Southward Bound: Part Four
"Any luck Osa?” asked Brynn as she and Wendell came up to her.
“Well, I could wish Furgles the Luckiest Babaa was here. There is a way to detach the artefact, and this device has hinted at how to reverse what it did, but there is one small problem in reversing it.”
“That being?” asked Brynn.
“Well, once I begin the reversal, whatever is currently in place will switch with anything in the other dimension. Now, if we can get this to the ship and fly above the base I can safely aim the beam down and the Sloth base and it and Ishtov should switch places. Of course, there’s another slight problem.”
“What, is the base going to blow up or something?” asked Hanso.
“Um, yes, actually. There’s a self-destruct sequence that will start the instant this artefact is removed. Apparently only Sloth himself could deactivate it safely.”
Hanso looked at Brynn. “You know, just once I would like to ask a question without a terrifying answer.”
“Well, that’s Sloth for you,” said Wendell. “I say, old fellow, I don’t suppose there is any way out of here other than the front door?”
“There’s a couple ventilator shafts, but I, for one, would not like to try crawling down them hoping one might somehow lead out,” said Hanso. “Especially not with the possibility of the base blowing up while we’re doing it.”
“How much time will we have before the base self-destructs?” asked Brynn.
“We’ll have about sixteen minutes. My guess is that Sloth has some sort of escape pod not too far from here, but it probably is only designed for one person.”
“Even if we could find it in time, we would need to activate it to use it,” said Wendell.
“Well, let’s get this over with. Osa, you and Wendell free the artefact. Hanso, you’ve got my back.”
Wendell and Osa quickly went through various codes in order to break the artefact free. Once they finished, Osa grabbed the artefact and held it tight. “Warning! 1000 seconds until detonation! Warning! 1000 seconds until detonation!”
The door suddenly opened with a hiss. The four heroes rushed out into the hallway, prepared for battle. The first things they encountered were aerial drones. Brynn started slashing, Wendell started zapping, and Hanso went invisible to scout ahead. Osa cast spells with one hand while holding the artefact with another.
Once all the aerial drones were defeated Hanso reappeared. “The next three passages are clear, but there are a bunch of land drones crawling towards us. They’re blocking all the passages that could lead out.”
Wendell adjusted his belt. “Well, then, into the fray!”
“Warning! 500 seconds until detonation! Warning! 500 seconds until detonation!”
“We’d best make it fast,” said Brynn.
After fighting a wave of ground drones followed by another wave of air drones, and, finally, some giant robots the four were finally in sight of the door out.
“Warning 10 seconds until detonation! 9…8…7…”
Hanso and Wendell tried the controls. “It’s locked! Completely jammed!” said Wendell.
Hanso turned to Brynn, “Brynn, I need to tell you—I lo…”
Brynn smiled, “I know, but we’re not dying today!” She raised her sword and cut through the door like a knife through hot butter! They all ran to where their ship was hidden, got in and zoomed off. As they looked back the entire Sloth base seemed to implode on itself before exploding in a flash. It left a large crater in the floor of the valley.
“That was a close call!” said Hanso.
“What a mess. Oh well, one less Sloth base to worry about,” said Wendell.
“Will the artefact still work?” asked Brynn.
“It should.” Osa focused and concentrated. A bright white beam flowed out from it to the valley below. The scene shifted from one of dark ruins to that of a gleaming city. The building were multicoloured and had negg-like domes on top of them, each of which had different patterns of colours. There were neatly laid streets and lovely parks and fountains.
The lands around the city also changed from ice and snow to something more verdant. The mountains remained ice-capped but their lower regions defrosted. The ray spread out from there, and the land reawakened.
Osa took the invisibility spell off the ship and they started down to an open area near one of the parks. Townsfolk gathered around them and muttered in amazement while the town guards did as well.
“Who are you and what is the meaning of this?” asked a Grarrl, who seemed to be the captain of the guard.
