Agent of the Sway: Induction - Part Five
The National Neopian Museum was one of the oldest buildings in Neopia Central, sitting in the heart of the Art District on the city's east side. It was a labyrinthine construction, with endless corridors that were home to similarly endless legions of researchers, professors, and scholars. The Seekers, for the time being, called it their home, and it was from there that Professor Chesterpot had launched his expeditions both to the Catacombs under the city, and most recently to Maraqua.
There he had discovered the Battledome, and for his troubles been kidnapped by Dr. Sloth. The Maraquans would without doubt have been able to free him, had it not been for Sloth's latest metallic creation - Mechachiazilla, that was currently laying waste to the city.
Quite how anything found within the Magical Research Department would help defeat a creature of technology was beyond Clayton, but then, for the moment, he was but a humble servant of Lord Faversham's mysterious secret society. Hopefully, in time, he would be trusted with answers before the fact, rather than after.
The Magical Research Department was tucked away in the basement of the building, under the thinking that if the wizards were hidden away somehow they couldn't cause any trouble. That, and the fact that the museum was so old that the sewer system didn't go near it, meant that there was only one access route for Clayton. He would have to walk straight through the front door. There would be no room for misdirection like at the Defenders Headquarters, but hopefully the wizards would be bumbling enough not to notice a thief in their midst anyway.
The Bruce who worked on reception gave him a sceptical look when he asked which way the department was, but directed him down the disused staircase all the same.
The bowels of the museum were more like a dungeon than anything else. Modern light fittings hadn't reached this far - torches were still burning in brackets. Cobwebs hung from every surface, and an elderly Kau who served as the department's receptionist was busy snoring in his chair at the foot of the stairs.
That didn't help Clayton, however. The department was so large, and Faversham had given him no clues, that finding the artefact without help would be impossible. Clayton banged on the Kau's desk, bringing the old wizard to consciousness with a start.
Clayton placed the scroll on the desk. "I'm looking for information on this artefact. I was told that someone here might be able to help me."
The Kau took out a pair of thick spectacles and squinted through them at the drawing.
"Well," he croaked in a voice Clayton suspected hadn't been used in a good few days. "This doesn't seem to be my specialty. Judging from some of the markings, I would suspect it is a device of dark origin."
He placed the parchment on the desk.
"So what does that mean?" Clayton asked.
"It means you'll have to speak to... the necromancy division," the Kau replied, as if it were a dirty word.
"And where can I find them?" Clayton asked.
"Well, if you really want to, you can find them at the end of the hallway on the right," the Kau said, returning to his slumber.
Clayton scooped up the parchment, following the Kau's direction to a dusty door marked 'Dark Magyks'. He knocked once, but when he didn't get a reply he went in anyway.
The Necromancy division was in fact a small circular chamber, lined with shelves containing all manner of potions and artefacts. The room appeared empty of any wizards, making this the perfect crime. Clayton took out the parchment for reference, and began to sort through the objects he came across.
"Who's there!?" a voice demanded from across the room.
Clayton wheeled round, but he couldn't see anyone. He was about to return to his work when the voice rang out again.
"What do you want?"
A particularly lurid tea cosy made a rustling noise, and Clayton made his way over to it, lifting it up to find the skull of a Moehog underneath.
"Aha! A thief!" the skull shouted. "I knew it!"
Clayton recoiled from the object, but all the skull could do was cackle.
"You're a fool to come to the lair of such an ancient and powerful evil wizard!" it declared. "I am Viktor Sartre! The most evil wizard ever to walk Neopia! You will rue the day you encountered me!"
Clayton prepared to run, but all the skull appeared to be doing was bouncing up and down on his shelf.
"... can you actually do any magic?" he asked eventually.
"Magic!?" the skull cackled. "He asks me if I can do magic! Me! The Dark Wizard himself! Entire nations have fallen before my might, child! But, right at the moment... no, not precisely... but I can bite you something rotten! Come here so I can bite you!"
Clayton showed the parchment to Viktor.
