Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 197,778,271 Issue: 1002 | 23rd day of Awakening, Y26
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Salem of the Sway


by skittleskit09

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“No, this won’t work.”

     “This is even worse!”

     “No, no! It’s all wrong!”

     Professor Lambert crumpled up the piece of paper on his desk before tossing it behind him and barely missing the trash bin. There was a growing mountain of paper looming over his back as he buried his face in his hands and let out a long sigh. He needed a new strategy for him and his comrades, but nothing was working. They weren’t any closer to gaining the power of the Obelisk, and the wise Gnorbu was growing impatient with their dwindling success. The war was constantly at a standstill, but he wanted access to the Obelisk as much as his opponents did. Not for power like many of the others, but for knowledge.

     The Red Gnorbu leaned back in his chair and took off his glasses, only for the sound of a door opening to meet his lop ears. He let out a groan as he imagined his Tonu friend behind his eyelids. “Now is not really a good time, Mr. Hugo. I do not yet have the plans completed. Give me an hour,” he bleated. But a different voice came from the entrance, one that did not match the Tonu professor’s voice. It was a quiet, high-pitched, childish voice that was far more welcoming to the Gnorbu.

     “Father?”

     Lambert quickly placed his glasses back on his nose to see a Blue Krawk draped in a nice brown cloak and a shining necklace that glistened in the candlelight emanating from his desk. He was only a child.

     “Salem, my boy!” Lambert hopped up and beckoned the little Neopet over, allowing him to slip his hooves beneath the child’s arms and pick him up. “Done with your classes already, hm?” He ruffled Salem’s head, turning him into a giggling mess. “Aren’t you a brilliant one! You’ll be head of the Seekers, one day!”

     The little Krawk was beaming as he latched his claws onto the collar of Lambert’s coat. “I don’t know about that,” he cooed. “Nobody is as smart as you are, Father!”

     The professor smiled at the title he was given. “He was not truly his father, as the Seekers had found him alone as a baby with nothing but that orb around his neck, but he had been the one responsible for raising him. He patted Salem on the back. “Here, maybe you can help me, my boy.” He sat back down at his desk and propped him on his knee, allowing the child to have a full view of his work. “As seekers of the truth behind this Obelisk, the last thing we want to do is fight. However, if it comes down to it, then we must have a successful battle strategy. The problem is that I cannot think of one that I believe to be foolproof. If all goes as it usually does, the Brutes should emerge over here… the twins and their army should emerge over here…”

     He pointed all over a drawn out map of the battlefield as Salem followed his finger. He seemed awfully concerned. “B-But Father, why do we have to have a strategy at all?” He gripped his necklace nervously with one claw. “Why do we have to fight, at all?”

     Lambert puffed out a sigh and leaned back in his seat, still taking care to keep Salem balanced in his lap. “Believe me, as I said before, I do not want to fight, either. But these enemies of knowledge want the Obelisk for themselves. We must fight for our right to use it for science.” He tapped on the map. “These battle plans will help us acquire this.”

      Salem, letting out a shudder, clung tighter to his orb. “Well, I’m going to end it!” He hopped out of Lambert’s lap and stood up straight, trying to look as brave and intimidating as he could. “I’m going to end this war! Just you wait, Father! It will be a happy ending, like in the stories I am reading! You’ll see!” He boomed.

      Lambert couldn’t help but produce a light chuckle at his adoptive son’s determination. “I’m sure you will, my boy.

     ***

      Soon, the next battle had arrived. Salem sat up in Lambert’s office, remaining under the care of a Pink Tuskaninny named Ms. Barnaby that tended to do nothing but read books in the corner. He was not fond of her presence, but the professor always insisted that he stay around her during his absence. Once in a while she would glance up at Salem to make sure he was behaving, but then she would immediately go back to her reading.

