Tales from Number Five: Under the Highest Sky - Part One
The Darigan Citadel is little more than a barren wasteland, ever since Lord Darigan's orb was lost. Much of the glamour of the land that used to be paradise has been lost. Deep within the very recesses of the Citadel, lies the prison where some unfortunates are kept imprisoned, likely to never see the light of day again.
Galgarrath was one of Master Vex's guards, who was currently fanning himself with a copy of the local newspaper that was printed in the Citadel. The press was so small that Galgarrath had even forgotten what its name was.
All of the prisoners were asleep, aside from a single Lupe who went solely by the name of Number Five. Most consider him a crazy Lupe who rants only about a mythical place called Jelly World, but he has seen lots of things in his long existence. He sometimes tells stories about those experiences to other people. All of the stories are crazy, but sometimes, just sometimes, they are just crazy enough to be true.
Number Five glanced at the part of the paper that he could see. He suddenly exclaimed, "So Faerieland has fallen! That would have made Altair's job much easier."
Galgarrath turned around. Usually every single word that the Lupe spoke resonated with madness, but this time the voice was unusually calm. Galgarrath registered just what the Lupe had said, and then glanced at the newspaper. It was a big story about how Faerieland had crashed down and the faeries were working hard to fix it. Galgarrath snorted. Of course, it was a testimony to how badly the prisoners were kept that they didn't even know about Faerieland's crash. There was no source of news nor any entertainment like Neovision for them, so the only way they could get to know of the outside world would be when Master Vex or one of the guards would tell them. And the guards and Master Vex weren't very talkative types.
"Yes, you get to know of that now," Galgarrath said in a bored tone. "What of it? Who is Altair?" Galgarrath almost wished he had never asked after that, because a strange look passed over Number Five's normally glazed face.
"It is a long story," Number Five said. "A story by the name of 'Under the Highest Sky'. I will tell it to you."
Galgarrath almost protested. Almost. But there was so little to do in the dungeons, that he decided a story, even if it was from a crazy old Lupe, would do him some good. So he did not stop the Lupe as he began his tale.
* * * *
Long ago, so long ago that few remember the time except for the most ancient of Faeries, the Faeries were even more reclusive than ever. Interference in Neopet affairs was strictly prohibited, and they kept their magic and their sorcery close to themselves, choosing to remain aloof in Faerieland, suspended ten thousand feet above the ground, where no Neopet could reach them. Ancient sorceries would make sure that any Neopet who tried to fly there within a few thousand feet of the place, and anyway the cold at that altitude was one that no one could withstand without magic. There were no other crevices, no other pathways that could allow a Neopet into Faerieland, just as the Faeries liked it. Shields were always on to prevent teleportation into Faerieland, and any mechanical devices failed instantly the moment they neared the city. For in Faeries' eyes, Neopets were lesser creatures who did not deserve any kind of sympathy from them. Not even if the Neopets had magic, for in their eyes their own magic was superior to any kind of magic those creature might have. And anyway, few Neopets had any magic at all in those times, and people of any real skill in the arcane arts were all but unheard of.
Beneath the Underclouds, a forbidden and desolate area long forgotten by the Faeries, unknown to the Faeries, a tower was being built. It was hidden from them, both physically because it was kept in shadows below the Underclouds, and magically because it was shielded by a kind of magic that the Faeries could not even conceive of, as they were too arrogant to believe that any magic that was outside their own spheres was worth learning. The tower in question was built by a Neopet named Altair.
Altair, a Blue Lupe, looked down from the apex of his tower. His tower stood over two thousand feet above the ground. Below him, he could see the giant petpetpets crawling all over the base of the tower, building and repairing the tower, building it higher and higher.
The giant petpetpets were a breed he had found in an isle to the north. Normally, he would have feared that they would have eaten him, but he soon found out that they were very peaceful creatures. They only wanted to build and harvest, and would fight only as a last resort. Not to mention that they lived for only seven days at most, so they needed someone to command them to build and harvest, and manage some of their matters. Altair had helped their first generation when they had been very young, and now the entire colony was loyal to him to the very end.
For now, they built houses and nests aside from the tower, which they lifted higher and higher by slotting in floors below. They were very efficient, Altair had to admit that. They harvested resources, but they knew when to stop and so the resources replenished themselves over and over again. Imagine, Altair thought, maybe in the future there will be games where Neopets keep petpetpets in small enclosures and then run them and make the petpetpets build. No, that is a rather ridiculous idea.
It was getting late, which was probably the reason why Altair was fantasizing about such unreal thoughts, which was not like him. He was a very pragmatic person, and never meandered from his goal, so such a thought was all the more unusual.
The tower itself was made up of red stone that the petpetpets harvested in abundance and so could be used to make the tower. Altair was lucky that the petpetpets were rather smart, and were able to make things like rooms, windows, stairways, corridors and much more in the tower. Altair even thought that they might be able to speak after some training. He shook his head to clear it, there he went again, thinking about ridiculous things.
The tower was cylindrical, and Altair stood on the flat top. He descended from a staircase into the level just below the roof, which was inhabited by other Neopets who helped his cause. For now though, he was not interested in talking to them, and he retired to his bed immediately.
Morning came, and Altair began by sorcerously conjuring a small orb with which he could see all around the tower and below it. It was a sphere made up of crystal. I'll call it a crystal ball, Altair thought, and was surprised that he had not thought of making something like it before.
Altair was one of the few Neopet sorcerers during that time. He was also the very best, showing skills that surpassed even that of the Faeries. It was the break of dawn when he had woken up, and the other Neopets were not awake yet, but he knew the petpetpets would be busy right from the crack of dawn. He descended in an elevator made by magic from his own design to the bottom, where he started managing the affairs of the petpetpets like how many eggs to hatch and other things. The petpetpets had grown exponentially, there were over four hundred of them now. And Altair wanted more. He wanted more petpetpets, because that meant that the tower could be built faster.
And the tower was rising fast. In a period of only four months, the petpetpets had managed to make the tower one-fifth the height of Faerieland, and surely within the year the tower would reach the underside of Faerieland, the Underclouds. Altair was waiting for the moment when that would finally happen.
No matter how hard he had tried, he had not been able to defeat or weaken the ancient wards around Faerieland, for they were of a magic that had existed so long ago that now probably even the Faeries were not capable of removing entirely. If they wanted to reach Faerieland, they would have to do it by building their tower high enough that they could pierce through the clouds and enter Faerieland. It was the only way that they could possibly succeed. It would have been an unthinkable venture if it had not been for the giant petpetpets. They built extremely fast, and their speed was one that Neopets could never attain normally. What Neopets could do in months, these giant petpetpets could do in minutes. They were nature's natural architects. Altair had seen small petpetpets working, and had marveled at what they could do, but he only fully understood their potential when they were life-size.
He raised his head to the firmament to see another glimpse of Faerieland, and an emotion slowly rose up from his chest and engulfed his entire body.
To be continued...