"I'm looking for this."
At once the skull stopped bouncing.
"An evil wizard after my own heart, eh?" he declared. "And here I was thinking you were just a simple thief!"
"You know what it is?" Clayton asked.
"You mean you don't?" Viktor replied. "What kind of a thief goes looking for something that powerful without knowing what it does?"
"The kind of thief who is running errands," Clayton replied.
"Errands? Who for?" Viktor asked. "The only people who should even know that thing exists are the Faeries and the Order of the Red Erisim, and both of them would just come in and ask for it... unless... you don't work for them, do you?"
"Them?" Clayton asked. "I work for... individuals."
"Ha!" Viktor cackled. "That's them if ever I heard them. But you're not a member, are you? You don't have the ring."
"What do you know about them?" Clayton asked.
"Oh, not a lot, they are very secretive. They are as old as the hills themselves," Viktor said. "Got fingers in all the pies, as well. Can't cough without them knowing."
"And what do they want with this thing?" Clayton asked.
"Your guess is as good as mine, there," Viktor replied. "That thing summons an eldritch monster from the very depths of the ocean - that's proper necromancy, that is. Not messing about with purple candles."
"You have it here?"
"Of course we do!" Viktor cackled. "And I'm going to let you have it, as well - nothing like summoning a monster, take it! Be my guest - spread a little eeeeevil! Third shelf up in the middle!"
Clayton found what he was looking for in exactly that place - the necklace held a cool blue gem that seemed to radiate unseen power.
"Thank you," Clayton said to the skull, placing the tea cosy back over it.
The ship had been charted and was ready to sail by the time Clayton reached the docks. It set sail soon after Faversham took delivery of the necklace, the pair having their own cabin below decks.
"We're summoning a sea monster, aren't we?" Clayton asked.
Faversham gave Clayton a curious look for a moment before smiling. "Viktor always did have loose lips... considering he has no lips at all."
"You didn't answer my question," Clayton pressed.
"Yes, we are," Faversham replied. "This necklace once belonged to a King on Mystery Island... centuries ago, you understand. It was used to control an ancient beast of the sea known as Chiazilla. One day, the King's son went missing at sea, and the King used the necklace to order Chiazilla to find and return the Prince. Chiazilla could not locate the Prince, but given the order from the necklace, he could not disobey. He continues to scour the ocean for him even now. He has never returned to Mystery Island."
"And this necklace just happened to arrive in the Museum?" Clayton asked.
"The Order of the Red Erisim, a group of elite wizards far beyond the talents of most of those practicing at the museum, pillaged the magical resources of a lot of foreign lands a long time ago," Faversham explained. "By then, the King had no use for the trinket. Most of the Order's hoard is still in their Haunted Woods headquarters, but some relics have found their way to the museum since then. Such as this."
He held up the necklace to examine it. For the first time, Clayton noticed the distinctive ring on Faversham's finger. It was brown, with a symbol on it sort of like an S within a triangle. Viktor had mentioned something about a ring as well.
"Is that the mark of membership for your organisation?" Clayton asked.
"Yes," Faversham answered plainly. "Perhaps one day you will have one."
"Perhaps," Clayton agreed.
It took three days to reach a position in the ocean that Faversham was happy with. When they got to it, he called the captain to a full stop and went out on deck. Grasping the necklace in his hand, he began to mutter under his breath. The blue gem within the necklace began to glow brightly, and below them in the ocean there was a great roar. As soon as it had started, it ended. The glow dimmed, and Faversham returned from the deck.
"That's it?" Clayton asked. "We don't get to see it? I was expecting some kind of epic battle!"
"We work in the shadows, Clayton," Faversham explained. "Sometimes we will be on the front lines, but other times we won't be. One day, we might fight a glorious battle. The next, we may simply trip up a thief. For now, we only needed to dispatch Chiazilla to Maraqua. Everything else will happen without our help. We will return to Neopia Central - I am sure there will be more work for us soon."
To be continued...