The Vitruvian Wizard: Part Nine
Hospitals do not sleep.
Unlike the rest of the city, Bracegirdle Yard was alive at all times of the day and night. The citizens of Neopia Central would not let a little thing like darkness get in the way of them injuring themselves in ever more new and inventive ways.
Bungle and Septimus assumed accident and emergency would have been the most likely destination if Lombardo had been brought in. Sadly the forces of hospital admin would not stand aside for the combined might of wizardry, so the pair were forced to wait in line for at least half an hour before talking to the receptionist.
"Yes?" the little Cybunny who looked like she had an attitude twice her size asked.
"We need to know if a Konstantin Lombardo was admitted tonight, probably in the last two hours," Bungle said.
The Cybunny looked down her list, "Lombardo, Lombardo... no, no one by that name admitted tonight. Did he have identification with him?"
"Probably not," Septimus answered, under the thinking that wizards in general rarely carried any.
"Ah," the Cybunny said, reaching for a separate list. "We've had a lot of unknown males in tonight. Must be a full moon or something. Species?"
"Darigan Blumaroo," Septimus told her.
She paused. "Oh."
"Oh what?" Bungle asked.
"We've had one in tonight," she answered. "A few hours ago, like you said – still unconscious. But you can't see him."
"Why not?" Bungle asked.
"He's quarantined," she said. "So is the whole ward he's on. Highly contagious, they are saying."
"Which ward?" Bungle asked.
"I just said it's quarantined!" she snapped. "I can't let you in!"
"We're on official business," Bungle said dismissively. "Don't make me bring the Judge down here."
"Bring him, if you like," the Cybunny replied. "He can't go in either. Quarantined means off limits! To everyone!"
"I've had enough of this!" the muffled voice of Viktor came as he wriggled about in Septimus's backpack.
The Nimmo took him out, and the Cybunny's face became a painting of abject terror.
"Listen, missy," Viktor told her, fixing her with his evil, hollow gaze. "I've been dead for a fair few centuries now, so I'm fairly sure that whatever illness there is, I can't get. I'm also a long dead evil wizard, so I know a fair few things about summoning plagues. Think one ward being sealed off is bad? Try all of them – I invented Scourgies, kiddo. Now tell us which ward it is and we'll be on our way."
"...Ward 10," she answered, unable to take her eyes off the skull.
"Thank you," Viktor chirped happily.
They trio set off down the corridor, following the signs for Ward 10.
"Why would he be contagious?" Septimus asked.
"I don't know," Bungle answered. "We'll know more once we see him. He's still unconscious, she said. That means we still have time."
Septimus opened the next set of double doors, and walked straight into a shove aimed directly for his head.
"Got you!" the voice of Doctor Manzazuu shouted as he jumped out from behind the door. "We've been looking for you for days, but you've finally been caught, you thief! Come on, we're taking you to Judge Hog so you can be thrown in the cells!"
He glanced up at Bungle, adding, "Professor? What are you doing here?"
Bungle helped Septimus back to his feet.
"I thought I specifically told you not to go looking for Viktor any more?" Bungle said. "Does anyone bother to follow my orders any more?"
"But we've found the thief!" Manzazuu protested.
"Viktor went with Septimus willingly, Friedrich," Bungle explained. "And he's helping me with a... little experiment, at the moment."
"Viktor!" Rasputin shouted, appearing out of thin air. "I've missed you!"
"Both of you head back to the Museum, please," Bungle instructed.
"How did you find me?" Viktor asked.
"We tracked down your bones," Manzazuu answered, gesturing to the bag of bones they had brought along. "There was quite a lot of evil magic, we even broke into the bank. I hope you're proud."
"You found my bones!?" Viktor shrieked excitedly.
"As I said, if you could head back to the Museum..." Bungle repeated.
Viktor used his jaw to launch himself up in the air, and he disappeared inside the bag. A brief rustling sound followed, before a deep blue flash came from within.
"He's not doing what I think he's doing, is he?" Manzazuu gasped.
Suddenly, a figure stood up out of the bag. It was a skeleton Moehog, Viktor's skull perched atop the spine.
"I'm back!" he declared, experimentally flailing his arms about.
"This is all wonderful, but you really must be heading back to the Museum..." Bungle pressed.
"This is a body to challenge an immortal all powerful beast from beyond in!" Viktor said. "...though it needs a cape. Manzazuu! Can I borrow your cape?"
