The Burning Book of Moltara: Part Two
"It's right over there, on that island ahead." They had flown around a maze of islands until they seemed to be in the middle of them all. As the three of them reached the beach, the Peophin stopped short and tilted its head towards the shore. "I can't go with you, but it's right over there. You'll know when you find it."
Vivi and HS nodded before the Peophin swam away, leaving them once again alone and seeming very lost. The air felt different here -- hotter. Vivi looked around at the sea of trees before them, unsure of where to begin their quest to find the entrance. They decided to move into the thicket of trees, bracing themselves for the possibility of no return.
The further in they went, the darker everything came and the hotter it was. It was stifling -- humidity and lack of breeze made for an almost intoxicating environment. Vivi felt like she could barely breathe, her lungs filling with the heady scent of palm and mud.
"I need to sit down, HS." Vivi slumped against a large tree, bits of broken palm fronds sticking out in the sand. She was sweating profusely, exhausted by the effort of simply trying to breathe. As she stretched out her legs and arms to curl up for a quick rest, she saw the glint of something shiny sticking out in the sand. HS seemed to notice it too, as she was already starting to move towards it. HS picked it up and turned to look at Vivi, confused.
"It's a piece of metal?" No sooner had the words left her tongue before they were falling. Sand poured in around them, down and down until they hit something solid with a thud. Vivi had to rub her eyes to get all the sand out before she could properly see where they were.
Surrounding them was what looked to be an industrial town. Big machinery seemed to be at work all around them, puffs of steam and smoke spewing from each of them in turn. It was like nothing they had seen before -- an enormous obsidian quarry surrounded the city like a fortress, a few pieces tumbling towards them every so often. Brass lanterns hung from wires strung across the town, softly lighting the buildings before them. Above all, however, was the temperature -- it was so hot that Vivi felt like she could pass out. Next to her, HS was sweating.
"Is this..Moltara?" HS breathed as a Shoyru with leather gear ran past them and into a shop. Everything seemed to be less than what they had expected. Instead of the shiny, fiery town they had come to believe would await them, they were met with a soft, hot, dark town where everything seemed to burn and sweat at the same time. An old Chomby with a great gray beard and a necklace that held a giant gold bolt at the end emerged from a building straight ahead of them. Vivi quickly got up and ran over to the man.
"Excuse me..sir? Is this Moltara?" The Chomby gave a hearty laugh and nodded. Vivi felt her heartbeat quicken. "Can you tell us how to get to the Arcanium?"
"Of course lil' lady. Ya see those stairs righ' there?" He pointed to a small stairwell across the way from them. "Take 'em all the way down and you'll fin' yerselves at the caves. Turn left and walk up to the top o' the rock. Tha's where you'll find the Arcanium." He gave his necklace a small touch and winked at them.
"Be careful though! It's mighty hot down there, an' ya might get lost. Don't stay there too long or your lil' wings might catch fire!" He howled with laughter and walked away, towards the shop they had seen the Shoyru run into earlier.
HS looked at Vivi nervously. The stars on her wings seemed to sparkle less brightly as she tried to bring them closer to her body. Neither of them said a word as they slowly made their way over to the steps. Carefully, they began their descent. The deeper they went, the hotter it became -- they dared not touch the walls, which seemed to thrum with intangible fire. Minutes melted into hours and they lost sense of time, unable to see an end in either direction. HS leaned against Vivi, aching to stretch out her wings after having had kept them cramped for so long.
Vivi didn't know what to do. They couldn't go back -- they had already come too far down and they were too tired to climb back up the stairs. But moving forward seemed to be an even more daunting task. They had no idea how much further they had to go or what awaited them at the bottom.
"We have to keep going, HS. We're almost there." Vivi nuzzled her friend and gave her a moment before setting off down the stairs again. Their pace slowed considerably as the temperature rose even higher, their wings wilting on their backs. It seemed as if they would be doomed to climb those steps forever.
Suddenly, they felt a gust of hot wind come up from beneath them. Faint noises could be heard, short syllables of conversations and abrupt crashing. Vivi and HS could feel the end -- they ran down the steps four at a time, eager to get out and see if they were truly at the bottom. With each second the sounds got louder, voices getting clearer and sharper.
At last, they could see a bright light filtering in through a small entryway. They burst through, sweat dripping from their bodies like rainfall. The heat was indescribable. Vivi looked to turn left and saw there was a huge magma pool bubbling away, spraying bits of magma at those who got too close. She stared at it in bewilderment -- had they really come down that far?
