Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 197,578,187 Issue: 990 | 25th day of Hiding, Y25
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The Shoyru Spy


by iwonder

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The Shoyru Spy: Part 1 - The Coded Message

      The Neopian Plaza was as bustling as ever, filled with shoppers going from one store to another, the warm baked aromas of the Pizzaroo wafting through the air, and the sounds of customers trying out new musical instruments in the Music Shop. If you strained your ears, you could even hear the faint sound of Kadoaties mewing for rainbow apples in the background, and the clinking and plopping sounds of people throwing their Neopoints in the Wishing Well. Sylas the Shoyru was just about to grab a slice of pizza from the Pizzaroo shop when he saw something catch the light in the window of the Second-hand Shoppe. “Strange,” he thought, “I didn’t see anything made of metal when I just passed.” Having just put his hand on the door to the Pizzaroo, he could nearly taste the sweet pineapple pizza the shop was known for. He could hear his stomach grumble, but his passion for collecting rare items got the better of him, and so he turned around and headed for the mysterious artefact. This was no new interest to Sylas, his parents had started cultivating an interest in the strange and unknown at a very early age, only giving him unique old things whenever they returned from their work travels.

     Looking through the Second-hand Shoppe window to find what had caught the sunlight, Sylas saw a small book decorated with gold leaf, halfway hidden beneath a pile of much larger books. Knowing he had already filled most of his rather tiny house with books, many of which he had inherited from his late parents, he debated with himself whether he really needed book number seven hundred and twenty-eight added to his collection. But only for a brief moment. After picking it up and seeing how the gold glimmered in the sunlight, he knew this would become one of his prized possessions. Of course, he needed another book, especially one with such a beautiful cover. He was, after all, a collector of rare items, and this book seemed anything but ordinary. “Will you be taking that one home with you today?” Luna the Lutari smiled at Sylas, knowing there was no stopping him once he had set his sights on an item in her store. “Yes, I fear I must, now that I’ve found it. You really shouldn’t put out new items so soon, I thought I was done shopping after yesterday!” Sylas replied, handing the book to Luna over the counter. “But then how would I get to see my favourite customer?” Luna giggled, handing back the packaged book to Sylas. “Please stop by tomorrow too, we’re getting a new delivery in the morning.” “I better not, or my house will be filled with nothing but books!” laughed Sylas, waving goodbye as he left the store.

     Upon returning to his home, after a quick stop at the Pizzaroo where he silenced the Grumblebug in his stomach with a delicious slice filled with pineapple, he barely had time to close the door behind him before he started to unpack his newest treasure. Turning it over in his hands, he noticed a small piece of folded paper sticking out of the bottom. “That wasn’t there in the store, was it?”, he thought. Opening the paper only added to the confusion, as it was completely blank. Not a single word could be found on it, even when Sylas took out his magnifying glass and went over the paper from top to bottom just to be sure. “Oh well,” he thought, ”I guess it’s just someone’s old bookmark,” and put it down on his kitchen table with a slight sigh. He put on a kettle, and after making himself a strong cup of dark tea, he settled in to read his new book. Without paying much attention to where he put down his teacup, he let it sit for a while on the blank piece of paper, while he lost himself in tales of long-lost worlds.

     Nearly halfway through the book, he remembered his cup of tea. Lifting it to his mouth, he nearly spits out his drink. The heat from the warm tea had revealed a message written in invisible ink. He had read about such things in one of his father’s old books, and tried to replicate the effect with lemon juice, but he could always tell when looking at the dry paper that there was something written on it. Not so in this case, and the message sent a shiver down his spine. An actual coded message! “Help us,” it said, "Zkhq vkdgrzv ohqjwkho dqg wkh revlgldq hbh rshqv, wkh khduw ri Qhrsla zloo idoo vlohqw. Vhhn wkh lvodqg'v orvw uholf ehiruh wkh odvw holsvh, ohvw doo eh orvw wr wkh Rughu'v hpeudfh." He stood up slowly, trying to remember where he had put his father’s book. Under S for Spies, or T for Tradecraft? Rummaging through his bookcase, he eventually found it under C, for Chiffres. This did not seem to be one of those methods where the first letter of each line can spell out the hidden message, it remained gibberish when he tried. But what about..? If he tried shifting all the letters a certain number up or down the alphabet? Trying a few different variants, he eventually found something that made sense;

     "When shadows lengthen and the obsidian eye opens, the heart of Neopia will fall silent. Seek the island's lost relic before the last eclipse, lest all be lost to the Order's embrace."

     He couldn’t make heads or tails of what it meant, and after staring at the paper for what felt like hours, he decided to try to get some rest and return with fresh eyes in the morning. Not having much success falling asleep either, Sylas decided to head back to the Second-hand Shoppe as soon as it opened, to see if Luna knew anything about the origins of the book and the mysterious paper. He barely let himself have some tea before heading out, figuring that a call for help must be urgent enough to warrant skipping his regular slow morning breakfast routine. Sylas was many things, but known for his speed he was not. Any regular day would start with a big breakfast spread, at least two cups of tea, and a midday nap in the shade of his favourite lemon tree before heading out for the day’s adventures. But not this day. Reaching the store just as Luna was opening the door and the first few shoppers for the day poured in, he headed straight for his old friend. “Hey Luna, can I ask you something?” “Sure,” she turned towards him with a big smile, “back already? I thought you said you better not?” “Oh, I’m not here to buy something. It’s about the book from yesterday. Do you know anything about its origins, or more specifically anything about this paper that was left in it?” He handed her the paper, with the translation scribbled in the margin. “No, sorry. What a weird sentence, the island’s lost relic? What do you think it means?” “I have no idea, I thought you might know,” he said with a slight sigh. He didn’t have much else to go on, and no clue how to solve this mystery himself. “Sorry, Sylas. I don’t know. I have to help some customers, but maybe we can talk about this later?” “Sure,” he replied, “Thanks anyway Luna.” Folding up the paper, he turned to head out the door.

     “Psst,” someone whispered from beyond a bookshelf, “over here.” Sylas strained his neck, trying to see around the corner. He walked over slowly, looking around the dimly lit second-hand shoppe. “Who’s there?” he asked into the darkness. Someone grabbed his arm and dragged him along the length of the bookshelf, away from Luna and the other shoppers. “You really shouldn’t be talking to just anyone about such things. And you mustn’t let anyone see us together,” an Aisha, dressed in a dark trench coat and black sunglasses, said. “I knew your parents.” “What? Who are you?” Sylas was even more confused now. He just wanted to know more about the letter, not be dragged away from his friend by someone claiming to know his parents. “Oh. Sorry. I can see you’re confused. I used to work with them. Your parents. My name is Zara by the way,” said the Aisha, letting go of Sylas’ arm and grabbing his hand instead, vigorously shaking it. “Nice to finally meet you. But we really must get out of here, it isn’t safe. You need training if we’re going to get you to finish this mission successfully.” “Mission..?” “Do try to keep up, Sylas. It’s high time we started your training. Your parents may have taught you the basics without you really understanding why, or what you were doing, which was probably the right choice at the time. You can’t really tell your children about tradecraft, you know? But it’s time you learned the true depth of what they were dealing with. What we’re all dealing with. You read the code, didn’t you? We need someone who can go deep underground to solve this mystery. We need to stop the Obsidian Order before it’s too late.”

To be continued…

 
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