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Castle Planner's Journal: The Crypts

by ferretboy85


“Gaius!” A familiar voice called. Gaius knew all too well the shrill cry of the chamberlain, Lazlo. The chamberlain's shrill voice continued, “Gaius, I need you as soon as possible!” He said in a stern, yet singsongy voice from across the castle halls. Gaius’s large Bori ears could pick up the sounds easily from his desk in the study.

      “Coming, sir!” Gaius called out, trying to finish the latest line on his blueprints. It would take another 5 minutes to refind the perfect ruler placement, should he let himself be interrupted. After careful examination, Gaius confirmed everything, and streaked his pen across the page, leaving a perfect line on the plans. He threw the pen in the cup, hopped off the stool and dashed out the library as fast as his short legs could take him. The tools in his belt clinked wildly.

      “Gaius!” Lazlo called again.

      “I’m right here. No need to yell.” Gaius complained, sidling up.

      “Oh, so you are... Anyway, it's happened again. The gardeners are complaining that the flowerbeds are still flooding! The gardens won’t look pretty this summer without flowers!”

     “Oh my. Are the squires keeping up with clog duty?” Gaius thought about the cisterns under the castle. Perhaps they were overflowing from the last month's rain.

     “I thought you said you fixed the clogging issue?” Chamberlain Lazlo's eyes narrowed.

     “Oh.” Gaius's ears drooped. “Yeah, surely the new sewer design will work this time. I hope....” Gaius was nervous. His last 5 sewer designs simply could not handle the Slorg mucus. Gauis wasn’t sure if it was even possible to permanently fix the clogging.

     “Never mind that. As the Castle Planner, you have to get these kinds of issues under control! Look into it!” The chamberlain waved Gaius away.

     Gaius hurried back to his desk, and put away his drafting tools. He had to make sure they were safe while he was gone. Once he had washed up and placed the new blueprints in a tube, he started leafing through the books in a forgotten-looking corner of the library. To anyone else looking at him, he was just searching for a specific tome. But the Bori was putting on an act before glancing around to make sure nobody was watching him. Once he knew the coast was clear, he pulled a specific book forward--which clicked! The whole bookshelf started to move, and Gaius swung the door open, slipped through, and gently closed it.

     He was now in a completely dark staircase, but he didn't need any light, he had been there many times before. Besides, Boris were used to navigating in the dark. His father Logan, who rediscovered this passage, showed him this secret before Gaius inherited the position. Logan was also the Castle Planner and had taught Gaius of many of the secret passages that had been built into the large and complex castle by his ancestors.

     There were so many little details and additions built into the castle over the many generations it took to make the Meridell what it was. All that history and modification made it so complex, that nobody knew everything about it. And nobody wrote it down! But Gaius was determined to become the one to know the most about it. He kept files and folders full of every secret and architectural detail he’d been able to document so far, but he knew he had only scratched the surface

     He used the spiralling staircase to quickly descend to the ground floor of the castle without being spotted, or having to do ‘quick’ favors for people who spotted him. Those favours were never quick, and he was always in demand. Using secret passages he knew of kept those sidetracking requests to a minimum, not that he didn't like helping, he just had to prioritize the requests of his boss, the Chamberlain, since Lazlo reported directly to King Skarl.

     Gaius could see the sun peeking through the exit door. The heavy stone door was thankfully no match for Gaius’s strong disposition, and he opened it easily, but cautiously. The door lead to a small niche in the gardens that was hidden by some tall shrubs that Gaius made sure the gardeners took good care of. As he stepped out though, he felt a deep squish of mud between his claws. Lazlo was right: the flowerbeds were completely flooded!

     Gaius was hunting around the garden grounds looking for the source of the water, all the while, various castle residents trying to enjoy the gardens would occasionally yelp out in surprise as they fell into puddles. Gaius looked for many minutes, and couldn't find much. He needed to see which way the water was flowing. Crouching down, he could see the occasional fleck of mulch, floating on the water, flowing away from the castle walls. He kept following the flow, up and up the subtle stream before he was distracted by the sound of a sudden clank over in the practice fields.

