The Vitruvian Wizard: Part Five
Bracegirdle Yard was the formal name of the area of the Neopian Plaza where the Pound, Defenders Headquarters, and the Neopian Hospital were located. Hardly anyone used the name anymore, but as Manzazuu and Rasputin had more experience of exploring the city through maps than on foot, they were one of the 'hardly anyone'.
Manzazuu had further enchanted the rib-pen to act as a homing compass, and the sight of a cape-clad wizard wielding a shard of bone and a ghost bursting through the front doors of Accident and Emergency would normally have caused quite a few heads to turn.
Thankfully, Bracegirdle Hospital was the peculiar type of inner-city hospital where, unless you were bleeding, screaming, or missing a limb, no one much paid you any attention as they normally had bigger problems to deal with. As a result, Manzazuu was able to slip off down a side corridor with Rasputin in pursuit. The rib-pen spun in the Wocky's hand, pointing them away from the more hectic areas of the Hospital.
"Where's he at?" Rasputin whispered behind Manzazuu. "He can't be here with whoever stole him if he's not in the wards."
"Perhaps the thief is a member of the staff?" Manzazuu considered, turning a corner.
They had reached the more academic areas of the Hospital, where lectures were given to the young doctors just starting their careers. The rib-pen abruptly spun in Manzazuu's hand, pointing into one of the rooms. A smile spread across the Wocky's faced that was only equalled in the speed at which it disappeared when the door opened. Manzazuu visibly deflated.
"What is it?" Rasputin asked, still in the corridor.
He drifted through Manzazuu's body for a better view of the room, and immediately saw what the Wocky had seen.
"Oh," he supplied dejectedly.
It was a small lecture theatre, and at the front, right next to the blackboard, there was a display case. Inside, there was a spinal chord. A teaching model.
"It must have located the wrong body part," Rasputin said.
"We broke into the bank!" Manzazuu cried. "We wasted time we could have been working on the Gap, for this!?"
"Well, we have this one now," Rasputin supplied with optimism. "We can do the locating spell again and find him."
"Viktor's body was sold off centuries ago," Manzazuu replied. "There are little bits of him buried all over the place. We'd be traipsing all over the city for days, and that's if we got lucky and none of his body parts have made it abroad. No, Rasputin, Professor Bungle was right. This is a fool's errand. Let's get back to the Museum and see what we can do there."
Rasputin nodded sadly, before glancing back to the display case.
"We might as well take this back with us, after we've come all this way," he pointed out. "If we ever find Viktor, I'm sure he'd be happy to be reunited with it. And it's not like we can get in any more trouble, we've already robbed a bank."
Manzazuu reluctantly agreed and smashed the glass. He was glad that this time, no alarms went off.
Alvare Thornpipe had indeed been quite mad at the time of his death.
As if magical failures like the Twelve Ways, the Qasalan Expellibox, or the Self-Sneezing Prosthetic Nose were not evidence enough of it, Thornpipe had taken his lunacy to his grave. Literally.
He was the owner of the world's first, and last, recyclable tomb.
King Hephati-Ra the Third, Emperor of the Eastern Sun, had died some time in the 3rd century BN. His tomb had been worked on for most of his life, and was completed soon before his death, taking its place among the grandest Gebmids in desert. Hephati-Ra was buried along with his most treasured possessions and that, by rights, should have been the end of it.
Had it not been for Thornpipe's madness, it might well have been. The old wizard had requisitioned it and converted it so that Hephati-Ra's perfectly mummified remains would biodegrade, and then sent directions that upon his death, the Professor was to be entombed there as well. In time, Thornpipe's body too would be lost to the sands, and someone new would be able to use the Gebmid.
What he hadn't thought about was the steady stream of mortal possessions that would be left behind by the tomb's previous occupants, eventually filling it to bursting – as such, the idea never caught on.
It wasn't even as if tomb raiders would come in an empty the place out occasionally. Thornpipe's reputation as a deranged wizard was so great that everyone assumed the place had the most dangerous traps in the desert and steered well clear.
Septimus's guides certainly didn't want to push their luck, and left him several dunes away. When he was sure he was alone, the Nimmo took Viktor's skull out of his backpack.
"At last!" he shouted. "Do you have any idea how musty that pack is!? I've communed with spirits who were still alive when your great grandfather was still a baby, I deserve better treatment than this!"
"You know full well they would have asked more questions if I had turned up with a magic talking skull," Septimus replied, as he made his way up the next dune. "Especially one with as much attitude as you."
"What are we going to do about the traps?" Viktor asked, changing the subject. "Mad wizards always have the best evil traps, you know. They'll be devious."
"They'll be absent, is what they'll be," Septimus said as he crested the dune, revealing the Gebmid ahead.
