The Vitruvian Wizard: Part Eight
Neopia Central had only one lighthouse, an old rickety tower in the Docklands that overlooked the port. It had been there as long as Septimus could remember, but now he came to think about it – it probably hadn't been there forever.
It had certainly existed since before the time of Judge Irons and the mass-deployment of an electric grid to the city though. And suddenly, it seemed so obvious. It had been a lighthouse before electricity came to the city in reliable forms, so where had the energy to power the light come from?
The machine. It had to be. It had been powering the light all this time, just like the bulb on Septimus's own machine.
Septimus and Viktor made their way straight for the Docklands as soon as the night coach dropped them in the city. In the darkness, they could see the lighthouse's beam shining out across the bay, protecting the ships and the docks from each other.
The docks at night were not deserted, but they weren't filled with their usual hustle and bustle either. Septimus moved quickly through the shadows of the warehouses – the Thieves Guild may have left Neopia Central, but there were still plenty of independent tradesmen willing to mug you.
Septimus reached the door to the lighthouse, and took Viktor out of his pack.
"It's locked," Septimus whispered.
"Why are you whispering?" Viktor asked.
"I... don't know," Septimus admitted. "Just seemed like I should be. Anyway, it's locked."
Septimus theatrically tried the door with his free hand to illustrate the point.
"Then we need the key," Viktor suggested. "Is there a keyhole around here?"
Septimus searched around, finding a paper-thin slot carved in the wall next to the door.
"So we need to find a key in a city the size of Neopia Central," Viktor said. "That shouldn't be too hard... only take us a decade or so."
"Wait, this is too small a hole to hold a metal key, it must be something thinner, and wider," Septimus considered, taking off his backpack. "There was a bookmark in Thornpipe's journal – but perhaps it wasn't a bookmark."
He rooted around in the journal until he found the small piece of card, which he inserted into the keyhole. The door rumbled slightly, before sliding aside completely.
"It's dark inside," Viktor pointed out.
Septimus summoned a light in his free hand, and they followed the steps down into the darkness.
Voices were coming from below, and Septimus paused on the staircase as it turned a corner, revealing a chamber below. He extinguished his magical light, hoping he hadn't given himself away.
The middle of the chamber was filled by what Septimus had been searching for – the perpetual motion device. It was far bigger than his own, easily the size of a carriage. The metal rings swung around the orb which seemed to course with electric current, the whole thing floating in the air.
Three figures stood around the sphere, all of them instantly familiar to Septimus.
There was Konstantin Lombardo – the Blumaroo's black cape billowing in a draft created by the spinning of the device.
Next to him here was Bromide Galloway, still in his white grab and looking even paler in the reflection of the white sphere.
And then, finally, there was an old green Techo in a tatty cape – Professor Bungle.
So he had known. He'd been in on it from the very start, Septimus realised. It was a cover up that went all the way to the top.
"You're sure he built one?" Bungle was saying.
"He showed me it," Lombardo answered.
"Then things will get a lot harder," Bungle said. "Containing one machine was hard enough. Neopia's going to be littered with towers by the time we're finished."
"That's the least of our troubles, Bungle," Galloway said scathingly. "If, as Konstantin said, he accidentally let slip about the lighthouse's true nature, he'll be heading here. If the two contraptions meet..."
"I'm aware of the consequences," Bungle snapped.
"There's something more going on here," Viktor whispered to Septimus. "This is bigger than a free energy machine."
Viktor had been talking quietly, and over the hum of the machine below them Septimus was sure they wouldn't be heard, but even so Lombardo turned sharply to face them.
"It isn't a case of 'if' any longer," he sneered.
Septimus lost his footing on the stairs and toppled down, landing in a heap at the base. Viktor's skull shot forwards, stopping in front of Bungle.
"Ah, Viktor," he said. "The Necromancy division has been looking for you. They seem to think you were stolen."
"A great wizard like me could never be stolen!" Viktor countered.
"I thought as much," Bungle nodded. "And Mr. Crossthatch, too. May I be the first to welcome you back to Neopia Central. I hear you have been very busy."
"What's going on here!?" Septimus demanded as he righted himself on the floor. "My formulas were right! And you kicked me out of the Museum for it!"
"Has he brought the device?" Galloway demanded.
Bungle's harsh stare was suddenly replaced with a look of abject horror.
"Septimus, tell me you didn't bring it!" he shouted.
"You mean this?" Septimus asked, getting his version of the motion device out of his pack.
He noticed Bungle, Galloway, and Lombardo collectively inhale.
"Septimus, if you never follow any of my orders, follow this one," Bungle said loudly and clearly. "Run!"
At that moment, the orb inside the larger device shot out a bolt of energy and connected with the smaller one, fusing the energies of the pair together.
"Too late," Galloway whispered.
The glow of the larger orb intensified, and once more Septimus saw the evil eye of the creature moving within. But this time it seemed bigger, and more solid. The white glow abruptly changed to an acid green, and the creature became clearer still – Septimus could make out gangly, alien limbs, and an evil, toothy grin.