"No! This is my cape!" Manzazuu protested.
"He does need a cape," Rasputin agreed. "And what's this about beasts?"
"That's quite enough!" Bungle shouted at last. "Viktor is right, he does need a cape. Friedrich, give him yours. That's an order. Then both of you head back to the Museum and stay there, no matter what happens."
"They can help!" Viktor said, taking Manzazuu's tattered cape and wrapping it around himself. "If we're going up against what is essentially the reanimated corpse of a former necromancer, then more necromancers are exactly what we need!"
"Too many people already know!" Bungle protested.
"If we succeed, it won't matter who knows," Septimus pointed out. "And if we fail... well, the same is true."
Bungle sighed. The gathered wizards took that as code for 'alright then'.
Ward 10 was sealed off with hazard tape that the five wizard promptly ignored, casting it aside and dramatically throwing open the doors.
"Just hold on, this ward is under quarantine!" a Gelert doctor protested.
"Not any more," Bungle said, giving a meaningful glance to Viktor, who had just walked in. "This is wizard business now."
The sight of a walking Moehog skeleton seemed to silence the doctor, who fell into line behind them as they marched up the aisle of hospital beds.
"Here," Septimus called them over, locating the distinctive Blumaroo.
"By the tentacles of Florthu, what's happened to him?" Manzazuu gasped.
Lombardo's eye sockets were sunken, and tinged with a green energy that seemed to be seeping through cracks in his skin, like the molten rock below the surface of Magma Neopets.
"The process has begun," Bungle explained. "No wonder they thought he has some sort of illness."
"It's not just him," Rasputin pointed out from the next bed.
An Ogrin nearby was lying there, asleep, but with the same green cracks on his skin. Rasputin drifted briefly over the nearby beds.
"It's all of them," he reported.
"This was just an intensive treatment ward before patient X over there arrived," the Gelert doctor said. "The infection spread suddenly. It seems to be picking off the ill, so far the staff have not fallen victim. You know this man?"
"Lombardo," Bungle said.
"Interesting," the Gelert said, making a note on his clipboard. "I'll get published for this, I'm sure. The Lombardo Strain, I think I'll call it."
"If you could leave us alone, please," Bungle replied bluntly.
"Why are other people being infected?" Septimus asked.
"Drevni is close to manifesting his physical form," Bungle explained. "He's taking energy from others in the final step."
"So we have to act quickly," Viktor added, throwing back his cape in a dastardly fashion and preparing some magic.
"Wait!" Septimus shouted. "It was different when it was just Lombardo, he helped create this situation after all. But these are innocent people."
"Were innocent people," Bungle corrected him. "It's too late for them now. If we don't stop this now, many more may end up the same-"
Bungle was cut off mid sentence by Lombardo sitting bolt upright in his bed. All around the ward, the other infected patients did the same. Their eyes opened, revealing glowing pools of green energy.
As one, they opened their mouths to speak.
"It is time."
The voices carried with them an additional, ethereal and beastly voice. The voice of Drevni.
"Quickly!" Viktor shouted, launching the magic he had been mustering directly at Lombardo.
The blast ricocheted off Lombardo as if he was made of diamond, impacting upwards into the ceiling and bringing the debris of the roof raining down on them.
"It's too late!" Bungle shouted. "He's become too powerful!"
The glow from the infected people's eyes intensified, and there was another green flash. When it subsided, the patients, and Lombardo were gone. But the hole in the roof had somehow gotten far larger.
"Where did they go?" Septimus asked.
"Drevni wasn't the size of any normal Neopet," Bungle answered, gazing up into the sky.
The ground seemed to tremor as something impacted somewhere in the city, and the gathered wizards all followed Bungle's line of sight. The green glow the creature was casting illuminated the sky, casting the entire city in eerie tones as Drevni gathered itself, and launched back into the sky.
Septimus was at once struck by pictures of a Petpet from the Space Station he had seen – the Globilol. Like a horrible Quadrapus, it floated in the sky above the city, it's green tendrils reaching down below it. The entire beast was covered in the raw glow of green magic, and at the centre of the beast's head, there was a single monstrous eye. Septimus recognised it, it was the eye he had seen in the machine.
It opened a mouth that was bigger than an entire district of the city, and let out an unearthly roar that made the windows in the hospital, and most of Neopia Central for that matter, shatter in a hail of glass.
Drevni had arrived.
To be continued...