The Expedition of Walter Wesley: Part Two
The deafening bell filled the house once more, causing Dr Wesley to spring with shock yet again.
"You must – you absolutely must, at all costs, Vivian, change the sound of that doorbell."
He gathered more parchments and tossed them into the nearby case, whilst Vivian witnessed with horror.
"Walter – are you crazy? All our tools, equipment and articles I've picked out... now you've muddled them!"
"Now is not the time to be meticulous! I greet the guest; you make sure everything is in order!" Dr Wesley marched towards the exit and ran downstairs.
The Lenny's messy desk was covered in stationery, books, and trinkets – Vivian could no longer identify the surface of the desk itself. The neglected suitcase, which contained all the essentials Vivian previously selected, now was bursting with extra paperwork and useless tools thanks to the doctor's interference.
"Easier said than done," Vivian thought to herself.
For several minutes, Cora stood outside what seemed to be a Governor's Mansion. With her arms folded, and her foot impatiently tapping on the pavement she muttered to herself,
"How long does it honestly take, like."
Not before long, Cora was greeted by a panic-stricken Lenny. His glasses askew, his plaid shirt un-tucked, and his waistcoat un-fastened – this was quite a different picture to what she had seen back at the Motery. Cora wondered what the cause of this state of agitated confusion was.
"Oh hello... um... Cora! What a surprise. Did I forget something at the Motery?"
"Hello, Doctor, no. I was actually wondering whether I could check out some books."
Cora entered the house and stood in awe, as the swinging oak door closed behind her.
"Dr Wesley," she continued, "I've been looking for a copy of 'Eye-Sha.'"
Dr Wesley's eyes gazed into space, as he remembered he did have a copy of that book. As they made their way up the staircase, Dr Wesley cried at the top of his voice,
"Vivian!! We have a guest! We are coming up to the library!"
Cora's puzzled expression caused Dr Wesley to laugh nervously.
As he slowly opened the library door, to reveal the contents of this room, Cora gasped.
Every inch of the circular room was scattered with book shelves, scrolls, and documents. It was truly an archive of its own.
Dr Wesley's attentive eyes observed the room: his desk had never looked so uncluttered, the tiled floor had never looked so bare, and the book shelves had never seemed so neat.
"Good job!" Dr Wesley mouthed to Vivian as he whisked Cora to the "E" isle of his library.
"So, may I have the honour of being introduced to the guest?" Vivian smiled sweetly.
"Oh – yes. How rude of me. Cora, this is Vivian – my colleague." Dr Wesley motioned Cora to come along, and they exchanged a firm handshake.
"This is cool," Cora said with wonder as she looked around the library.
Vivian scanned Cora from head to toe – the Wocky's cardigan was stained with what seemed like Mote packaging residue, and her shoes were marked with mud.
"So, you work at the Motery, is that right?" Vivian folded her arms as Cora started picking books from the shelf.
"Yup... that's me," Cora answered, flicking through the pages of a dusty tome.
Vivian grimaced and remarked, "Ahem... Carla – excuse me - you can look, but you cannot touch those books."
"It's Cora, actually."
Before Vivian could express further annoyance, Dr Wesley intervened. "Well, Cora... Vivian and I have a few things to discuss... so... you can continue choosing your books."
The Lenny ushered the agitated Aisha out of the room and shut the door with a bang. Cora wandered slowly around the silent library, browsing the book shelves. The stained glass windows flooded the spherical room with sun light. Cora's blue right paw stroked the sea of books, whilst her left paw tightly clutched her copy of 'Eye-Sha.' Her curious eyes repeatedly observed the room until a loose parchment lying beside the Lenny's desk caught her attention.
She pounced on the mysterious parchment, like a famished Kougra pouncing on an Omelette, and saw what seemed to be a detailed map of Qasala, with an 'X' marked on the locus – 'Temple of 1000 Tombs.'
Why was this map lying on the floor? Why was the Temple marked with an X?
"There could only be one explanation," Cora thought to herself.
At that moment, indistinct voices could be heard and Cora, as silent as a Stealthy Shoyru, approached the double library doors.
