will we possibly find what we are looking for?"
I looked over at Yuruyuki who continued holding the Glass Negg in plain sight. I could sense that King Hagan was getting very uncomfortable. "A good reporter knows that the answers always lie within the problem itself. Thank you for your time, King Hagan." I pointed my thumb towards the doors and gave Yuruyuki a nervous look. We had overstayed our welcome.
"You have heard enough. Now leave. Get it out of my presence! Guards!"
We quickly turned away from the throne and walked towards the castle doors. The curtains were reopened and light poured into the room. The Glass Negg was struck by light and it began to shine brilliantly. Yuruyuki quickly buried the negg beneath her feathers as we left the castle.
What power did these neggs contain that could transform an ancient king into such a threatening creature? What terrible tragedies could the other neggs have caused elsewhere in Neopia? We had no choice but to search for the lost records within the infinite walls of the Altadorian Archives. Surely there we would find clues to the nature of the mysterious neggs that were haunting Neopia's past...
To be continued...