The Vitruvian Wizard: Part Six
Septimus cornered the first wizard he could find in the Expellibox when he got back to Qasala. Thankfully Henry Dorchester appeared to have gone home for the night so Septimus was able to successfully con the wizard into believing he had been given special permission to do a little experimentation. He handed the wizard a list of the materials he would need and half an hour later was shown into his own private work room, finding all the materials he would need waiting.
He took Viktor and the journal out of his pack and set them down on the work table, before setting about his task.
"This seems like quite a... large machine," Viktor observed from the desk. "You sure you have enough stuff here to build it?"
"It was sixty years or more ago when they built this," Septimus answered as he applied some magic to a strip of metal. "Magical technology has move on since then. I'm going to try and construct a smaller, more portable version. Means I have to use different materials that weren't available back then."
"You're going to construct a potentially dangerous magical machine, and ignore the instructions?" Viktor asked. "That's the sort of magic I like! I'm warming to you already."
"Nothing to do with trying to be evil," Septimus added hastily. "I just don't fancy lugging something the size of a carriage back to Neopia Central when we're finished."
Viktor watch Septimus work for the next several hours, occasionally chipping in with a piece of useless advice or an irrelevant anecdote about when he still had a body. The machine at last was finished in the early hours of the morning, and Septimus proudly placed it on the work bench.
It looked exactly like the one in the sketch, except scaled down. It was now the size of a desk lamp. The sphere in the centre was a deep red colour, and each of the concentric rings a different colour of the rainbow. The entire thing rested inside of a half moon cradle, and Septimus had placed a small light bulb top it to check if it was actually producing energy.
"It doesn't seem to be doing much," Viktor commented.
"It haven't turned it on yet," Septimus said. "It's a perpetual motion machine, but it needs a small injection of magical energy just to get it turning, then it carries on by itself. Ready?"
Viktor did the closest he could get to a nod. Septimus stretched out his hand and let a little spark of energy touch the machine.
It sprang to life immediately, each of the circles of metal spinning in a different direction, and the entire contraption lifting out of the cradle to float in the air. As the circles span, the sphere in the centre began to change colour, changing from deep red into a charged, magical white that seemed to shimmer. The light bulb on the top of the cradle meanwhile had lit up and was burning brightly.
"It works!" Septimus shouted, a smile on his face. "It really works!"
"Why did they cover this up?" Viktor asked in amazement. "It could have changed the world!"
Septimus nodded slightly, transfixed by the machine. He stared through the spinning circles at the charged sphere at the heart of it all.
"Amazing..." he breathed.
The sphere had his full attention, and it almost seemed to him that it was changing somehow, moving in a way that was different from the rhythm of the machine.
Then there was sudden movement, a ripple in the sphere that seemed to change the colours, and Septimus found himself staring directly into the eye of a creature. At once he was struck with a sense of abject horror, and instinctively recoiled from the machine.
"What is it?" Viktor asked.
Septimus looked again at the sphere, but the eye was gone. The sphere was charged white once more.
"There was an eye... in the machine..." Septimus said. "I think we should turn it off for now."
He moved forwards and tried to grab one of the circles to bring the machine to a stop, but found himself magically repelled.
"Oh, must generate a magical inertia field," Septimus observed.
He stretched out his hand, intending to bring the machine to a stop with magic, but found himself equally repelled as if he had done it by hand.
"Let me guess, you can't turn it off?" Viktor groaned.
"No..." Septimus admitted. "There must be something in the journal."
He began to leaf through the journal, getting progressively more desperate as the pages turned.
"There's nothing," he said at last. "After the diagram, it just goes dead on the subject and moves onto other things, like it didn't even happen. There's just a weird bookmark. They must have faced the same problem, surely?"
"It's a problem?"
"Not at the moment, but it will be," Septimus explained. "The amount of energy this thing produces increases by a microscopic amount... over time, it could build up to potentially dangerous levels."
Septimus scratched his head, deep in thought.
"Thornpipe's given us all the help we're going to get," Viktor said at last. "It's time we went to a more... living person."
"Lombardo?" Septimus asked. "Your old necromancer?"
"No, I don't know where he went after he left the museum," Viktor answered. "But Galloway, the other wizard involved in the project, I know exactly where he went. He has a tower in Brightvale. If he was involved in the project, he'll be able to tell us more."
Septimus glanced back to the device, still chilled by the sight of the menacing eye.
"Then we go to Brightvale."
Professor Bungle banged the gavel as hard as he could on the desk, trying to bring the arguing squabble in front of him to some form of order.
He had called together all the remaining wizards in the magical research department, and they were temporarily using the museum's canteen to conduct their meeting.
"Well, any new ideas?" he said at last when the crowd of wizards were finally silent.
"I've been investigating the idea of plugging the hole," a high pitched Pteri spoke up in the back.
"Any results?" Bungle asked.
"Not yet," the Pteri admitted. "We'd need to manufacture some sort of giant cork, I think."
"We don't need to plug the hole!" Manzazuu spoke up loudly from the front row.
There were several muffled groans as some of the wizards noticed who it was that was speaking.
"I've been communing with creatures in the Void," Manzazuu added. "Apparently, the Gap has already closed."
