The Vitruvian Wizard: Part Two
Few people working in the Museum ever really left. The place was so large and possessed so many dusty backrooms that it had become a sort of unofficial tradition for everyone to be given their own lodgings. In the Magical Research Department, these rooms were small, cramped affairs. To the untrained eye, those belonging to new interns like Septimus were no different to the cells of a Meridell dungeon.
But Septimus had done his best to mask the initial impression that his chamber provided. His work plastered the walls, charts, diagrams and hastily scribbled notes covering all but a few of the dull stones. On the wall above his desk, his thesis work was given pride of place.
He called it the Vitruvian Wizard, a mathematical expression of the interrelatedness of magical properties in Neopets. At the centre of the scribbled notes was a painstakingly drawn diagram of an Aisha, limbs outstretched, surrounded by a circle.
It was hardly revolutionary stuff. Centuries before, Neopets had made the link between the sizes and proportions of each species' limbs. Septimus had merely applied it to a magical dimension. For example, if one accepted that a single Bronheim particle was a basic unit of magic, then a Gnorbu living in a standard magical saturation area of average size that could produce a magical fire of twelve Bronheim particles would, by extension be able to levitate a mass no greater than fifty two kilograms. It was a complex equation, of course, but to Septimus it was child's play. He'd easily been able to extrapolate backwards to produce an equation that successfully predicted the total magical power of any given being.
Child's play. It was his thesis, but Septimus had completed most of the work within a month.
His desk, that was filled with his new project. Hastily written notes, scribbled out and rewritten in the dead of night. The equations to perpetual motion.
Septimus sat as his desk and began to double check his equations for the umpteenth time. He was sure he was right, the Professor must have been mistaken.
On his bed, someone cleared their throat. Septimus nearly jumped out of his skin as he spun round.
There was a Moehog skull sitting on his pillow.
"Hello, Crossthatch," the skull said. "Do you know who I am?"
"Viktor Sartre," Septimus answered. "Unless the Museum keeps another talking skull on staff that I don't know about. How did you get in here?"
"I have my ways," Viktor answered mysteriously.
"And your way was...?" Septimus pressed.
Viktor gave a little sigh. "I got a ghost from the necromancy division to levitate me in here. But that's not important, Crossthatch. We have to talk."
"Your discovery," Viktor replied darkly.
Septimus glanced towards the notes that Professor Bungle had disregarded.
"How do you know about that?" Septimus asked.
"Doctor Manzazuu has very loose lips," Viktor told him. "You're not the first, Crossthatch."
"Not the first what?"
"Person to make this discovery," Viktor added. "Others have tried, and the heads of department have always shot them down. Don't give up. You're close to something – something big."
The skull closed his mouth, but opened it a few moments later.
"If I still had my body, that's when I would have swept out dramatically," Viktor explained. "You wouldn't mind putting me outside your door, will you? Rasputin should be along soon to collect me."
Septimus nodded, scooping up the dusty old skull and depositing it on the floor outside his room. Closing the door behind him, he made his way back to his desk and stared at his equations. Had the Professor deliberately tried to stop him working on perpetual motion? Was there some kind of conspiracy going on at the Museum? Either way, he needed to talk to Bungle again.
Bungle was sitting at his desk when the excitable knock came at his door. His face fell a little when he saw Septimus enter.
"Young Crossthatch," he said in considerably more cheerful tones. "Do please sit down. How can I help you today?"
"It's about the equations I showed you yesterday, sir," Septimus said flatly as he sat down opposite the Professor. "I've double checked them. I made no error."
"I can assure you that you did," Bungle replied. "Check again."
Bungle returned to his writing, as if Septimus should excuse himself.
"I did, sir," Septimus maintained. "All night. There is no error. Please, sir, I believe it is you who is wrong."
Bungle stopped writing and stared at the Nimmo through his thick glasses.
"Very well," he relented. "I was trying to save a lot of awkwardness, Crossthatch. But it appears there is no other way. I expressly forbid any further research on your part into this area."
"What!?" Septimus gasped. "Sir, this is perpetual motion! Why, a machine based on these equations could power everything on the entire planet for the rest of time! This could solve all of society's problems, sir!"
"It is not your area of study," Bungle maintained. "Vitruvian theories are what you applied to the Museum to research. You will continue to research them."
"You're sweeping this under the carpet?" Septimus demanded. "We're scientists, sir! We ask these sorts of questions!"
"And yet some questions should not be asked," Bungle told him. "Perpetual motion does not work, Crossthatch. That is my final word on the matter."
"I refuse," Septimus said defiantly.
"You heard me," Septimus answered. "I refuse to stop working on this. It is too important."
Bungle gave another little sigh.
"Very well, Crossthatch," he supplied. "You leave me no choice. The Museum cannot tolerate employees who do not follow the orders of their superiors. I am forced to let you go. You have an hour to vacate the premises – and no further access to Museum property and equipment."
