Covert - Archives
It began with a letter, crisp and regal, the envelope a milky white; I read the writing multiple times just to make sure it was not mistakenly delivered to me. Yet there it was, my name, in the most pristine and smooth handwriting I had ever seen:
Sir Vorack of Neovia
You have been summoned to dine at Cedar House, this very evening.
Wear your Sunday's best. No guests.
And at the bottom, instead of a signature, was a stamp of an upside down question mark.
How odd it was that I, a lowly archivist, getting such an invitation - and to an estate, no less! Quickly, I cleaned up, dressed in my finest silk suit, top hat and my good pair of glasses. Grabbing my bag, which carried my notebook, ink, quills and keys, I headed out into the fog.
The night was colder and darker than it usually is at this time, and the fog was as thick as the moon was bright. The silence was eerie; not a noise could be heard other than the shuffling of my own feet. I couldn't tell where I was nor how long I had been walking, but I continued to head west, in the direction of the estate. Suddenly, a chill crept up my spine as a warm and shuddering breath spread across the nape of my neck.
Instinctively, I sprinted into the woods, with no destination in mind except to escape this predator. Making the mistake of turning my head to see if I was still being followed, my body slammed into a tree, causing me to lose the little bit of sight I had as I drifted out of consciousness.
My head was throbbing as I started to come to, a strange smell filling my nostrils as my vision came back into focus. All I could see was a small smelly cheese bomb in front of my face, from which the smell was coming from. As my vision refocused, I saw that the Smelly Cheese Bomb was being held by a Tyrannian Kau. He had to have been the largest Kau I had ever seen. His muscles bulged on all the visible parts of his body. He was a dark red-brown in flank, with horns the color of the darkest of coals, twisting inward and then outwards just at the end. He wore a single earring on one ear and a nose ring, as was the Kau custom in the male side. His eyes were the darkest green, glaring down at me.
"I've had a lot of dumb Recruits in my day. This stuff comes in handy on the battlefield," he smiled and nodded towards the Smelly Cheese Bomb as he put it back into his bag and extended his hand out towards me. I grabbed onto it gratefully and he lifted me to my feet with great ease, my body was rather sore, but I managed to stand up. "The name is Revak. Sorry I gave you such a fright."
"Vorack," I said, staring up into his brilliant eyes, "and it's quite alright. You just never know what you're going the face on a night such as this one. I was just headed to that estate up ahead for a dinner."
"As was I. Let's head back to the path," he stated blandly and began walking back into the opposite direction I had been running in, reaching the path in a matter of minutes.
We walked in silence for a while after that, a Tyrannian Kau and a Shadow Lupe making quite the odd pair, until another shadow could be seen in the distance. An estate loomed, brightly lit up and secured by a large gate. The fog seemed to part before us, as if welcoming us towards the home. Revak and I stopped before the old, intricate gate and gaped at the sight before us.
The estate was beautiful, terrifying, awe-inspiring, and mysterious. Standing in the center of a rusted, iron-gated fence, the house was at least 3 stories tall. It was gray and old, the roof showing the wear and tear of storms past. We stared at the building for what seemed like eternity before I heard a loud creaking noise and looked over at Revak, who had briskly pushed the gate open and was marching up towards the steps.
The doorway was magnificently arched out of old cedar wood, vines and leaves etched into its hide. It was a double door entry, with near perfect symmetry, a knocker on each door in the shape of a Gallion's head. I reached my hand up to the knocker, gripping it lightly in my hand. Barely making a single knock, the door opened with an eerie and swift eeeeeek.
Standing before us was the most cryptic Techo in all of Neopia. He was slumped forward awkwardly on a cane that looked like it would break any moment, tape sticking out at multiple angles. His eyes seemed to be glazed over look as he looked out to us. In his dusty suit, he inched out a shaky hand, and in a voice that could make the bravest warrior get chills, he said, "Eheh, welcome to Cedar House, Masters Vorack and Revak. I am what most would call a butler. Name's Evan. We've been waiting on your arrival.”
He motioned for us to follow him into the house through the archway and headed out of the chilly night air.
Revak and I followed him closely, the heat of the house embodying us as we walked further and further inside. The rooms were dark, lit only by a few candles placed sparingly throughout the house. The walls were a moldy, deep green color, with the paper starting to curl undone. The carpeting was a deep mauve, with patches missing. The numerous paintings that hung upon the walls were covered except one near the end of the hallway we had been walking down. The frame was brass and rusted, the glass covered thickly with dust. Taking a hand, I wiped across it, two glowering red eyes meeting mine with great intensity. Feeling a bit more spooked, I hurriedly caught up with Revak and Evan at the very end of the hallway.
