Roberta of Brightvale Saves her Scrollery
Carrying scrolls wasn’t very convenient. They weren’t as compact as a book was, and if carried without a proper clasp, would spill out, unfurled to the dismay and embarrassment of its owner.
Roberta carried scrolls every day, and she sometimes dropped them on the ground when trying to move several of them from one place to another.
Brightvale, her hometown and where she held some kind of social title, did not treat her like a hero of Neopia. Neopians here preferred to be left to themselves, and fussed instead over frayed book covers, over-boiled fruit jam, and cracked stained-glass lamps. She kept her dark hair slightly unkempt, and dressed practically, easily blending in with the crowd.
It wasn’t unusual to see this blue Acara rummaging through the tall grass surrounding her store, in search for an uncooperative Nova. One particular morning, she was seen loading a wooden cart full of assorted Nova scrolls to be taken to Brightvale University, as requested by Professor Lambert. He had been wrapping up a lecture series on different types of Novas and their uses throughout Neopia; and had wanted to hold several demonstrations of Nova energy in the Battledome. Many students were a little too reckless with their Battledome items to Roberta’s taste, more interested in impressing their friends than improving their skills in most cases.
Although she was happy to help, she dreaded moments when Professor Lambert would put her on the spot, and ask her to give some encouraging words to his students. She didn’t have the poise and elegance of faerie Queen Fyora when making any kind of speech. Her story was simple enough: she studied diplomacy, and then travelled Neopia for a while before settling down at her store where she both created and sold magical scrolls; and that these were made to be equipped, not read, a key difference that distinguished her from other distributors in Neopia. She usually left out the part where she learned how to create magical scrolls in the first place, namely because she didn’t like to talk about that. Not that anyone asked --- Q&A sessions with Roberta often contained tongue-in-cheek comments about whether she still kept in touch with Sir Tormund. She was terrible at keeping in touch with most Neopians actually.
A sharp thud unsettled her, and her cart full of battle scrolls toppled over. There was a short, steel arrow covered in splintered wood buried deep into the side of her cart. Engraved on the arrow was an unmistakable "S". It was the proud, ominous emblem of a Neopian secret society called "The Sway". She didn’t want anything to do with them, or their strange interest in her storage of Dark Nova scrolls in the past. She was going to ignore this.
If there was any secret society that she would ever consider responding to, it was the Order of Erisim, not the Sway. She had approached the Order before in hopes of being trained as a sorceress, after being disillusioned by a career in diplomacy. Seradar, a Gelert wizard in Brightvale, and Jerdana, an Aisha sorceress in Altador, were seasoned members of the Order who had helped her learn more about Neopian magic. Roberta hadn’t seen or even heard from them in years, despite having experienced so much together.
A Crokabek squawked nearby. Roberta ignored it, and focused instead on fixing her broken cart to get to Brightvale University on time.
The scrolls were a hit. Professor Lambert had to forcibly extricate them from some particularly enthusiastic pupils. Roberta watched the demonstration from afar, leaning against a pillar. Suddenly, someone spoke to her. It was a thin, male voice.
"You didn’t answer the Duchess’s message."
She turned to face a Moehog.
"I beg your pardon?" Roberta replied.
"The Sway sent you a message today, and you didn’t reply to it yet," the Moehog said.
Roberta assessed the Moehog speaking to her. He looked like one of Professor Lambert’s students. Nice tweed jacket you got there.
"Aren’t you supposed to be paying attention to the demonstration?" She asked, gesturing to the crowd of other students.
She wondered how the Moehog knew about the Sway at all, but decided not to pursue him for more information.
"How do you capture radiance in a scroll?" He suddenly asked. Smooth segue.
"I mean," he began to sputter, "Where does the radiance from the Scroll of Radiance come from?"
"Radiance comes from within," she calmly answered, in a calm, even tone that Brightvalians use when sharing a piece of wisdom.
" … Did Sir Tormund ever say that you were radiant?"
Her patience was gone. She left the Moehog by the pillar, and went on a philosopher’s walk through the campus grounds. She would come back later.
In Brightvale University, there are many nooks and crannies in which students could hide away to read ... or nap, or contemplate. Roberta left the main path in order to sit down on a bench beneath an old willow tree.
