Agent of the Sway: Rogue - Part Three
They decided not to make camp in the Woods that night, instead ploughing on towards their next destination.
"Neopia Central for your explosives, then?" Falmouth asked.
"Not just yet," Clayton replied. "We'll be needing the Seekers as well, if we really want to get the Sway interested. No one can whip up a storm of public interest like the Seekers - they can't help but shout about their discoveries. We head to Brightvale, then Neopia Central from there. We'll pick up the Thieves Guild support on Terror Mountain on our way to Tyrannia."
"What makes you think the Seekers will keep this a secret? About our plans to remove the Sway, I mean?" Falmouth asked. "You just said they can't keep things quiet."
"We'll tell them what they need to know," Clayton said. "For now, at least. The rest I'm sure they'll discover when things are moving. They just need a little prod in the right direction."
The pair had wandered into the graveyard on the outskirts of the Haunted Woods. The Endless Plains that led to Brightvale and Neopia Central lay to the north, and the new location of Faerieland to the east.
There, in the middle of the graveyard, were two young girls.
A pair of Wockies, identical down to the dresses they were wearing, were staring at a grave. They were holding hands, clearly reliving sad memories relating to whoever was buried below.
The noise of Clayton and Falmouth approaching disturbed them, and they turned to face the new arrivals.
Falmouth gasped a little as she saw their pale skin and sunken eyes - these girls were anything but natural.
Clayton too gasped, but for a different reason. He recognised the twins. Just before Faerieland had fallen, he had tried to get them and their mother to evacuate their home. They had refused, and Clayton had been forced to leave them.
"Girls..." he said to them.
"We remember you," one of the girls said, with the other chiming in. "You told us to run."
"I... Your mother?" Clayton asked.
"Mother had to leave us," they said. "But we're better now."
"What happened to them?" Falmouth whispered.
"The sky fell," they answered. "And then we were here."
"The sky?" Falmouth asked. "Oh, by the grace of the Queen, not Faerieland!?"
"We've made lots of new friends," the twins said, the thought of them now being undead somehow not bothering them in the slightest. "From all over the place. We might have a welcoming party."
"Friends?" Falmouth asked.
"There's the ghost knight, and the patchwork monster," they said. "We like the zombies, and the Werelupes are a hoot."
"Monsters?" Falmouth gasped. "We've cursed them to this?"
"Not we, me," Clayton corrected her.
But then, that traitorous part of his mind kicked in again. The Sway agent had arrived to take stock of the situation, and a wicked thought struck him.
"You missed your birthday party, didn't you, girls?" he asked. "I heard you planning it with your mother."
"We didn't get to have that party," they answered sadly. "We love parties!"
"I'm planning a party of my own in Tyrannia," he said. "People are being invited from all across the planet, it might well be the biggest party ever thrown. And it would be a shame, after I ruined your last party, if you couldn't attend."
"You are inviting us?" the twins clapped with joy.
"Not just you," Clayton added. "But all of your friends. Every single last one. It would be a shame if even one of them missed out on it, after all."
The twins proceeded to grin broadly.
"We'll have to pick out an outfit!" they said. "And send out proper invites!"
With that, they skipped off into the Woods.
"What was that?" Falmouth demanded. "They are children! And you are telling them to wade into the middle of a battle like it is a funfair? Have you lost your mind? Isn't it enough that you've already taken their family and home from them?"
"They are undead children," Clayton stressed. "They won't be turning up with a bunch of babies - they will be bringing an army of the undead with them. And you know what... I think they might just enjoy it."
"Anyone else you want to bring along?" Falmouth asked. "The current year's intake in the Neoschools, perhaps? Or maybe the fisherman from Mystery Island?"
"Wit doesn't suit you," Clayton told her, walking away and forcing her to follow. "Besides, they will bring authenticity - as it stands, the Duchess might believe the factions we are gathering have been engineered - but the undead? They will inject an element of chaos to proceedings. She'll buy it, I'm sure."
The back of his mind was telling him that Falmouth was right, of course. He clung to that little voice as he always had - a sign that he hadn't become completely amoral.
For now, he told himself that it was required - the destruction of the Sway was a goal greater than any of them.
The fields of Brightvale were in bloom, the Furanga Marches spreading hues of orange across the horizon.
The Seekers had their headquarters in Brightvale town, in one of the many libraries. It was, aside from Hagan's own collection, the most complete library on the face of the planet. There were texts there that weren't available anywhere else.
And hidden deep in the archives, was one specific book that detailed some of the early Tyrannian history. There was nothing specific, nothing concrete. But there was a mention of the power of the obelisk.
All Clayton had to do was make sure the right man saw the book, and the rest would fall into place.
The Seekers, being devoted to spreading knowledge across Neopia, had something of an open door policy. There were no guards, and no one checked who Clayton and Falmouth were when they entered.
