Nonlinear Companions: Post Meridiem: Part Two
A shiver ran down my spine. This place. I just wanted to go home. Why would anyone ever want to come here?
I decided to head back to the tavern and hide out in my room until Westron returned. The streets were starting to get a bit busier, and since Westron wasn’t around, I decided to fly back.
I took to the air and felt the breeze in my face. Up here wasn’t so bad. I could see the Neopets below me going about their daily business and it was easy to spot the tavern, the courtyard on one side and the big rock on the other. I wondered what the rock was, and decided to have a quick look before returning to the tavern.
As I slowly circled the rock, I allowed my mind to drift. I found myself wondering, what could possibly have caused Westron to have become so sullen and so detached from his usual personality. I racked my brain for a reason. Had I done something to upset him? I couldn't work it out.
Suddenly I snapped back to reality, I'd flown a bit low and the tip of the rock had grazed my foot. As I looked down to see just how low I had been flying, I noticed a small crevice within the rock. Curious, I flew over to it.
It was well hidden, and if I hadn't grazed my foot, I doubt I would have noticed it at all. I landed smoothly next to it and peered in. It was so dark I couldn't see very far in. Usually I would have waited until later and brought Westron up here to investigate together, but I was still mad at him. Besides there was no way I had the strength to fly him up here, and we wouldn't have the time to climb up together later.
I didn't really want to go back to my dingy room, only to sit and wait for him. So I decided to have a look by myself. I squeezed myself sideways through the opening, luckily once through the gap the space inside was a little larger.
I waited a moment, allowing my eyes to adjust to the new light level. I put my hand on the wall to the right of me, and without allowing my hand to leave the wall, I followed the passageway hewn between the two rocks.
Deeper and deeper I went, until there was no light, the wall under my right hand was cool and hard, I did not allow my hand to deviate from the wall. It became my guide. I knew that if I let go of it I'd never find my way back out.
Just as I was beginning to debate turning around and heading back, I noticed that I could make out the outline of my hand on the wall. ‘That must mean it's getting lighter’ I thought to myself. So I carried on. After a further few minutes I could see a small pale light ahead. I kept my hand on the wall and moved closer to the light.
As I approached I could see what appeared to be the outline of a door. It was slightly ajar, and the source of light was coming from the other side.
What on Neopia was a door doing inside a crevice in the side of a rock?
I stared at the doorway. Should I go in? Should I turn back? Should I venture forth and see what lay behind, or should I play it safe and go back to the tavern to wait for Westron?
Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me. I crept up to the door. Fearing what may be on the other side, I gave it a gentle push. The door swung silently open and I found myself in a small room, hewn from the rock, with a single burning torch, attached above a passageway opposite me leading off the room. As I stood there debating what to do next, a shadowy figure appeared in the passageway.
"Who go's there?" Said a stern voice.
I stood, unmoving, frozen with fear. The figure stepped into the light. The voice belonged to a tall and malicious looking darigan skieth. When he caught sight of me he leapt into action, and before I knew what was happening, he had me in chains and was leading me from the room.
The darigan skeith led me past several cells, in which various Neopets sat, each of them looked up at me as I was brought through. But none of them said a word.
Eventually we reached a round room, in which a depraved looking purple mynci sat at a large desk. He had a large scar over one eye and a small goatee style beard. He looked like the dictionary definition of evil.
"Found this one skulking around near the Balcherie Door." Announced the skeith as we entered.
"She isn't one of ours, Haskol," noted the mynci, "take her to Cell thirty-two, I'll take her up to see Lord Darigan with me later."
Haskol forced me back towards the passageway with the cells, and pushed me into one, locked the gate behind me, then disappeared.
After what seemed like an age in the cell, the mynci came to greet me.
"We'll see what Lord Darigan has to say about you." He told me, as he opened the gate.
I briefly considered running for it, but I couldn't imagine getting very far with my hands and feet chained like they were. So I reluctantly followed the mynci out of the cell.
The mynci led me silently through the rest of the dungeons, and up a set of steep purple steps. The top of the stairs opened up into a grand, but menacing looking hallway. On every wall were portraits of old rulers of Darigan, excluding, I noted, that of Lord Kass. Under each portrait was their weapon of choice. Intimidating looking swords, hammers and bombs. Each of them no doubt with some special ability. It would have been interesting to look at them properly. But that wasn’t going to be an option today.