It was a magnificent structure. Desert locals probably would have complained if Thornpipe himself had constructed a Gebmid that large, but because it was pre-existing they hadn't minded half as much. Septimus could sense the latent magic on the rocks, it had been enchanted to shine golden in the sunlight.
"What do you mean, absent!?" Viktor demanded, completely missing the splendour of the Gebmid.
"Thornpipe may have been insane, but his mind hadn't evaporated," Septimus explained, starting out for the entrance. "It had just popped out for lunch somewhere. He still had sense, a logic to his actions. Even if it was detached from reality. That much is clear after seeing the Expellibox."
"So, if you have a reputation as being an insane wizard, people are going to steer clear of your tomb in case you have similarly insane traps," Septimus answered. "So why bother installing them? Quicker, and a lot less effort, to just skip the traps entirely. No one will ever know the difference."
"You'd bet your life on that?" Viktor asked.
"We need answers," Septimus replied. "And they lie inside. We have to go in, either way."
With that, he lit a magical fire in his free hand, and plunged on into the darkness.
The tomb itself was still filled with the riches of King Hephati-Ra's reign, gold gleamed in the magical fire as Septimus lit the torches in the wall brackets. With that done, he deposited Viktor on top of the sarcophagus and set to work looking.
"You think he kept some sort of journal then?" he called back to the skull.
"Almost certainly," Viktor clicked confidently. "If there's some secret surrounding a cover up of perpetual motion, it'll be somewhere in this room. I can almost feel it. It's close, I'm sure."
"These are all tablets about Hephati-Ra's rule," Septimus told him. "Nothing about Thornpipe. He lived almost like a hermit after he left the Museum, maybe he didn't take his journal with him?"
"I know where there'll be something," Viktor answered darkly.
Viktor used his jaw bone to bang on the lid of the sarcophagus twice. The noise echoed around the dusty room.
"I think that's crossing a line," Septimus said.
"Listen," Viktor snapped. "You try having your body sold off, piece by piece, and living on a shelf in the basement of a museum for a few centuries. Then you can tell me something about disrespecting the dead, yes? Now open up the coffin and let's have a look at him."
Septimus sighed and scooped the skull back up, before pushing with all his might against the sarcophagus lid. It slid off easily, falling to the floor and breaking clean in two, kicking up dust and obscured the contents for a few moments. Septimus briefly hoped that Thornpipe had not been cursed by whatever Viktor had been. He didn't think he could cope with two annoying possessed skulls to baby-sit.
Thankfully as the dust cleared, it seemed that Thornpipe had remained fairly inanimate in death. The Draik's skeleton stared back up at them silently.
"There!" Viktor shouted suddenly, giving Septimus a fright.
Thornpipe's skeleton was clutching a dusty tome in its claws. Carefully the Nimmo prized it away, before setting the skeleton's arms back how they had been.
"Not much point in putting the cover back on now, I suppose," he said, gesturing to the broken lid.
"Enough about that, open it!" Viktor commanded.
Setting Viktor down on a nearby shelf, Septimus put the book down next to him and began to read.
"It's a journal, alright," he said as he read. "Seems to start just as he gets a position at the museum... before he was head of department, even. A complete record of his academic career."
"Anything about perpetual motion?" Viktor asked.
"Not yet... and it's not as if he'd just be talking about it so openly if it was a big secret," Septimus answered. "Aha! Here's something. Apparently he's thinking about talking to Lombardo about a project."
"Konstantin Lombardo?" Viktor asked excitedly. "The former Necromancy head? Even if it's not what we're looking for, it should be decidedly evil!"
"Apparently Lombardo agreed to take part, and they recruited another... Galloway? I don't know that name."
"Bromide Galloway?" Viktor gasped. "If he was involved, it must be something big... he was a big name, back then. Left the Museum just before Lombardo was kicked out. Said it was holding him back. Had grand dreams that one, thought he was better than everyone else."
"Galloway agreed, and they got approval from the then head of department," Septimus continued to read. "They were assigned an intern to do the leg work, and started work on... this is it! A perpetual motion machine! Viktor, they really did it! My calculations! He's using the same formula – I knew I was right!"
Septimus turned the page and went silent.
"What is it?" Viktor asked.
The Nimmo lifted up the book so Viktor could see. It was a sketch, a diagram of something they had built.
It was a complicated looking machine. Concentric circles of metal surrounding a small globe, each circle apparently moving independently to orbit the globe in different directions. The whole thing seemed to be magically suspended in the air while the rings were spinning.
"It's a perpetual motion machine, Viktor," Septimus explained. "This goes beyond just a theory that was covered up by people who didn't believe it. They actually built one."
Septimus watched the cogs turn in Viktor's mind.
"...can you build one too?"
To be continued...