“I’m Osa and these are my companions, Brynn, Hanso, and Wendell. We come in peace.”
“A likely story! Just last week we were invaded by another that came from the sky and today he came again! Though where he went, I cannot say.”
“She speaks the truth!”
The crowd turned and Esfir was exiting her hut. She was followed by the other eleven mages. “They came to me to help free all of Ishtov!”
“With all respect, Mage Esfir, but nothing has happened to Ishtov.”
“Indeed it has. Over six hundred years have passed. You and the others were trapped in another dimension where no time passed, and so it seems as though Sloth only returned today. In truth, he returned six hundred years. We mages can all verify it if need be.”
The captain of the guard bowed. “We need no such proof. I apologize, Mage Esfir, honored guests and rescuers. Let me escort you to the palace where the Tzar and Tzarina rule—they will be most eager to hear the full tale!”
“I don’t know how we can ever repay you for your aid,” said Tsarina Anastasia (a Purple Ogrin).
The inside of the palace was spacious and it seemed the inhabitants loved to use neggs for decorations. The Tsar and Tsarina sat on their thrones on a platform. Next to them sat their children Princess Evelina (a Speckled Shoyru) and Prince Grigori (a Spotted Gelert). In seats around the centre sat the court of nobels.
“We were happy to help, your majesties,” said Osa. “Will you be rejoining the rest of Neopia again soon?”
“Six hundred years is a long time. We will have much to catch up on,” said Tsar Yuli (a Fire Eyrie).
“Now that your land is back to normal, it should be possible to establish trade again,” said Wendell. “I can create maps of Neopia before we leave.”
“We’ll be sure to get this artefact back to Queen Fyora—she’ll make sure it’s kept safe,” said Brynn.
“And all these jewelled neggs will be great to remember you guys by!” said Hanso.
Osa and the others laughed.
The Tsar and Tsarina smiled. “When we’ve reestablished ourselves, we’ll open up to Neopia in general. It will be interesting to see the world again,” said Anastasia.
“We may even be amiable to allow people moving here, though it might take some time,” said Yuli.
After a feast in their honor, they took to their ship and flew off. Osa went to the long canyon with the earth spires first. The spires were now clearly visible, multicoloured rock spires that had multiple tiers with plants on them, including on top.
“I must say, I prefer this to dodging spires in the fog!” said Wendell.
Osa giggled. “I do too! This land is really beautiful.”
As they passed back over the land, they saw that the hidden river was now free again and that the canyon still had crystalline rocks in it along with a waterrise. There was, however, a new lake and they saw that one of the natural bridges was near it. “Ships must dock in that lake and then transport overland,” said Brynn.
The formerly empty valleys now had life of all sort as well as various neohomes and villages. The land was covered in plains and flowers, and they waved to a herd of Uni as they passed. Oddly, as they reached the areas of the sea, the ice islands remained and the shores were also covered in ice.
“Well, that’s Neopia for you,” said Hanso.
Osa giggled. “Probably it’s some localized weather condition. I’m glad. The darblats will be happy and their homes aren’t disturbed.”
“So what are your plans now?” asked Wendell.
“Well, first we’ll drop off Brynn and Hanso at Faerieland. The sooner that artefact is safe, the better I’ll feel.”
“And after that?”
“Well, to the Seeker’s headquarters. I’m not sure beyond that.”
“Say, Wendell, I’ve been meaning to ask—what does that fancy belt of yours do?” asked Hanso. “And please let the answer not be terrifying.”
“Well, I hate to disappoint you Hanso, but…” Wendell opened his beak and Hanso looked worried, “it’s a life-support belt. I was given it to keep me warm in the cold weather.”
“Ha ha,” said Hanso, giving Wendell a dirty look.
Everyone else was soon laughing and Hanso joined in. Neopia passed below as they headed north. Osa was glad that everything had turned out well. She knew that to keep Neopia safe all the guilds would have to work together. This adventure would, at least, show that it was possible.