"What?" Bungle questioned. "There's a pool of liquid magic leaking into the foundations of the city, Doctor, it clearly hasn't solved itself."
"No no, you misunderstand," Manzazuu explained. "Imagine that the Gap was a wound in the universe. The universe's blood, magic, has poured in to sterilise and seal the wound. No more magic is leaking through the tear now. All that's left is the excess magic on top – a magical scab, if you like."
"So the problem's not going to get any worse, but it won't get any better either," Bungle considered. "Any ideas for how we get rid of magical scabs?"
"Siphoning off the energy into something else would be a sensible way to do it," Manzazuu suggested. "Unfortunately, most of the artefacts we had capable of holding such power went up with the explosion that caused this in the first place."
"So we need to find something capable of holding a lot of magical energy," Bungle nodded. "Thank you, Friedrich. Now we have a goal we can work towards. Everyone is to put all of their efforts into this, understood?"
A chorus of half-hearted agreements came back at him.
Bungle smiled. There was hope yet.
Bromide Galloway had a large tower on the outskirts of Brightvale, a pure white in colour that seemed to mimic the architecture of Brightvale Castle itself.
"Hah!" Viktor cackled from Septimus's hands as they approached the tower. "Galloway was always such a straight arrow back at the museum! It's good to see he's gone a little evil in his old age!"
"What do you mean?" Septimus asked.
"That's not white brickwork, kid," Viktor laughed. "He's constructed himself an ivory tower!"
"Ivory?" Septimus questioned, gazing up at the tower which must have stretched half a mile upwards. "Where did he find a creature with tusks that big?"
"It must have been a fantastic battle!" Viktor shouted with glee.
They had reached the foot of the tower, and Septimus knocked on the wall, feeling a small tinge of magic bouncing back.
"No battle at all," he said. "He's made this using alchemy."
"No battle?" Viktor asked sadly.
"Still very impressive magic to change the structure of a building this size," Septimus considered.
He knocked on the door, and found that it opened of its own accord.
"Guess that's an invitation?" Septimus asked, as he walked inside.
The staircase snaked up for what seemed like hours. Every single door they found was very firmly locked, leading them further upwards towards the tower's peak. There they found a study, with a white robed wizard standing this his back to them, busy with something at his desk.
"I don't often have visitors," the wizard greeted them, not bothering to turn. "Most of the locals assume I would hex them somehow if they entered. I must say, considering Brightvale has a reputation as a place of learning, it really is full of the most peculiar idiots. Of course this can only mean that you are not from around here. You no doubt know that I am Bromide Galloway. So who are you? And what do you want?"
"My name is Septimus Crosshatch," the Nimmo answered him. "I'm from the... well, I'm not precisely from there any more, but... Neopia Central. I'm from Neopia Central."
"An urbanite," Galloway said with disgust.
"And you already know me," Viktor spoke up from his place in Septimus's arms.
"That voice..." Galloway whispered, at last turning to see them.
He was a white Gnorbu, skinny to the point of boniness. Combined with the white sheen of the tower and his white garbs, it made him look even paler, like some sort of spirit.
"Viktor, it is you," Galloway said with distaste. "So, when you said you are from Neopia Central, what you in fact meant was that you were from the museum, yes? Those cretins have finally realised the error of their ways and sent for the greatest wizard of all time? Hah! I heard about your problems with this Gap, and let me tell you, I wouldn't help you if I was the last wizard on the planet. I am above such things. My research is farm ore important than some minor town planning issues."
He returned to his work as if Septimus and Viktor were not there.
"We're not here because of that," Septimus corrected him. "And, like I said, we're not precisely with the museum any more either."
"So you want to become my apprentice?" Galloway asked. "Not possible. A wizard as great as I does not need help."
"If you'd listen for five minutes we could tell you what we want!" Viktor snapped. "We're here about perpetual motion!"
Galloway froze, the book he had been examining falling back to the workbench.
"So you've come at last, eh?" he said, turning back to them.
If possible, his face was even paler.
"We thought we hid our little secret well," he added. "Clearly not well enough."
"We need to know how to turn it off," Septimus said.
Galloway laughed. "Turn it off? If we were able to do that, don't you think we would have done it ourselves? No, the answer to that particular conundrum eluded even a mind as great as mine."
"There's no way to turn it off then?" Septimus asked.
"No!" Galloway shouted. "And if you'd bothered to examine the machine before coming here, you'd know that. I see now what has become of the museum since I left. Idiots, content to piggyback on the discovery of others instead of investigating things for themselves. Leave my tower, I have nothing more to say to the likes of you!"
"You won't help us?" Septimus asked.
"My work is far too important to be bothered with you," Galloway said bluntly. "If you're really that interested, I'm sure Lombardo will indulge your stupidity."
"Lombardo?" Viktor piped up. "You know where he is?"
"Of course!" Galloway scoffed. "He has a tower not unlike this one in the Haunted Woods. You'll find it where the swamp meets the mountains. Now, leave my tower! I have important work to be doing!"
Septimus obliged – Galloway may have seemed like a wizard more interested in his research than anything else, but a wizard capable of transforming an entire tower into ivory was not someone you wanted to make angry.
To be continued...