     “Watch your footing!” Jeran the knight could be heard calling out to the squire sparring against one of the more experienced knights. Jeran was giving commentary on their form. “Your posture is leaving you open!” Jeran warned.

     But, it was too late. The squire’s opponent grabbed his waist, and suplexed him to the dirt. Gaius was on the other side of the garden, but even he could hear the squelch of the squire sinking into the mud.

     “Oh my. Perhaps it’s a bit too muddy to practice right now.” Jeran reconsidered.

     “Ack. I can't let the champion down!” Gaius thought to himself.

     He went to turn back to inspect the wall for signs of water, but was interrupted almost immediately by the sound of squishy footsteps approaching him.

     “Ah, finally. You seem like a fellow inquiring young mind, capable of helping me amongst all these other bumpkins.” A very dapperly dressed grey Kyrii reached out his paw to shake Gaius’s claws. Hesitantly, Gaius reciprocated.

     “Bumpkin?” Gaius wondered out loud. He didn't think of Meridell as being full of bumpkins...

     “The name is Throckmorton. I'm hoping that you could help point me in the right direction for a research mission.” The Kyrii said with a whining disposition. Gaius could see some heavy bags under his eyes, it looked like the researcher hadn’t slept well in a while.

     “Oh! Research? Usually people go to Lisha for that. She’s usually in the library.” Gaius started navigating through the puddles of mud and leading Throckmorton towards the castle.

     “Of course, that’s where I wanted to start, but the guards won’t let me into the castle proper unless I have an appointment. Naturally, I did not set one up because I only just arrived here from Neovia.”

     “Oh, that would explain the strange clothes.” Gaius said, leading him to a paved section of the garden. They wiped their paws before heading back into the castle, this time through the normal entrance.

     “Oh Gaius!” A Zafara noble stopped Gaius as they went up the stairs. “Three of the chairs in my private dining quarters have a creak in them. Please order some new ones for me. And more fashionable this time.” The noble said, and then immediately left before Gaius could even protest. He knew her current chairs were top of the line, and the newest fashion around. He held his tongue and focused on getting Throckmorton to the library.

     “So here’s the library, Usually you will see a young yellow Aisha here, that’s Lisha. She’s the one you want to talk to.”

     “Where would I start looking for death records? I’m looking for a particular Neopet’s year of death.” He explained. Gaius was immediately suspicious of such a morbid topic. Seeing this, Throckmorton elaborated. “You see, for almost a week now the Brain Tree and the Esophagor have been arguing! It’s been causing chaos all around. They can't agree if Brunkster Gelert died in 53BN or 56BN. All we know is that he died here, in Meridell.”

     “Oh my. That’s quite old information. Hopefully, we have the records up here...” Gaius tried thinking of records, but didn't know where to look. His research usually wasn’t on that subject. Perhaps try this section” Gaius pointed Throckmorton to a corner of the library where historical accounts were kept. “I will come back and check on you after I fix the flooding in the gardens. If you need me, find me there.”

     Gaius had to return to his other work in the garden. He decided to take an older and more run-down corridor and staircase. Most people avoided it because it was so old and rickety, but Gaius loved its charm, and had thoroughly inspected it. It was still sturdy, just a little loose on the blacksmithed brackets. He ran his claws down the railing of the spiral stairs, feeling the smoothed metal as he carefully made his way down the worn stone steps. They had nearly polished smooth from wear over the many years. He landed at the bottom and tried to refocus. The history of the castle was an easy point of distraction.

     As he exited the doorway, he could see that the flooding was now starting to seep inside. Gaius groaned at the thought of having to coordinate water remediation if it got too wet. He hated how much work it was. But a strange sound caught his attention. Dripping!

     “That’s odd. The water’s already on the ground, what's dripping?” He knelt to see if he could hear more. To his surprise, the sound was louder at his feet. “Underground?” Gaius puzzled. This part of the castle didn't have any basement floor. He looked around to confirm, and this wing was simple in layout: a small cobble foyer, doorways, and the spiral staircase to the old hallway on the second floor.