      Salem was at Lambert’s desk, colouring in a colouring book with a pack of crayons. He looked up at the Tuskaninny with his eyebrows knitted together. “Ms. Barnaby? Where is Father?” he mumbled quietly. Ms. Barnaby didn’t lift her eyes. “The same as last time, sweetheart. The Awakened and the Brute Squad are advancing towards the Obelisk, so Professor Lambert and a few other Seekers hope to get there before they arrive.” She licked her finger and turned a page. “He should be back in a few days, once the fight is done and the war enters another recess.”

      With a shudder, Salem gently placed the crayon he was using on the desk as he lost his desire to colour. “I hate all of this fighting! I… I want to do something! I NEED to do something!” he exclaimed, standing up in the Professor’s chair and raising a finger in the air. He felt like a leader. He felt in charge. He felt like the leader of the Seekers embodied.

     Ms. Barnaby turned another page in her book. “That’s nice, sweetheart.”

     Salem looked back at her, realising how deep her nose was in the book and that she wasn't even listening to him. He blinked for a second, formulating a plan to take her inattentiveness to his advantage. He jumped down off of the chair. “I’ll be right back, Ms. Barnaby. I’m going to go find my father…”

     He had barely even finished his sentence when he was interrupted by another “That’s nice, sweetheart.”

     Without another word, Salen took off out of the office, down the stairs, and out of the Seekers’ Headquarters.

     “Well, look who decided to turn up at OUR Obelisk!” The leading Skeith of the Brute Squad, Commander Flint, boomed as he and his fellow Brutes approached the arriving Seekers. Their metal armour clanged threateningly with each step.

     Professor Lambert stepped in front of his group, determined to protect them with his life. “It does not belong to anyone, yet. If anything, then it belongs to science!” He did his best to put on a brave face, but he flinched when the Skeith pulled out his trusty mace. “You are not fighters. You are small and weak, but you are enemies to our cause. Why don’t you leave this battle to the experts, before you get hurt?” He let out a hearty laugh.

     Lambert sighed and let his eyes narrow behind his shining lenses. “I do not wish to fight you, but if I must, I must.”

     Salem watched at a distance, his nerves on edge, behind a rock that he had hidden behind. What could they be talking about? Perhaps a truce? He brought his hopes up, only for them to drop down into his stomach when the Brutes drew their weapons, and all of that hope fully diminished at the sight of Commander Flint swinging his mace and knocking Lambert to the ground. The child couldn’t hide anymore. “FATHER!” he screamed at the top of his lungs and leapt over his hiding spot to stand between the two leaders.

     Lambert gasped in horror when he saw the small Krawk. “S-Salem? What are you doing here? Get out of here before you get hurt!” The Professor tried to pull himself to his feet, but he had been badly wounded by the Skeith’s strike.

     Commander Flint went into a fit of laughter. “I won’t waste my time with you, kid. The Seekers stand between us and our goal. They are villains to our cause, and thus villains to Neopia. Now, step aside.”

     Salem squinted his eyes shut to keep tears from falling. He did what he could to hold onto every shred of bravery he could grasp. “N-No! This is enough! We don’t have to fight! Can’t we just stop the battles?”

     The entire Brute Squad howled with laughter that echoed throughout the entire battleground. “You hear that? Stop the battles, he says! We don’t have to fight, he says!” One of the Brutes grabbed Salem by the back of his shirt and tossed him to the side and out of the way. He barely managed to land on his hands and feet.

     “Now, let’s deal with you.” Commander Flint grabbed Lambert by the front of his shirt.

     The Professor’s face drained. “Salem, run!” he shouted and shut his eyes, hoping that at least the Krawk could be safe from the Brute Squad.

     But he refused. Salem was not easily swayed, especially if his father was in danger. “No!” he leapt back into his spot and swung his arms around the commander's free wrist, which was almost the size of his entire body. “Don’t touch my father!”

     Commander Flint began to laugh once more until he noticed something odd. The orb around Salem’s neck was glowing a bright red and orange much like the heated colour of flames. It had been nothing but a nicely detailed neck ornament until that very moment. Then, suddenly, Salem’s entire body was encased in flames hot enough that it caused him to yank his hands back and drop the Professor. “Gyah! What is this?” he shouted and blew on his glove.

