Masquerade: Part Four
Also by bookworm7
Our journey to Altador took many days, but it gave me the chance to analyze Zaira's role in the matter. After thorough mental repetition of the assumptions I made, I had concluded upon Zaira's innocence. I decided to put my assumptions to the test one day as we ate lunch on the ship heading for Altador Port.
"Do you have any Sugar Coated Leaf?" Zaira asked the waiter as we sat down at the table. The Grarrl waiter shook his head in the negative as he passed out the menus. I glanced through my menu and prematurely decided on the Squishy Brain Wrap. I was too busy wondering about the conversation I was about to have to care about food.
"Zaira," I said as the Grarrl left for the kitchen with our order, "how long ago did you discover how to wield the Plant Negg?" I knew she would give me the truth at this point. She could not hide the fact that I saw her use it to protect herself from the Snowager. I was always one step ahead of her.
Zaira's mouth dropped open for a second, then it curled into a grin. "How do you know so much, Sin? You really do have reporter's instincts." I wiggled my eyebrows and smiled back. Yuruyuki looked at me and then back at Zaira. She was lost, but I knew the conversation would inform her. "Well as I told you before, I decided to tie up the loose ends after the Clockwork Negg had been opened and the Neggbreaker defeated. I first went to Kiko Lake since it was the closest geographically; I didn't want to disappear for too long and have Kari suspicious of me.
"After several unfruitful Glass-Bottom Boat tours of the entirety of Kiko Lake, my Ancient Negg Amulet from the Clockwork Negg informed me to search in the forests away from the town. Sure enough, the Plant Negg had been buried among the wizard's skeletal remains deep within the woods. When the negg re-entered into the presence of my Amulet, I was capable of using the negg's powers for good, and that's why I can turn it into a sword and shield."
This fell in accordance with my theory. "This is why you initially believed that Neopia was safe. You thought that as long as you protected the Amulet, no one would be able to use the scattered neggs' powers for evil. If you had let the public read the first journal entry, then they would become aware that the Amulet was necessary to locate and use the remote decoy powers. You wouldn't have received the Amulet as a token of your noble acts for saving Neopia and therefore wouldn't have been able to prevent the neggs from falling into the wrong hands."
Yuruyuki slapped her wings to her face out of frustration. She was lost. "But there are thousands of amulets! Everyone already has one. Why hasn't anyone else sensed the presence of the remaining neggs?"
Zaira responded, "There is only one Clockwork Amulet, which was given to me as a reward for discovering the journal. The rest were all weaker replicates that the Clockwork Negg generated in preparation for war."
I felt extremely nervous from her word choice. There were many possibilities that ran through my mind when she said "war," but I washed them aside. "Well then, you have been very lucky to have come across the Amulet and the Plant Negg. Even now, behind the scenes and away from the public eye, you really are the incredible, hard-working Neopian that everyone sees you as."
From behind me came the large Grarrl carrying our lunch. He stepped up to the table and began putting our dishes in front of us. In a husky voice, he said, "Let me know if your order is missing something. Our kitchen is a bit busy today!"
Yuruyuki lifted the bread off of her Wormy Jam Sandwich and stared at the wiggling critters inside. Zaira shrugged her shoulders at the look of her meal. I didn't bother looking down at my sandwich because I was preoccupied with what the waiter had just said. There was something that I was missing, but it didn't have to do with our food. I looked over at Zaira who began forking gourmet Edamame into her mouth.
Was there was something I had missed in my previous assumptions? Everything had lined up so far, yet the waiter's words had struck me. My body wouldn't shake the feeling, and the back of my neck wouldn't stop irritating me. "Order," I said aloud.
The waiter hadn't walked away yet. "Yes, Miss. Is there anything else you need?" I couldn't see him, but I felt his overbearing presence waiting behind me.
"No, it's nothing. Everything looks great." I tried to stop staring blankly at the Lazydel floral centerpiece that anchored the tablecloth to the table. I cocked my head a bit towards the waiter's direction and said, "Thanks!" I had conjured up some more theories in my mind, but I thrust them into the corners of my imagination in order to begin eating my Squishy Brain Wrap as if nothing had happened.
Later that evening, we arrived in Altador Port. I had since shaken off the strange mental block that I developed when with the waiter. Underneath the starry sky, we enjoyed our brisk walk up the hill towards the serene and beautifully lit city of Altador.