     Immediately he thought of the many secrets of the castle’s previous builders. Perhaps this was his opportunity to find more for his documentation! He rushed to the walls to inspect them. He examined the mortar between the stones, tapping with claws, and licking to check for salt content. Bleh. It didn't taste off from the usual mixture that they used on the wall repairs.

      “Hmm. '' Nothing about the wall screamed "extraordinary". He absentmindedly pushed bricks to see if one was loose, or triggered a mechanism. Nothing budged while he went over his mental notes of the castle layout. Everything he thought about pointed to the fact that there was no subterranean layer on this wing of the castle! He would need to check his notes to see if he was misremembering.

      His stubby legs, but long arms made short work of climbing back up the stairs to return to the library. Once at his office, Lazlo spotted him.

      “Gaius! The water is spreading!” Lazlo hissed through a forced grin. “Pleeeease find a way to take care of it, or the landscaping crew is going to have to completely redo the garden!”

      “I’m working on it now!” Gaius promised, ducking into his office. He knew that it probably didn’t look like he was working on the problem, and maybe he was a little too sidetracked by this potential secret.

      As soon as he entered the stacks of the library, he was stopped by Throckmorton, and Lisha.

      “Ah! Perfect timing, old chap. We were just talking about you.” Throckmorton beckoned Gaius towards him. “My results yielded nothing. No records exist, this library was completely useless.”

      “No that’s not true! We were just talking about a lead we had, but it's a little confusing. Maybe you know about it.” Lisha felt slighted by the library visitor. “We found mention of some crypts that were in the castle. Maybe he’s there, but I can't say I've ever seen a crypt here in Meridell Castle... Have you?” Lisha asked.

      It was no fault of Lisha’s to not know where the crypts were in the castle. Gaius had never heard about them either. “Are you talking about the graveyards out of the castle walls?” Gaius asked,

      “No, I checked there before coming into the castle. It's definitely not the solution.” Throckmorton rejected the idea.

      “All we know is that it’s full of some of the earliest residents of Meridell Castle. They mentioned some sort of intermittent ceremony taking place here.” Lisha clarified. “Wherever it is, it’s quite old." Lisha suspected.

      Gaius thought about the oldest part of the castle, he was just in. “Oh, well just your luck! I suspect I know where it is... the only problem is that it's about to start flooding. Come on!” Gaius opened a drawer and scooped up a small box full of castle notes.

      Gaius led them to the rickety staircase, as it was the fastest way down. Lisha didn’t see the same charm in the old wrought iron stairs as Gaius.

      “I don't know about this,” she stammered as Gaius led the way down.

      “Don’t worry. It’s been here for many years, and I inspected it earlier today. “ Gaius assured her.

     “I’ll go next.” Throckmorton gave Lisha a reassuring look. As he descended, he was mesmerized by the unique craftsmanship. This was enough to inspire Lisha to descend at last.

     "Now, I've already licked this part of the wall. The mortar is the standard stuff we use for just about everything. No salt with a clay dust aftertaste." Gaius recalled the taste of the mortar from the many messy moments of making new additions to the castle. They were all accidental, of course!

     "Licked?" Throckmorton was appalled at the thought of licking the walls. Lisha was also sceptical.

     "Yeah. Different rocks and soil mixes have different tastes." Gaius explained his rationale. "So I know that this wall isn't anything special. Let's keep looking around for an entrance." Gaius invited the others to participate.

     Lisha paused for a moment. Something seemed off. “Gaius, did they use a different mortar when they first started building the castle?” She wondered.

     Gaius nodded. “Yeah. the earlier stuff had a lot of halite content in the mix...” Gaius paused for a moment. He too was picking up on the strange situation. “Wait...”

     “Yeah, why is the mortar the same as the modern mix?” Lisha wondered out loud.

     Gaius rushed to the wall, and started to inspect the mortar a little closer. He produced a small geology hammer from his toolbelt. Gaius knocked on the stone with the hammer, and bent in to listen closer. As he pressed his ear to the wall, he could hear the gentle reverberations of an echo.