     Salem hunched his back and tensed all of his muscles. A roar came from his throat as his blue, scaly skin converted into a smoky black painted with highlights of yellow, orange, and red. Then the flames evaporated from his sides to reveal a powerful Fire Krawk.

     Before Commander Flint even had a chance to figure out what had happened, Salem engulfed his shining claws in claims and attacked him. “STAY AWAY FROM MY FATHER!” he shouted as he continuously knocked him back with hits and slashes of burning fire. The commander was close to being overtaken. His shield was close to melting from the heat, all until his foot hit a rock and made him lose his balance.

     Everyone was in shock, but nobody was as shocked as Professor Lambert, who was dumbfounded enough to forget that he was still lying on the ground.

     Salem’s petite body leaned over the Skeith in a threatening manner until the orb around his neck ceased its fiery glow. This time, his scales glowed only a little bit and caused him to revert back to his original blue shimmer.

     When the Krawk child opened his eyes, the area had fallen under an immediate hush. He appeared to be as in shock as everyone else, and his shock turned to fear in an instant. He looked down at his claws. He looked at his scales. He looked at his orb, which no longer gave off the warm hue. He started shaking and looked at Lambert with confusion and terror as the Professor slowly managed to pull his sore body to its feet.

     “S-Salem? What did you just do?” the Gnorbu asked.

     Salem jumped at the sound of Commander Flint’s voice sounding off next. “So, the legends are true,” he growled. Salem spun around to stare at the Skeith as he regained his footing as well.

     Lambert limped over to the child and cut between the two to protect him. “What are you talking about?” he snorted with his eyes spitting daggers behind his broken glasses.

     The commander bent down to Salem’s height to get a good view of the orb before he ran behind his father. “Have you never heard of the Orb of the Fountain Faerie? It is one of the most sought-after relics in all of Neopia’s existence. A few years ago, the Fountain Faerie took in an abandoned Neopet. She bestowed an orb to him; an orb that he could never take off, and that orb had the ability to transform him into any existing colour of his species.” He shot back up to his feet, making Salem flinch again. “This child has the potential to be the most powerful being in Neopia! And with proper training, he could be the weapon that helps us get the Obelisk and crush our enemies!”

     Lambert’s face heated up like he was also gaining power over the flames. “You are not taking my son! He is not a weapon of power! He is a child!” he spat through his teeth as the other Seekers came to his side to protect Salem. “Leave him alone!”

     Commander Flint blew steam out of his nostrils. He motioned to the other Brutes to approach as well and meet the eyes of every Seeker in his path. “You are enemies of the Brute Squad and you will not stand in…” His eyes widened as he stared at the ground behind Lambert. “Hey, where’d he go?”

     Lambert’s heart sank at his words before he even got a chance to look back. “S-SALEM?” he shouted as soon as he saw that the child had run off in fear, during the commotion. “OH MY FYORA! WHERE DID YOU GO?”

     The Skeith commander turned to his troops. “Find him! He is the key to our victory!” He quickly split up his squad and sent them all into different directions to find Salem.

     The Seekers backed away during this commotion, but Lambert started to follow after the Brutes. He only stopped when someone grabbed hold of his arm. “Sir, wait!” said a quiet voice. The Professor looked back at Gyro, the assistant scientist. “It’s dangerous! You saw how they handled us!” he said and drooped his green wings.

     “They’re going to take Salem. They might even hurt him. I don’t know what they're thinking.” Lambert breathed heavily as his eyes became puffy.” He managed to free his arm from the Shoyru’s grasp and looked over at his fellow Seekers. “Please, won’t you help me? Won’t you help my son?”

     They all looked to one another, wondering if this was a good idea. They were terrified, but more terrified for the child and more motivated to help him. They all let out a triumphant shout.

     “Yes, sir! Let’s find Salem!”