Galloway stepped forwards towards the beast.
"You stand against the greatest wizard this planet holds!" he yelled, attempting to muster some magic against it.
The beast let out an ethereal roar, and a brief white flash followed. Galloway fell back against the wall.
Another flash came, this time the same acid green in colour. Septimus found himself forced back by a shockwave, hitting his head hard against the wall and slumping down against it.
As Septimus's vision blurred, he saw the room forced into darkness, the glow of the machine's orb gone. From the direction of Lombardo, he thought he saw a pair of glowing green eyes, and then Septimus slumped forwards.
Septimus came to with a firm slap across the face from Professor Bungle.
"What was that for?" Septimus asked, rubbing his face.
"I didn't have time to get you water, and I needed you awake," Bungle said bluntly. "Get up, and bring Viktor. The more wizards we have, the better, even if they are missing bodies."
Bungle stood up and went over to Galloway as Septimus recovered Viktor.
"Poor old man, never stood a chance," Bungle muttered. "Brave, though."
"What just happened?" Septimus asked, regarding the machine.
It now lay lifeless, the metal rings scattered on the floor and the central orb smashed.
"The machine's broken?" Septimus added. "I thought you were all saying it couldn't be turned off?"
"I never lied to you, Septimus," Bungle said, sitting down to catch his breath on a fallen barrel. "Perpetual motion is not possible. The equations do not truly balance. There is no such thing as a free meal, so to speak."
"We made the same mistake, all those years ago," Bungle added. "Thornpipe, Lombardo, and Galloway. I was just a research intern involved in their project to do the leg work... after what happened, Thornpipe never trusted me again. Initially we thought we had stumbled on the secret to unlimited energy, but then, when we saw the creature... the ghost in the machine... it became clear we were merely drawing energy from a previously unknown source. That's why the machine worked, because it was draining magic from the creature... it's stopped working now, because the creature has been freed."
"Freed?" Septimus asked. "You trapped it in the machine?"
"No," Bungle said. "A Faerie visited the Museum soon after we finished the device. Still to this day I don't know how they knew we were working on it. It was her that explained it to us. The creature, it was a being they knew as Drevni."
"The name doesn't seem familiar."
"It didn't to us, either," Bungle agreed. "No record in Neopian history. It was never clear if Drevni was the name of the individual or the species, but from what the Faerie told us, we hoped there could never be more than one. It was a fantastically powerful magical beast, back in the days before Neopets had evolved speech. The Faeries fought it, a giant battle that united them. Apparently that's how Fyora became their Queen, by joining them together against this powerful enemy. There was a great battle on an island off the coast of what's now Altador. Apparently even now the ground is made of lodestone, charged from the battle."
"Loadstone..." Septimus wondered. "So that's where Thornpipe knew to get such a big piece for the Expellibox."
"But it wasn't enough," Bungle added. "Even with the combined might of all the Faeries, they couldn't destroy Drevni. They could only imprison him. Then they had the problem of what to imprison him in. A being that powerful, there was only one prison that could hold him, the universe itself."
"Woven into the very fabric of the universe," Bungle said. "And that way it remained, until we discovered what we thought was perpetual motion. It acted like a hole in the bars of his cell, the longer the device was turned on, the more of his energy would be allowed to bleed into this world, until he could escape."
"The Faerie helped us device a countermeasure. The three towers you visited... this lighthouse, the ivory tower, and the dark tower. All part of it, a net, covering the hole in the cell which the device punched. It was hoped that would be the end of it, with Museum directors given orders to suppress further investigations into the area. No one ever dreamed that someone would create a second device. When you brought the two together, the gap in the cell, so to speak, widened more than the three towers could cover. Drevni is free."
"Then where is Lombardo?" Septimus asked.
"Dead," Bungle answered. "His soul was burned. But Drevni has taken his body, if that's what you mean. The creature will take time to adapt to this universe after so long away from it, so he needed to take a host. Would have been a lot easier for us if he had picked Viktor, but it appears luck is not on our side."
"Was that a jibe about me having no legs?" Viktor asked accusingly.
"So what happens next?" Septimus asked.
"Next?" Bungle said, standing back up. "We track down Lombardo's body and try to stop this while the creature is still weakened. If it manages to complete its incubation and creates a physical form for itself, we're about finished. Consider yourself reinstated to the Museum, Septimus. I need all the help I can get."
He set off back up the stairs. "Bring Viktor, as well. If all else fails we can throw him down Drevni's throat and hope he chokes on it."
"Where are we going?" Septimus asked, hastily scooping up Viktor.
"He managed to walk out of here, but he was burning up energy he needs," Bungle shouted down the stairs. "He'll fall unconscious soon, and provided that doesn't happen on one of the Dockland's darker streets, he'll only end up in one place."
Septimus nodded, emerging out into the night air. "The hospital."
To be continued...