     “Ah! I think this is the way in! Good thought Lisha.” Gaius said. He could see her beam as he pulled out his files. He needed a map to confirm his thoughts. "I'm not about to start pulling stones out of this wall if it’s not needed, or safe!” He said, squinting.

     Checking his notes, Gaius saw that there was no room documented there. He prepared his tools, and started cutting through the mortar, carefully lifting the larger stones. Thankfully, many years of construction work had given him the necessary muscles. After the first stone was pulled out, Lisha poked her head in. There was a hole, and what seemed like...stairs!

     “There are stairs going down!” she announced, “...And it smells awful.” she pulled back, her face wrinkled.

     Gaius was giddy with anticipation. He immediately got to work removing the next stone, creating a path wide enough to walk through. “Grab a torch, Throckmorton!” Gaius called, his claws scratching away mortar.

     It wasn’t long before all three of them were could step inside the dank passageway. Now that they had torchlight, they could see dirty stairs that led downward at a gentle slope, lined with all sorts of carvings and chilling imagery.

     Lisha clung to Gaius’s side. “Do you think there are nasty creatures down here? I’m not a fan of Spyders, not since the first wave of the war!” She timidly said.

     “Oh nonsense. A little petpet couldn't hurt anyone. Tally ho!” Throckmorton pressed forward without a second thought.

     As Throckmorton and Lisha focused on all of the room's artistic touches, Gaius was distracted by his ears. The dripping sounds were getting louder. They were getting close, but he wasn’t any closer to solving the flooding problem. Thankfully, as they reached the bottom of the floor, they found that it had not yet flooded. Just a few puddles. But puddles were not the only thing they found--there were rows and rows of stone tombs. Each marked with names, carved into stone.

     “Amazing! A true crypt! Surely if Brunkster Gelert exists, he’d be in here!” Throckmorton was absolutely taken, and rushed to check the names on the tombs. He rushed along with torch in hand, while Lisha and Gaius observed how the flickering light source changed what they could see as new places were revealed.

     “People must have given this place a lot of use. There are sconces, and urns for flowers everywhere.” Gaius pointed out some plants that long since wilted.

     “Ah hah! Look, fellows! Here he lay! Brunkster Gelert!” Throckmorton excitedly cheered.

     “Wow! That was pretty easy, too...” Lisha pointed up to the far back corner. “Eeek!” She cried out. Now that Throckmorton had brought the torch deep into the crypt, it was illuminating the angry glare of a very angry Slorg, stuck to the walls.

     “Wot wot?” Throckmorton turned around to see what the commotion was, and saw the Slorg staring him down. Not a moment later, the Slorg hocked a slimeball straight towards Throckmorton, and it hit him with a splat on his fine clothes. “I say! How rude!” Throckmorton tutted at the Slorg, edging the torch away.

     “Stay back! That guy looks like a real piece of work.” Gaius warned, and kept Lisha safe behind him. “Lisha, quick, head back up the steps. And grab me as much of that demolished old mortar as you can!” Gaius instructed her.

     Lisha nodded, retreating. Thankfully, the light from the foyer was plenty to keep a careful eye on her steps as she raced back up the stairs. She flipped up her shirt, and started scooping as much of the powdered mortar into it, so she could bring it to Gaius. As she did, she realized his plan. The salt content of the older mortar should be quite effective in getting the Slorg to leave!

     As Lisha returned, Throckmorton recoiled as he got pelted with another mucus ball. The mad Slorg was not content with just hitting him once. With Lisha’s delivery, Gaius scooped up a pawful of the salty mortar dust, and approached the Slorg, spraying it quickly with the mortar. Instantly, the Slorg recoiled. It couldn’t stand the salt content, and started to slink away in retreat. Gaius watched it slip into a crack in a strange, pipe-like structure.

     “Whew. Thank goodness that’s over. Now how about finding me some washing-up liquid.” Throckmorton joked to Lisha, who was still carrying the powder, just in case.

     “Where do you think it went?” Lisha asked.