"You remember where the book is?" Falmouth asked.
"As long as they haven't changed the order the book stacks are in since I was last here, then yes," Clayton answered, leading her down into the basement levels.
Down there, away from the birdsong of the surface, it was deathly quiet. The books pressed in, generating an eerie, echoless silence. Deeper they went, down to the lowest level and most unvisited stacks.
"Long ago, the Sway learned that the Seekers could be dangerous if left to run unchecked across Neopia," Clayton explained. "We... Sorry, they, took a full inventory of all their knowledge and modified that which we thought was potentially dangerous."
"You censored them?" Falmouth asked.
"No, not quite," Clayton replied. "We kept the books here, just in case something like this happened and we needed the Seekers to access previously forbidden information. Instead, we came across a simple, yet effective method of hiding them."
He came to a shelf and traced along the books until he found the one he was looking for. The dust jacket proclaimed it to be a copy of the 'Compendium of Mace Sizes in Ancient Neopia City, Volume 3'.
Clayton carefully removed the dust jacket, revealing a far older and different book inside.
"You switched dust jackets," Falmouth gasped.
"We discovered that several titles, particularly those later in series in uninteresting subjects, had hardly ever been checked out of the library," Clayton explained. "Making them the perfect disguise."
He flicked to one of the pages, showing Falmouth an illustration of an obelisk zapping a Neopet with some kind of energy ray.
"It is written in ancient Tyrannian," Clayton said of the passage written next to the drawing. "But thankfully, a lot of the Seekers are well versed in it these days after Professor Fairweather's translation of Mad Tongue Murphy's writings."
"So who are we delivering this to?" Falmouth asked. "Don't tell me you have blackmail material on the Seekers as well?"
Clayton gave a little smirk. Technically, he did. Professor Fairweather's assistant was an undercover member of the Virtupets Resistance. But he doubted Werther had enough say in the movements of the organisation to help.
"No," he replied. "But if we want all of the Seekers to mobilise, we'll need Lambert."
Professor Lambert was, effectively, the head of the Seekers. In truth, the organisation was entirely run by mutual agreement. But anything as large as the Seekers generated a significant amount of paperwork which does not, under any circumstances, get sorted by mutual agreement. Lambert was leader out of necessity - but he was well respected and as such, useful.
He had a small office in the upper levels of the Seekers building. It was overflowing with documents and reference books, the Gnorbu lost behind it all.
"Come in, come in!" he called when he heard their knock. "Do take a seat, sorry about the mess!"
He cleared away a few stacks of paper so he could see them.
"I say!" he said to Clayton. "Have we met before? Yes, I'm quite sure of it... Altador! Yes, that's it! You were there during all that business with people losing their memories. You were looking for trade routes with your partner, wasn't it?"
Clayton looked slightly shocked at being recognised.
"Something of a photographic memory," Lambert explained, tapping his head. "I never forget a face. What can I help you with? Venturing into another brave new world, is it?"
"Not this time," Clayton said. "I've... gotten out of the business I was in when we last met, Professor. Now, I'm something of an antiques dealer."
Falmouth gave him a curious look.
"In particular, I source items for clients who are very particular about the age and origin of what they buy," Clayton added.
"You need not mince your words around me," Lambert said. "You mean to say you are a treasure hunter, or to give it the less wholesome term... Tomb raider. I am not a fan, of course. I believe that individuals should recompense locals for any treasures taken, and wherever possible culturally significant artefacts should remain, as they say, in situ. But I cannot deny that, without the treasures that tomb raiders such as yourself have recovered and returned to civilisation, our knowledge about the ancient world would be significantly less. What is it, exactly, that you want from me?"
"I use your libraries regularly to source items," Clayton explained. "Recently, I came across this."
He handed over the book, open to the page with the drawing.
"It is the first I have seen of it, and no other books of the era mention it," Clayton said. "My ancient Tyrannian is rusty, to say the least, but it appears to detail..."
"An obelisk," Lambert said with a nod. "Hidden on the Tyrannian plain, capable of great power. Why, this is ancient, and not in the provincial sense... I don't think I've ever seen anything this early... This must predate recorded history. Where did you find this book? You said our own libraries? Impossible!"
"It appeared to be incorrectly filed," Clayton explained.
"This is truly an amazing find!" Lambert said. "You have come to me looking for a location, yes? I'm sorry, but there, I cannot help you. There's nothing in this text that describes the specifics, if this obelisk is even still intact underground. Short of the thing being unearthed, I'm afraid you will have to tell your client that it is a lost cause. Thank you from bringing this to my attention though, I shall research it further!"
Clayton gave his best dejected face, and thanked the Professor for his time.
The seed had been planted. When the Obelisk was uncovered, the Seekers would come.
To be continued...