"The Temple of 1000 Tombs, Walter, is in the middle of burning desert sands... we aren't talking about a local trip to Meridell. This is going to be a long journey aboard The Bronze Barrel." Vivian's sharp voice lectured Dr Wesley.
"Vivian – how many years have you assisted my expeditions?" The Lenny waved a wing in the air. "I know what I'm doing – you know that. 'The Bronze Barrel' leaves tomorrow at dawn – next thing you know we arrive in perfect timing."
"Walter, all I'm saying is that we need to be careful. Especially after what happened last time."
"Last time was different. That inscription on the front door of the temple... what was it?"
Dr Wesley impatiently paced back and forth, whilst Vivian's elongated ears fell forwards once again in disapproval.
Vivian knew Dr Wesley for far too long now, in fact he was like a brother, yet she hated it when he changed the subject mid conversation. His furrowed thin brows, his waltzing up and down and endless muttering to himself was all too familiar.
"Windows... river... banks of the soul... no – that can't be it." Dr Wesley halted abruptly and slapped his forehead.
"Window into the soul, banks of the mighty river – that's it!" He stopped in his tracks.
A gasp was heard from the Library's interior.
Vivian and Dr Wesley exchanged a look of apprehension. The double library doors flung open.
Cora clutched the precious map of Qasala in one hand, 'Eye-Sha' in the other, and exclaimed,
"Dr Wesley! You're planning an expedition to Qasala – and you're taking me with you!"
Vivian sighed with discontent and muttered, "This is ridiculous."
Her pair of long blue ears could not have fallen more forward, her eyes red with extreme exasperation, her vein throbbing at her temples, she cried, "I don't believe this. I just don't believe this!!"
Cora folded her arms like a child throwing a tantrum, and argued, "It's not for you to decide anyway. I am knowledgeable and probably know more about that Temple than you!"
"Excuse me, young one –"
Dr Wesley wiped his thin brow and bellowed, "THAT IS ENOUGH!"
He drew a deep breath, and adjusted his circular glasses and asserted, "Vivian – no one is questioning your ability, experience or knowledge here. Cora – there is no way I am taking you with us. It's far too dangerous. Besides, it is not even a proper expedition. It's just a couple of Neopians, travelling to Qasala for a specific purpose."
Vivian remained silent but narrowed her eyes and glanced at Cora, who folded her arms again, and nodding impatiently argued, "A couple of Neopians travelling somewhere for a specific purpose – that sounds like an expedition to me, doctor. I am not a fool."
Dr Wesley stood stationary, and his towering presence oozed authority. Cora saw, for the first time since she entered his house, the composed Lenny she met at the Motery.
"I simply cannot take you with us, Cora. It's not happening. Now, I need you to be as discreet as possible – do not utter a single word to anyone about this. Do you understand?"
Cora reluctantly nodded and slowly walked out of the library, making her way downstairs in defeat.
"Thank Fyora and all the Faeries in Faerieland," Vivian sighed. "For a moment there, I thought you had lost your mind."
Dr Wesley covered his face with his wing and said, "You were harsh, Vivian."
Vivian's jaw dropped in disbelief and cried, "Me? Harsh?"
"Well yes." Dr Wesley quoted the Aisha. "You can look, but not touch those books."
"I think you've been paying too much attention to your Motes..."
Dr Wesley hopped over the Bagatelle bean bag again, shot through the doors and on his way down he called back at Vivian, "You can leave my Motes out of this!"
Cora approached the front door, noticed she was still holding the map, and heard heavy footsteps getting louder and louder. She spun around and saw Dr Wesley, who softly said, "I have to apologise for Vivian's behaviour... she can be a little pretentious."
"It's ok," Cora replied. "I get customers like that sometimes, so no big deal. I found what I was looking for, so I guess I'll be heading out."
"That is fantastic." Dr Wesley clapped his wings and whispered, "Tell you what – you can keep that book. But you must not speak to anyone about what you just found out!"
"Oh no – not even the Pant Devil himself could make me say a word."
With that statement, Cora spun around and confidently made her way out of the estate.
She wouldn't tell anyone about the doctor's plans. She wouldn't tell anyone that she would study the detailed map either. In fact, she came to a conclusion that tomorrow, at sunrise she would be aboard The Bronze Barrel too.
To be continued...