     In the meantime, poor Salem had managed to make his way all the way back to the Seekers’ homeland of Brightvale and was hiding behind a tree next to the bookstore. A few members of the Brute Squad were patrolling the streets, visiting every house and stopping every passerby to ask if they had seen a young Blue Krawk.

     As silently as he could, Salem sat down against the tree and started crying. He was scared beyond belief. Every noise sounded like the Brute Squad coming for him, whether it was the chirp of a Petpetpet or the croak of a Mortog.

     But then, he heard footsteps. Salem held his breath and tried to contain his shaking. They must have found him. He shut his eyes as the footsteps quickened in pace. His own heart beat in tune with them until they ceased before the tree. He could not stop himself from crying, again. He waited for whoever it was to snatch him up and take him to the Brute Squad headquarters, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he heard someone take a step forward and speak to him in a stern yet gentle voice.

     “What have we, here? My dear child, are you okay?”

     The voice seemed welcoming, so he decided to take the chance and opened his eyes. Before him stood an extremely tall being; tall enough that Salem had to strain his neck to see her face. She stared at him with a look of pity, but she also had a sharp glint in her eye that faced the orb. Salem didn’t see that glint. To him, she appeared as trustworthy as she sounded.

     Eventually, Lambert and the others had managed to follow Salem’s tiny Krawk tracks to their homeland. “Quickly! He must be around here, if I know him well!” the Professor shouted and ordered for everyone to split up and keep their eyes peeled. Lambert himself headed towards the headquarters, constantly calling his son’s name and begging for the Krawk to run back to him. That’s when he saw it; a small, blue blur near the side of his eye. He was happy for a moment, thinking that it was Salem on his own, but his face drained when he turned towards it.

     The blue blur had indeed been Salem, but he was not alone. He was clinging to the neck of a strange Purple Lenny. She was extremely tall and grey-haired, dressed in a long black dress and a handful of golden jewellery that sparkled in the moonlight. With her signature glare towards Lambert and the “S” emblem on one of her rings, it became horrifyingly obvious that his adoptive son was in the arms of the leader of a dangerous secret society known as the Sway.

     As soon as Professor Lambert caught sight of her, she turned her back to him and began walking into the darkness of the night. “Duchess! Put him down!” Lambert yelled and took off after them, only for his hoof to hit a tree branch that sent him into the ground with a loud thud.

     When he looked back up, the Duchess had disappeared, and Salem with her.

     ***

      Quite a few years had passed since that fateful night. The war for the Obelisk had gone nowhere. And once more, they were at a standstill.

     I had recently joined the Seekers and had received the job of being Professor Lambert’s apprentice and personal assistant. When I wasn’t busy learning from the brilliant Gnorbu himself, I was usually busy finding books, writing notes, and fetching tea when he was too busy to do it himself. Many people may complain at such a busy line of work, but I loved it.

     At the time, Professor Lambert was investigating a strange occurrence in Brightvale castle, and had been requested to look into it by King Hagan, himself. The royal crown had disappeared from the king’s nightstand, during his slumber. He had gotten personal accounts from every guard and everyone that was in a certain radius of his bedroom at the time, but nobody confessed to doing the deed and nobody saw anyone go in or out.

     “None of it adds up, Chainlitz.” Professor Lambert scurried around the library at top speed, pulling out every book on the shelf and skimming it at record time. I chased after him as fast as my feet would take me with a notepad in my paws and a cup of tea in the paws of my Faellie, Fae. We were struggling to keep up with him.

     “Professor? Perhaps you should take a break. No disgrace to you, but you look like death.” I pushed my leopard-print glasses higher up on my nose and back up against my face.

     Lambert shook his head and climbed up a ladder to reach a higher bookshelf. “Take a break? Oh no, this is much too important!” he exclaimed and dropped a book directly over my head. I tossed my notepad to Fae and caught the book by instinct. My poor Faellie struggled to balance the notepad and the tea at the same time. “As a citizen of Brightvale and a Seeker of the truth, it is my duty to serve the king and do it as quickly as possible,” he said and dropped another book, which I caught on top of the one already in my paws.