When we approached the city wall and entered through the southern gates, we encountered busy, late-night streets. The Altador Cup was less than a week away, so I had anticipated a lot of traffic. Many Neopians were shopping for merchandise in preparation for the games.
Yuruyuki grabbed onto my arm so she wouldn't get lost. "Sin, it's getting late. Can we find a hotel for the night? I'm not even sure if the Archives are still open."
I had sensed her fear of losing me in the crowds this late at night, but it really wasn't that long of a walk. "Yuruyuki, I'm really sorry, but we must make our way to the Archives tonight. It has been a long ride from Brightvale, and I cannot let this mystery wait for us any longer."
Zaira stopped scrutinizing the sky and reached for Yuruyuki's wing, holding it compassionately. "I have to agree with Sin on this. Let's get to the Archives. They will be much less busy this late at night then tomorrow during the day."
We walked past the savory aromas from Exquisite Ambrosia and shortly found our way into the front door of the Archives. It was a rather barren place, especially since the last time Yuruyuki and I had seen it we were reporting the current status of Altador while thousands of Neopians were trying to solve its mystery.
I walked towards Finneus' office and instructed Zaira and Yuruyuki to stay in the lobby. I knocked on the door, and, since I had done him a favor at the conclusion of the Altador event, I confidently strode into the room.
The stout Lenny greeted me with a strange grin. "Ah, come in, come in! Good to see you again, Sin. What thrilling story has returned you here?"
The old bird was sure quick to remember me. I returned his cheesy smile. "I would just like to do a follow-up report on the solution to the Altador dilemma. Would you mind if I borrowed the Book of Ages?" I walked over to the book that the archivist had been carelessly using as a table balance before all of Neopia had corrected him. "I just want to learn a bit more about Jerdana's strategy in her protection of Altador."
Finneus laughed hard, and I heard a few coughs between exhalations. I knew why he was so delirious at the mention of the word. "Jerdana! What an interesting character indeed. She had a hard time forgiving me for my mistake, but I was relieved when you clearly informed Neopia of my heroic actions." He put his wing to his face and adjusted his monocle. "I'm glad to see you take an interest in old stories that Neopia forgets about as new mysteries appear. The old mysteries are obviously the ones that determine the course of the present mysteries."
I paused and thought about his statement about old and new mysteries. "Oh, you must be talking about ulterior motives behind the Faeries' Ruin! Are you investigating the peculiar connections it has with the Darkest Faerie?" I had wanted badly to investigate such a possibility shortly after the event, but the Faerieland Library had been... ruined.
Finneus looked shocked. "Why, yes! Of course you would guess it, Sin. You are brilliant indeed! In support of King Altador's search for the Darkest Faerie statue, I am studying Dark Faeries in order to gain a better understanding of why they are so powerful. If you have to prove it true twice, then it's not the answer!" I smiled but raised an eyebrow. His last sentence made no sense to me, but I was probably going to use it anyway in the future to torture King Hagan.
I lifted the Book of Ages from the pedestal and began walking towards the door. "Thank you, Finneus, but you will have to inform me of your investigation once you have more information on the subject. Besides, I cannot report anything when my camera-bird is exhausted from our journey here. May we reconvene tomorrow morning? Tomorrow, I would certainly love to hear your theories on the origins of their power and the possible roles they played in the Fall of Faerieland." I grabbed the doorknob and leaned against the door.
"I can see that you're serious about your report on Jerdana. Has she done something wrong?" He brightened up at the thought. "Well, I will leave you to search for whatever strange things you need to find. Have a good night, Sin!"
I left the room and saw Yuruyuki and Zaira looking out the window towards the sky. Without even speaking a word to them, I walked over to the door that led into the maze of the Archives. My unwanted conversation with Finneus had fortunately proven useful.
Finneus had brought up two good points. First, did his point about Dark Faerie magic somehow play into my own investigation? A thorough search of the Archives would certainly reveal that answer. The second point he raised was what worried me. "If you have to prove it true twice, then it's not the answer!" What could he have meant by that?
I knew that it was somehow important to me, but my brain felt the same way that it did when the Grarrl waiter delivered our food. There was a connection my brain wanted to make, but it was as if there was some powerful influence over my mind that prevented me from making it. The back of my neck felt aggravated and my body felt heavy, but I relentlessly pressed onward into the Archives in search of the connection between the Cloud Negg and the Darkest Faerie...
To be continued...