Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 190,382,103 Issue: 573 | 7th day of Celebrating, Y14
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The Vitruvian Wizard: Part One


by herdygerdy

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The carriage pulled slowly to a stop outside the Neolodge. From there, the occupant had a clear view of Rydall Park, in the very heart of Neopia Central.

     The green Grarrl got off the top and opened the door.

     "Sir?" he questioned the Krawk inside. "I thought you said that today, we were going to start rebuilding the city?"

     The Krawk smiled sadly, trying hard to let circumstances take his mind off recent events. "We are. Do you have the equipment?"

     The Grarrl nodded, popping back up to his seat and delivering down a small brown package. The Krawk unwrapped it, revealing a crossbow.

     He took it in hand with a natural air, and positioned his aim far across the park.

     "I don't understand how shooting at wizards helps rebuild the city, sir," the Grarrl commented, squinting to see the target.

     "Little things snowball into big things, Mr. Black," the Krawk pointed out. "We play long games. Besides, I'm not aiming for the wizard, I'm aiming for the tree."

     The Krawk pulled the trigger, and the arrow sailed away, streaming through the park and disappearing into the foliage of a large apple tree. A moment later, an apple fell from the branches and very firmly hit an electric Nimmo sitting below. It bounced off his head with a satisfying clunk, and at once the Nimmo's eyes lit up.

     "Apples, Mr. Black," the Krawk observed as he climbed back into the carriage, "can change the world."

     ***

     The Gap.

     That was what the people of Neopia Central had come to call the place where the Twelve Ways had been. On account of the fact that you had to mind it – falling in tended to result in death, or worse, talking shrubberies.

     The wizards had caused it, of course. Just as they had caused the magical infusion of twelve gridlocked carriageways that had been the Twelve Ways. But now that was over, a large number of the Museum's wizards had accidentally driven a large number of highly erratic magical artefacts into its heart, and the resulting explosion had levelled city blocks for a mile.

     The fires had died, leaving behind the Gap.

     It was a pool, green in colour, roughly a mile in diameter. Like a great scar that had been cut into the city, the locals had immediately assumed that the strange glowing liquid it was filled with was perhaps something radioactive, or leakage from the sewers.

     But the wizards knew different.

     It was magic. Raw magic. Leaking into the world through a tear in reality. And somehow, that hole needed to be plugged. The greatest minds in the Museum's magical department were working around the clock thinking of possible solutions.

     It was merely a problem that most of the Museum's greatest minds had gone up in the explosion. The faculty had been instantly reduced by half, and although immediately after there was hope that the victims would become ghosts and join the necromancy division, those hopes were quickly dashed. No help from beyond the grave was coming. The wizards had to solve it themselves.

     This was the dilemma facing the current head of the Magical Research Department, Moriarty Bungle, as he stared into the pulsating waves of the Gap.

     The green Techo was brought out of his thinking by a grey Wocky approaching. Although Bungle wore the typical trappings of his office (a long white beard, thick glasses, and a significant stoop), the newcomer went out of his way to buck the trend. Instead, he had a finely trimmed black goatee, and an elegant purple cape.

     "Doctor Manzazuu," Bungle greeted the current head of the necromancy division with little enthusiasm. "Can I help you?"

     "I have been thinking," the Wocky announced.

     "Wonderful," Bungle replied meekly.

     He didn't like it when wizards in the necromancy division began thinking – they had normally been relocated there for the express purpose of being forgotten about.

     "This problem obviously isn't going to be solved by anyone currently in the Department," Manzazuu explained.

     "You are so sure?" Bungle questioned. "It took us hundreds of years to come up with a solution to the problem of the Bronheim Clock."

     "I doubt, in this case, that the city will allow us to wait that long without a solution," Manzazuu said politely. "But, I have an alternative. We can summon up the spirits of former members of faculty. Perhaps, with a meeting of so many esteemed minds, we will be able to think of something that we are missing."

     "Professor Volgan tried that once, before I had even gained my doctorate," Bungle replied dismissively. "All it resulted in was a three day long argument between deceased wizards with egos the size of planets. It never got us anywhere. No, the answer lies in our midst, I am sure of it."

     "There must be something we can do to increase our chances," Manzazuu lamented.

     "If you feel like contacting exiled wizards, by all means do," Bungle agreed. "I'm sure Lombardo will jump at the chance to return."

     Bungle watched with small delight the cringe that followed on the face of the Wocky. He had just mentioned the name of Manzazuu's predecessor in the necromancy division. Manzazuu was certainly not a fan of Konstantin Lombardo, but then few people were. It was an empty threat – Bungle disliked the disgraced wizard as much as the next man, but it was still fun to keep his underlings on their toes.

     "Let's get back to the Museum," Bungle added after a little while.

     With one last glance to the gently pulsating pool, the pair turned and began to make their way back towards the Museum. Bungle's heart dropped still further at the sight of another wizard approaching them.