     “But Professor-”

     “No buts, my dear Chainlitz. Do not concern your Xweetok heart,” the Professor shouted and slid down the ladder with a few more books in his arms. He placed them on a nearby table and slammed them open. Now, can you please read off the facts?” he asked me.

     I quickly placed the other books on the table as Fae handed me the notepad. “Yes sir. Firstly, none of the guards saw anyone enter or exit the room, but they did find the door half open, two times.”

     Lambert flipped through one of the books. “Which makes no sense. His majesty’s door was completely closed and the hinges were oiled, that morning. There’s no way that the door could be open unless someone opened it by hand, yet not even the guards directly outside the bedroom saw anyone walk past.” He furrowed his brow with confusion. “Next.”

     I cleared my throat. “There were claw marks all over his floor, but there were no fingerprints, footprints, or paw prints to be seen.”

     The Professor let out a groan. “By laws of nature and logic, that shouldn't even be possible. If the thief left claw marks while walking, he should have left footprints by default. Next.”

      “King Hagan claims that, while he slept, he could hear the quiet clinking of metal that was too realistic to be part of his dreams. He also heard chains being dragged across the floor, at an even louder volume.”

      “A thief with jewellery, perhaps. But it would not have been regular jewellery. Bigger jewellery. Big enough to make noise that King Hagan could faintly hear in his sleep.” He stroked his chin fur as he thought. “Large jewellery like that would be expensive. It would either be worn by someone with a lot of Neopoints or someone working for someone with a lot of Neopoints. But at the same time, he must be a prisoner kept in chains. Not to mention there was magic, right? Wasn’t that the final note?”

      I nodded. “Yes, sir. There were some off, magical sounds when the thief entered and exited the room. The guards heard it, too.” I pushed my glasses back up again as Lambert paced back and forth with one of the books in his hands.

      “So, this thief is the prisoner of a wealthy Neopet and has the ability to conjure magic. How interesting! But no magic could ever erase fingerprints unless…” He paused and stopped flipping through his book. “Aha! Here!” He ran over to me and thrust the book in my face. “Water coloured Neopets! The fact that they are made of water can help them sneak around easily! But that would not explain the door opening, as they could have easily used a fluid form to slip under the door. Robot Neopets? They do not have skin, so they do not have fingerprints. No, they would have been seen. Ghost Neopets? No, that does not explain the scratches or the opened door. Maybe… Maybe…” He suddenly sat down in the middle of the floor and rubbed his hooves over his face. “Oh, I don’t understand! None of this makes sense!” he boomed in frustration.

      I slowly grabbed the cup of tea that I had poured earlier and hurried over to him. “Professor, you really must take a break. Once you do, you’ll be able to think more clearly.”

      He looked up at me as I handed him his tea, and the slightest smirk came to his face. “Perhaps you are right. I shall return to this mystery in the morning.” He finally got to his feet and began trudging to his room with the cup of tea in hand. I followed closely behind just to make sure that he was alright.

      When I was sure that he had finally submitted to slumber. Fae and I walked back to the library and climbed the ladder up to a little cove in the wall near the ceiling that was decorated with more books, some Petpet toys, and a bed for the two of us to rest upon. I was offered a room of my own when I joined the Seekers, but I most preferred the company of books. The smell and vibe of the library was relaxing to me. Fae immediately plopped onto the foot of the bed as I slipped into something more comfortable and took off my glasses. Then I slinked into bed and fell asleep.

     ***

      “Lambert is a fool,” the Purple Lenny uttered as she gently stroked under the chin of one of her faithful Crokabeks. “He is spending all of his energy on finding the crown, instead of the important matters. This is all according to plan.” She looked back behind her chair at a tall figure that stood nearly to her shoulders in height. He was staring at her with a pair of bright, yellow eyes.

      “My dear Salem, I have another job for you.”

     To be continued…

 
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