     “It looks like a pipe... But for what.?” Gaius grabbed his notes and examined the maps carefully under the torchlight. “Well... if I'm correct, we are one story underground... and that pipe is.... Right under the gardens! Perhaps it’s my drainage issue!” Gaius was giddy. “But, why isn't it wet?” Gaius could only see the Slorg’s slimy trail, but no water. The only water was the drips in the ceiling, and the puddles on the floor.

     “It looks like the pipe was added after.” Throckmorton said, shining the torch on the area. The pipe had clearly been added as an afterthought, as it didn't align with the rest of the artistic elements in the room.

     “Oh it’s clogged!” Through the crack in the pipe, Gaius could now see a large clog at the top of the pipe. “The Slorgs must have come up the pipe now that the drain is clogged.” He thought out loud. Gaius pulled a screwdriver out of his belt, and started using that to try and poke the clog free.

     Throckmorton returned to examining Brunkster Gelert’s grave. “See here little Lisha? Ah hah! It’s the date! Here lies Brunkster Gelert, died the 464th year of the founding of Meridell. Loved by many, missed by all.” Throckmorton read.

     “Oh! That’d be... 556 BN! Meridell Castle was founded in 1010 BN, according to the modern calendar. It’s full of weird quirks. Only 17 years later would the Darkest Faerie first try to overtake Meridell.” Lisha recalled her history. “Looks like both the Esophagor and the Brain Tree were wrong!”

     “Yes. Hopefully with this, I can take this back to them and settle that argument amicably.” Throckmorton said, furious writing notes on the discovery.

     Meanwhile, Gaius’s poking was starting to make progress. A drip, then a dribble, became a stream, and finally the clog burst! A torrent of water started flowing from the pipe!

     “Bprbtttpfht!” Gaius said as he got a faceful of the muddy spray. He tried covering up the hole, but there weren't many options. Eventually he had to take off his overshirt, and tie it around the hole to help keep most of the water where it belonged. Gaius was soaking wet, but grinning. “This should solve the problem!” He said as he followed the other two out of the crypt.

     Already Gaius could see that some of the puddles were shrinking. Garden visitors were still trudging through the mud left behind, but at least that would dry up. Gaius grinned, despite his messy look.

      “Well. Thank you both so much for your help! I must depart at once. I cannot let that feud go on any longer!” Throckmorton said, waving goodbye as he unceremoniously left for the castle gates.

     “Bye.” Gaius waved as Throckmorton left. He was still dripping wet, but he was already excited to start recording his findings. “This is going to take a lot of work! I’m going to report back to Lazlo, and then we can get started on adding the crypt to the records again.”

     Lisha and Gaius split up, with Gaius taking the secret route back to his study in the library. He needed to look presentable. But before he could reach his quarters, he could hear Lazlo calling his name in that same sing-song tone. Gaius knew better than to keep him waiting, so he rushed over.

     “There you are. Have you fixed the- goodness gracious, where’s your shirt? Why are you so wet?!” Lazlo asked.

     “Oh. My shirt is currently keeping a pipe from spraying important artefacts.” Gaius answered confidently.

     “Ooohhh...” Lazlo paused to consider what Gaius had said. “I suppose that’s a good reason. But you mean to tell me now there's a leak in the trophy room? On top of the flooding?” Lazlo’s anguish was visibly building.

     “No, It’s all under control. The flooding's been fixed! It was a clogged pipe in a secret chamber of the castle! I will be spending the rest of the day checking it out, and adding it to our manifest. Looks like it’s the original castle crypt.”

     “Oh, well you certainly have been busy. Huh. And all this time I thought you were trying to be distracted from the task at hand!” Lazlo started to walk away. “Carry on then. Thank you for taking care of the flood!”

     Gaius took the rest of the week to plan, and reconstruct an entrance to the crypt, with a sturdy locked door. He also started taking measurements, and notes about its construction, and added them to the maps of the castle. Lisha and a few other scholars came in to help add the names of the deceased to the castle records once again, so that their memories could be restored.

     “Perhaps the original builders used so much salt as a way to repel Slorgs from sliming about.” Gaius wrote in a journal. “It seems like a useful technique for my next clog-proof sewer project!”

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