Seradar had taught her how to capture radiance inside a scroll. It was one of her first lessons together with him. She had just returned from a diplomatic trip to Terror Mountain with her Uni Solarin at the end of the Month of Celebrating; her face, Seradar remarked, had been radiant. How couldn’t it have been? It was the new Neopian Year! Seradar had agreed to teach her how to be a sorceress! Her uncle King Hagan didn't stand in her way!
You can capture the radiance in you right now, Roberta, Seradar had told her. I will teach you the spell for it.
Over time, Roberta had practiced casting spells in order to capture moments in which she felt radiant. What she discovered was that the effect of her spell was weaker if her feelings were only based on her circumstances. It was only after experiencing hardship that she learned about an inner strength, an inner radiance that she didn’t know that she had had before. King Hagan was proud of her for realizing this.
She heard a familiar whinnying sound coming from behind the curtain of willow tree branches. A Uni with astonishingly golden locks and hide as white as snow unveiled himself. Solarin! What was he doing on campus? It has been forever since King Hagan gave her a diplomatic mission, forever since they travelled together.
"I heard that you were here from Professor Lambert," Solaris said. His voice was deep, and rich with feeling. "King Hagan sent me to take you to Altador, immediately. Seradar can’t be reached, so it’ll just be you and me."
" … Wait, now?"
What was going on? Roberta mounted Solaris, and they flew from Brightvale to Altador through a portal.
"I need an army’s worth of Dark Nova scrolls," crooned the Duchess, her dress sliding heavily along her tall, Wocky frame. She had a nasal, high-pitched voice, and was always dressed as if she were mourning.
The Duchess was dining in a private room of the Ambrosia overlooking a scenic, Altadorian canal.
"The Scrollery did not provide us with enough scrolls in our last order, stating that it was ‘out of stock’," the Duchess continued, "There are Neopians with more scrolls hoarded in their Safety Deposit Boxes than what we bought!"
The Duchess was a dangerously unsatisfied customer who would stop at nothing to have her way. It was as if by amassing more and more scrolls, she could build up her own self-worth.
Jerdana the Aisha sorceress, one of the the Twelve Protectors of Altador and very close confidant of King Altador himself, sat horrified across from the Duchess. What did King Altador see in her? Yes, she had the respect of all of the Neopian rulers except Queen Fyora … but wasn’t there a good reason why Fyora refused to trust her? Surely the faeries were onto something about the Sway that the others just couldn’t see.
Jerdana was dressed in flamboyant, colourful robes printed with stars; refusing to be dampened by the Duchess’s sour mood.
"Maybe blaming the Scrollery wouldn’t be the most helpful thing to do," offered Jerdana hopefully.
They were interrupted by a swoosh of wind as a Uni and his companion flew into the room through the open balcony.
"Roberta!" exclaimed Jerdana with open arms.
The Duchess’s posture stiffened in her seat. Roberta’s face fell. Jerdana tried to lighten up the atmosphere.
"I haven’t seen you in years!" Jerdana said.
She was right --- it had been years since Roberta had freed Jerdana from the Dark Faerie’s spell. Roberta looked around her, and out at the Altadorian landscape before them. Her dark hair ruffled against a soft, Altadorian breeze. Brightvale felt so small in comparison to the great city below.
Solaris the Uni, also from Brightvale, cleared his throat. He looked at home in Altador. Dare I say, radiant.
"Ladies …" Solaris said, looking at each of them in turn, "... I don’t think that scrolls are worth starting wars over." He was right. Little things get out of hand all the time in Neopia. Not that scrolls are little things.
"Besides the wraiths in Faerieland, and periodic skirmishes in Tyrannia, we live in a time of relative peace in Neopia," Solaris went on reassuringly, "How about compromise."
Roberta hesitantly held out a Scroll of Radiance as a peace offering to the Duchess.
"May this bring you light, Duchess," said Roberta sincerely. "This is the strongest spell of its kind that I have cast yet."
The Duchess accepted the Scroll of Radiance after a moment of hesitation. Her eyes softened, but she did not move from her seat.
Roberta exchanged glances with Solaris before asking if she could return to Brightvale. Professor Lambert would soon wonder where she was. The Duchess gave her best wishes, and with that, they left.