     Manzazuu, whilst not the type of person Bungle at all liked, was an easily controlled man. Placing him in the unimportant and backwater necromancy division had essentially removed him from Bungle's attention. The Wocky simply pottered along in the dark arts, hardly ever bothering anyone who still had a soul. They could go months at a time without so much as seeing each other.

     The wizard that was fast rushing to meet them, however, was not so easily controlled. He was Septimus Crossthatch, part of the young new intake that the department had been forced to enlist to cover the sudden departure of half the faculty. Young, of course, was a relative term in wizard circles. The man, despite being only a research assistant, was already in his fifties.

     Age, whilst certainly a factor in Bungle's dislike of the man, was however not the reason that the old Techo's heart had fallen. Septimus was one of those curious forms of wizard – the seventh son of a seventh son.

     Such circumstances tended to grant the child an extraordinary magical ability. Whilst normal wizards like Bungle had to work for years at their craft for even the slightest success, accolades almost seemed to roll from the mind of a seventh son. Magic, it seemed, was effortless to them. Some of the greatest wizards of all time had been seventh sons.

     And that was what Bungle did not like. Men like Septimus were, in his professional opinion, showing off.

     None of this seemed to matter to the electric Nimmo as he neared the pair of older wizards. If he detected the animosity both felt for him, he was polite enough not to acknowledge it.

     "Professor!" he gasped, flailing a hastily written page of notes at Bungle. "Thank goodness I've found you!"

     Manzazuu coughed gently.

     "And Doctor, of course," Septimus hastily added.

     "What is it, Crossthatch?" Bungle asked irritably. "Running about like a madman... certainly not the way a young wizard gets promoted."

     "I'm sorry, sir," Septimus apologised. "But it is important."

     He flailed the note again, and Bungle eyed it suspiciously. The old Techo had experience with young wizards flailing hastily written scientific discoveries at him. It rarely ended well, and more often than not resulted in talking shrubberies.

     "What have you found, Crossthatch?" Bungle asked with growing dread.

     "Isn't your thesis based around the proportions of magical ability in Neopian species?" Manzazuu asked. "Hardly revolutionary stuff."

     "This isn't about my thesis, sirs," Septimus added. "I stumbled across this quite by accident. This is about perpetual motion."

     Manzazuu gave a deep laugh. "That's a good one! Such theories have been proven impossible generations ago! Perpetual motion machines are a myth."

     "That's what I thought, sir." Septimus nodded. "I thought I must have done the calculations wrong – but I've checked them, sir, they balance. It is possible!"

     Bungle's face had for some reason drained of colour, but he took the paper that Septimus offered and studied the calculations carefully.

     "You forgot to carry the four," Bungle announced eventually.

     Septimus looked crestfallen.

     "Are you sure, sir?" he asked. "I double checked, I was sure."

     "It is nothing to worry about, young Crossthatch," Bungle reassured him. "It happens to the best of us sometimes. I can assure you, though, that perpetual motion is not possible. The greatest minds that have ever passed through our Museum have confirmed as such."

     The Techo handed back the paper, and the two senior wizards continued on their way – Bungle leading with slightly more haste than before. It was not until they were out of sight that Septimus had managed to double check his calculations.

     As far as he could see, he had carried the four. His formula balanced – was the Professor somehow mistaken?

     ***

     The bowels of the Museum's basements were home to the wizards. In corridors covered in cobwebs and lit with flaming torches that looked more like a castle's dungeons than a Museum, they went about their business. The necromancy division was in the deepest and darkest room that the department had to offer.

     It was a small, slightly circular room, filled with shelves that were home to various evil looking potions and apparatus. Three wizards currently called the place their home. Manzazuu nodded to the ghost Zafara, the division's intern, as he entered.

     "Well?" the spirit demanded.

     "He said no, Rasputin," Manzazuu said. "Just like I said he would. No mass spirit summoning for us."

     The ghost looked crestfallen.

     "Would have been nice to have some company," he sighed.

     "And what are we?" Manzazuu asked.

     "Call me old fashioned, but a ghost shouldn't have to spend all his afterlife with a second-hand robed necromancer and a talking skull."

     The room's third occupant, a Moehog skull on one of the shelves, suddenly sprung to life.

     "An evil talking skull!" he stressed.

     "I think you are confusing evil with irritating, Viktor," Manzazuu sniped. "The most evil thing you've done since I got appointed here is hiding my pen in your nostril."

     "It's difficult to be sufficiently evil when you are missing all your limbs!" the skull protested. "I was being evil in this department centuries before you were even born!"

     "So, what's the Professor's plan to deal with the Gap?" Rasputin asked, ignoring Viktor's rant.

     "I'm not sure he has one," Manzazuu said. "Maybe he's going to rely on the new interns coming up with something. I wouldn't have much hope of that happening though – that young Crossthatch came up to us on the way back. Claimed to have discovered perpetual motion, of all things! Young people and their ideas!"

     Rasputin gave a little snigger, but Viktor was strangely silent.

To be continued...

 
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