…And let out a startled noise.
Delvin hurried around the statue to find Jaycee kneeling behind the statue. Her brow was furrowed in confusion. “What is this?” she asked, and it took him a moment to see what she did.
The Usul statue had etchings along its back. Delvin squinted at the markings. “I know those,” he said, brightening. “I’ve seen that map before!”
“It’s a map?” Jaycee tilted her head to get a better look at the etchings.
“Yes.” Devlin knelt beside her and touched a line. “See this? It’s supposed to lead to the dining hall. And this one goes to Dame Astrid’s office. And this…” He frowned. “This goes into that wall behind us.” Delvin glanced at the wall; it was heavy stone, with a few cracks along the floor.
“Why would a map lead us into a wall?” asked Jaycee.
Delvin touched the line of the map—and as he did so, he felt a ridge of stone. He pressed down and then flinched as the sound of grinding came from behind them.
The wall eased open, dust billowing up from the crack. Delvin and Jaycee both jumped, stepping a little closer to one another.
“Oh,” said Jaycee. “It’s not just a map. It’s the entrance to… what?”
Delvin took a breath, then coughed on the dust. “Why don’t we find out?”
Together, they stepped into the space where the wall had opened. Delvin felt his heartbeat quicken as they walked into the secret passageway. Jaycee glanced warily around them. There were old statues of Neopets that Delvin did not recognize; cobwebs hung from the ceiling; the smell of stale air filled his every breath. He had never been all that brave, but he forced himself to continue on. At least he had Jaycee with him.
As they walked, Delvin heard a sound. It was a slight scritching, like claws on old wood. He stopped in his tracks. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” asked Jaycee.
He waited, keeping still.
The sound came a second time. “That,” he said, lowering his voice.
Jaycee swallowed hard. “Yeah. Um—you don’t think it’s anything scary, right?”
“I don’t know.”
Jaycee took a step back. “Maybe… maybe this corridor was closed off for a reason.”
Delvin wanted to turn back, but he couldn’t. If he was going to be a successful decipherer of scrolls, he would need to venture into old places. He couldn’t let his family down—and he couldn’t let himself down, either. “I’m going ahead,” he said and stepped forward. Jaycee followed.
The scratching got louder and louder and Delvin’s breathing became more ragged. There was a turn coming up, and—
A small creature ran around the corner. Both Jaycee and Delvin jumped, letting out small yells. Then Delvin saw the creature clearly.
“It’s Bob,” he said, relieved.
Jaycee ran forward, scooping up her Eizzil. “Oh, there you are,” she said gratefully. “He must have slipped through one of those cracks. What are you doing down here?” She cooed over Bob and the petpet looked glad to be with her. “Where was he coming from?”
“Let’s find out,” said Delvin. He rounded the corner and his eyes widened.
Before them stood a library. The shelves extended to the high ceiling, stacked with old tomes and dusty volumes. It was a treasure of knowledge, all waiting to be discovered. Jaycee drew in a sharp breath. “Did you know this was here?”
“I knew there was an old library somewhere,” he said. “But not where to find it.”
“This is so cool,” said Jaycee.
Delvin found himself smiling. He hadn’t let Dame Astrid or his family down. And having Jaycee with him here… it felt like having a friend.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s very cool.”