This door was new - clean, bright, and inviting. I could make out bright lighting and activity beyond it, anticipating what awaited us. Evan stepped forward, the knobs making a slight click! as he opened them, pushing them inward into the magnificent room. I had to shield my eyes from the sudden burst of light.
As my eyes adjusted, I let my jaw drop in amazement. This room was exceptional compared to the other rooms we had passed. The walls were freshly painted and the room was lit by a single chandelier made of glass and gold, hanging perfectly in the center of the room. A huge bulb rested in the center, a light blue hue emanating from it. The carpet was plush and soft around my shoes, and a deep brown color. In the center of the room rested a long dining table, plain and unassuming. As I walked forward into the room, it wasn't until I took one of the mahogany chairs Evan motioned me towards, that I noticed the others sitting in the room.
"Ah, Masters Revak and Vorak! A pleasure to have you two join us. I was beginning to wonder if you'd make it or not," a voice echoed through the room. As if it sense the confusion I was feeling, it said, "Oh, no, Ser. I regret to inform you that I cannot allow myself to be seen. I am a very private person. My Butler, Evan, was kind enough to paint me invisible before your arrival. I do hope you'll forgive me for my rudeness."
I looked suspiciously around the room, wondering where the voice could be coming from – wondering who it could be coming from. My eyes focused back on the table, there were numerous waiters and maids, seemingly either cleaning or serving food. The other two were definitely here for whatever reason Revak and I were, they stood out against the sea of servant. One was a very put-together Cybunny and the other a slightly smudgy Krawk, twiddling a wrench in her hand.
."Well, hello. My name's--"
"Yeah, Vorack, we know," the Cybunny interrupted as if my sheer presence irritated him. "We each got an invitation to the estate, obviously. But, to repeat my question before I was so rudely interrupted, for what purpose?" His glare shifted around the room. There was something rather menacing in his gaze.
The air around us shifted into something more serious, as the maids and servants, and even Evan, filed out of the room suddenly, almost robotically, leaving the four of us alone with the ever looming presence of the invisible voice.
"I have invited you four here this evening to discuss a proposition, one I think will benefit us all in the end," the voice stated plainly before getting interrupted yet again.
"Proposition?" Steyr's voice changed from defensive to curious.
"Yes, proposition. I have chosen the four of you for a once in a lifetime opportunity to embark on a quest for a fabled item. Each one of you is the best of their field. Tainea is the most proficient in the field of technology, able to build and repair anything that crosses her path. Steyr knows any and all outcomes that could occur with any choice at hand and his intelligence knows no bounds. Revak is a beast of the fight; able to wield any weapon and best any on the field, and able to lead a fleet to victory. And you, Vorack... You can recall anything you've ever read, am I right? By book, author, page, title. You can recite it verbatim. I need each of you in able to reach my-- OUR--goal." the voice echoed through the room and we all fell silent, surveying each other.
"With all due respect, what exactly do you need us for?" I asked the room, suddenly itching to know why exactly I was hand-picked.
"Let me ask you Four a question. Have you ever yearned for something that was just out of your reach? A piece of information less than an inch away from your grasp, yet completely unattainable? That's what inspires one to dream, to go to extraordinary limits so they can grasp the unattainable. That's what I have - a taste for the forbidden fruit. But I cannot reach it without aid."
With that statement, Evan burst in, lugging what appeared to be a plaque of enormous proportion covered by a molded sheet. Dragging it across the carpeted floor in huffs, he lumbered over to the head of the table with it, propping it up against the table.
"You see, in my travels across Neopia, I discovered a… legend, if you will. This legend speaks of the source of the lands wondrous beauty and vigor - an infinite source of life. After much searching and questioning, I found this."
As if queued by the word 'this', Evan pulled the sheet off the plaque to reveal the most peculiar stone I had ever laid eyes upon. It was, at least, the size of Revak, if not bigger. Disfigured and jagged, it had to be ten thousand times as old as this house. The stone was a pale purple in color, with hints of a brighter purple around the edges. But most peculiar was the markings upon it. Filled with curves, curls, and symbols the likes I have never seen, the stone held a language, a story, causing my mind to blank as my thoughts turned to the stone. I craved to unmask its secrets, the language, the mineral itself.
"This is what scientists call a lodestone, with traces of amethyst. It dates as far back as the creation of Neopia itself. After many years of hard work and dedication, I have cracked the encryption etched into it." Evan then plopped a thick, leather bound book upon the table. "In this book is the translation. Please, take a look.”
To be continued…