"You're sacking me?" Septimus gasped.
"Yes," Bungle replied. "Please collect your things and leave."
With this, Bungle once more returned to his writing, leaving Septimus to show himself out.
It was an effective way of stopping his research. Without access to Museum equipment, Septimus had no hope of constructing a working model to test his theories. He could hardly afford to buy such things himself, after all. But Septimus was not yet out of ideas. Before leaving, he paid one last visit to the necromancy division.
He found it mostly deserted. Manzazuu and the ghost Rasputin must have been out somewhere. Viktor, though, was still placed on his shelf.
"How did it go?" the skull clicked as Septimus approached.
"Not well, I've been sacked," he answered. "But before I go, I need information. What do you know about all this? You said I'm not the first."
"Since the days of Professor Thornpipe there's been a steady stream of young interns like you coming up with perpetual motion," Viktor explained. "The head of department has always killed it flat. Even Thornpipe himself believed in the theories at one point, though later on he completely denied it and dismissed the idea as stupid."
Alvare Thornpipe, widely known as the most insane wizard ever to grace Neopia, had once been the Head of Department.
"There's something else," Viktor added. "You heard of Lombardo?"
"Konstantin Lombardo?" Septimus asked. "The dark wizard that used to run the necromancy division? I heard he was sacked, what's he got to do with this?"
"He used to be friends with Thornpipe, good friends," Viktor explained. "Before Lombardo was sacked, he told me something in confidence. He said that Thornpipe had taken a secret with him to the grave. If you're leaving the Museum, that's where I'd look next. Take me with you – I've been cooped up in the basement of this Museum for centuries now. I want some fresh air for a change."
Septimus nodded. "Why are you helping me?"
"If it's a secret that Lombardo was interested in, then it must be an exceptionally evil secret," Viktor said with some delight. "That Lombardo always was a warlock after my own heart. Something that evil, I want to know what it is!"
"Well, thank you," Septimus added, leaning forwards to scoop up the magical talking skull.
Alvare Thornpipe. Before his death, he had retired to the Lost Desert. That's where his tomb would be. And that was where Septimus needed to go.
Manzazuu burst into Bungle's office without knocking, the lonely figure of Rasputin the ghost floating in behind him like an unwilling henchman.
"He's been stolen!" Manzazuu shouted.
Bungle finished the report he was reading before he looked up.
"Viktor, of course!"
"The skull?" Bungle questioned. "What would anyone want with a talking skull? Let alone one as annoying as Viktor. Are you sure he hasn't wandered off somewhere?"
"He has no legs!" Manzazuu pointed out.
Bungle gazed past the Wocky, towards the ghost Zafara hovering in the doorway. He peered over his glasses at the figure, in a way that only figures of authority can.
"As I understand it, the more... bodily challenged members of the necromancy division have been carrying him around places by means of levitation," Bungle said, with the air of someone making it clear they don't approve. "Perhaps Rasputin left him somewhere?"
"I didn't, sir," Rasputin piped up. "I left him on his shelf a few hours ago, I'm sure of it. He can't have moved by himself, and we're the only ones with the authority to access our office."
"Or the desire to," Bungle admitted.
"So you see, the only explanation is that he has been stolen!" Manzazuu repeated. "We must launch an investigation immediately!"
"Friedrich, please," Bungle replied dismissively. "You really think I have nothing better to do than allocate Museum resources to locating a talking skull? It may have escaped your notice, but the department is currently running at half strength, and there is a dimensional rift seeping magic into the heart of the city which we have been tasked with cleaning up. Something we plainly have no idea how to do. I have a meeting with Judge Hog later on today, and I'm going to have to explain to him that we can do nothing. Mr. Jennings may even be there, and you know how much talking to him... perturbs me. Finding Viktor is not a priority for me right now. Frankly, he is a lot more trouble than he is worth, anyway. Good luck to whoever stole him, I say. Now please, I have serious work to do."
Reluctantly, Manzazuu left the old Techo to his work. Out in the corridor, Rasputin caught up to him.
"It's not as if he expressly forbade an investigation, sir," he considered. "Just that we can't have anyone extra to help."
"A fat lot of good that is," Manzazuu sighed. "Two wizards, finding a skull in a city this size?"
"Well, we could always try a locating spell?" Rasputin suggested. "Oh, but we'd need something that belonged to him... and I don't think his favourite tea cosy would qualify."
Manzazuu gasped, "Or part of his body! His bones!"
"We have... other bits of him, sir?" Rasputin asked.
"Not on the premises, no," Manzazuu answered. "Most of his skeleton was sold off centuries ago to pay off Museum debts – but I do know exactly where one of his rib bones ended up!"
Manzazuu turned to face Rasputin with a look of maddened glee that only a professional necromancer could manage.
"We're going to break into the National Neopian!"
To be continued...