The mynci stopped abruptly outside a gilded door. He knocked on the door and it opened. Inside, Lord Darigan was sat upon his throne. He beckoned us closer.
"Ah Vex, what news for me today?" He asked the mynci.
"All is well in the dungeons today," offered Vex, "The Yellow Knight may talk soon."
"Good," said Lord Darigan, a sinister smile breaking across his thin lips. "And what of this one?" He pointed toward me.
"Haskol found her, near the Balcherie Door." Vex admitted.
"Well, now, that will not do," he replied shaking his head. "How did you find the secret entrance to the dungeons of the Darigan Citadel? You, who is not even of darigan descent. Are you from Meridell? Come to start a new war?" He demanded glaring at me.
"I.....I....I...." I stuttered.
"Out with it girl!" Shouted Lord Darigan.
"It was an accident, my Lord," I said slowly and carefully, "I came to the Citadel, to help my friend, Westron, he came to meet with you this morning."
"Westron, who was due to see me today, he never arrived." He replied. "Where is he now?"
"I... I don't know my Lord, he left for your chambers this morning, he left without me."
"LIES!!" He shouted, and I felt the room shake. "Leave this one with me, Vex. Find Westron and bring him to me."
I stood there in my chains, shaking from fear, wondering how on Neopia I was going to get out of this mess. Would I forever be known as the grey draik who caused the breakdown of the peace treaty between Darigan Citadel and Meridell? And why hadn't Westron shown up to his meeting with Lord Darigan? So many thoughts were racing through my head, I didn’t even notice that Lord Darigan had begun questioning me again.
"Clearly, your puny mind cannot comprehend more than one question at a time, therefore I shall ask one question, and you shall give one answer. Choose your answers carefully, else it may be the last thing you do." He told me.
I nodded silently.
"Good," he grimaced, "Then let us begin. How is it that you found the Balcherie Door?"
"It was an accident," I began, "I was flying around the rock and noticed a crevice in the rock. I didn’t know where it led, I just went in and followed the passageway."
"Why were you flying around the rock?"
"I'd argued with Westron, he'd left for to see you without me, I was returning to the tavern we stayed in. The rock is directly facing my room window, so I thought I'd have a fly around and see what it was." I told him.
"Where is Westron now?"
"My Lord, I do not know, I thought he would be here, with you."
"Why did Westron bring you to the Citadel?"
"He wanted me to accompany him to his meeting with you."
"But you didn’t, because of this 'argument'."
"We shall see what Westron has to say." He lifted a small bell from a spindly table next to the throne and shook it. Two darigan techo guards arrived almost instantly. "Take this one back to Vex. Inform him, that when he locates Westron, he is to bring him directly to me, along with this draik."
We had almost made it back to Vex's office, when Vex himself appeared from behind a corner, in tow he had Westron, chained up as I was.
"Westron!" I yelled when I caught sight of him, I don’t think I've ever been so happy to see anyone in my whole life.
But he just stared, empty eyed at me and spoke not a word.
Vex took us both back to the throne room, where Lord Darigan was waiting.
Lord Darigan questioned Westron for what felt like an eternity. Not once did Westron look at me. Finally Lord Darigan seemed satisfied enough with the answers Westron gave that he released us. He informed Westron that he was to return the tavern, taking me with him, gather our things and leave the Citadel.
Walking through the streets, Westron kept two steps ahead of me and didn’t utter a single word. Halfway there, he stopped.
"Go back to the tavern, Rae," he told me, "I have business here."
And with that he turned and disappeared into the darkness of a nearby alley.
I stood there, shell shocked, wondering what to do next, I couldn't leave him there, who knew what he was up to? Besides, Lord Darigan had made it abundantly clear, we needed to leave as soon as possible. I had to go after him. I edged quietly down the alley behind him.
It was a dark and dingy alleyway, I could barely make out the shadowy figure that was Westron. I crept slowly and quietly to where he had stopped.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I felt my jaw drop. No. It couldn’t be. Not my Westron. Not talking to them.
There, in the shadows, stood The Three.
To be continued…