They saw the rock the old Chomby had referred to. It had small shops carved into the side, an uneven stairwell made by the grooves of people climbing the same path over and over again. The two of them began their journey up, slowly taking in everything around them. Everything burned and their skin felt like it would burst into flames at any second, much like the people around them. Everyone seemed to be kissed by magma, flames and rock forming their bodies. Vivi climbed a little faster, eager to get to the Arcanium as quickly as possible.
When they reached the top, they came to a large cave-like shop filled with books. Two torches lit the entry, a simple open space between two columns of obsidian. Two runes marked the top of the shop in flowing magma. Inside, a Yurble with a flaming mane and eyes that glowed tended to the books. He turned to greet them as they walked inside, out of place amongst all the fire and sparks.
"How curious. What brings you two to my shop?" The Yurble eyed them carefully.
"We're here about a book..." Vivi trailed off nervously. She had a hard time looking the Yurble in the eyes.
"Well, yes, I presume you did come to see me about a book. I do own a shop, after all. But I wonder why you've traveled so far to find it here." Vivi stepped back as the Yurble took another step forward. "You are so very clearly from Faerieland..and ah, you..seem to be Altadorian, but perhaps you don't reside there any longer." The Yurble regarded HS and then stepped back again, leaning against a glowing table behind it.
HS nudged Vivi to explain, subtely hiding behind her. "You see, we found a book in Faerieland that was on fire. We tried to open it, but when we did, it turned into ashes." Vivi told the Yurble about how they were curious to know why the book burnt up when they tried to read it, and what was so special about it that it would be kept up in the restricted section of the library.
The Yurble smiled warmly as Vivi told her story, nodding along as he listened patiently. When she was finished, he hopped off his desk and motioned for them to follow him to the back of the store. They passed by books that seemed to be melting on the shelves, ones that glowed with pages lined with magma, and others that glowed, just like their book had. The Yurble stopped them as he climbed a small ladder to reach a book on the top shelf.
"This book is an interesting one. It is said that only those whom the book deems worthy may open it and read it. Under other conditions, the book will consume itself in its own fire." The shopkeeper stepped down and handed Vivi the glowing book. "it sounds like you were not supposed to be up there, and the book gave its judgment." He brought them back to the front of the shop and sat down behind his desk.
"The book is special because it contains the history of our home. Moltaran history isn't widely known, but our historians have kept our records for centuries. We did hear about the incident in Faerieland, but I had no idea you would come to us looking for another." He smiled at them again. "Take this back to Faerieland for me, won't you? Fyora did request that we send another copy, but it is much too cold above ground for me and I think the two of you would be perfect for the job."
He took the book back from Vivi and wrapped it in golden cloth that seemed to absorb the flames from the book. "This cloth will protect the book until it gets back to Faerieland. Be careful, and make sure it gets there safely." He handed the parcel back to Vivi.
"It looks like you came down the stairwell, but I think you might find this way a bit easier." The Yurble led them out of the shop and back down the rock, over to an old elevator made of rock and leather ropes. Inside there was enough space for just two with cranks on either side to raise and lower the carriage.
"Good luck, my young friends. I hope you have a safe journey back." With that, Vivi and HS climbed into the elevator and used the cranks to bring themselves back to the surface. They passed by the city of Moltara from behind the obsidian quarry, spotting the old Chomby marching towards a large steam-powered building with a hammered sign that said TOWN HALL. Further up they went, up and up until they entered a small tunnel, barely big enough to fit the carriage. They made their way slowly up, their path lit by small metal lanterns, just like the ones down in Moltara.
Finally, they reached the top of the shaft. When they stepped out, the elevator cranked itself back down towards the Moltara Caves. Vivi and HS walked along a tight path until they found themselves brushing away large, fallen palm fronds and twigs. They had made their way back to the beach, looking towards home. - - -
Exhausted, Vivi and HS made their way back to Mystery Island for sustenance and to rest for the night. They stumbled onto the beach as the sun began to set, then set off for the marketplace to find food. They settled for another meal of coconut fruit cups and honeyplume pie. As soon as they finished eating, they found the hammock they had spent the previous night in and fell right asleep.
In the morning, they left for Faerieland bright and early. Vivi and HS flew back the path they had taken to get there, passing over Meridell once more. Things looked different so early in the morning -- the marrow had not yet had a chance to grow, and the Turmaculus was saying hello to a line of pets with their petpets. It seemed to be giving out neopoints and small items to those who were waiting in line.
The sun rose high into the sky as Vivi and HS continued back towards home. With the book safely stored on Vivi's back, the two of them reached Faerieland in the early afternoon. Eager to deliver the parcel and complete the Yurble's request, they headed straight for the library.
When they arrived, the Library Faerie was sitting behind her desk with the morning's crossword puzzle in front of her. She furrowed her brows as she struggled to figure out "8 Across: Home of Honeyplume Pie." Vivi took a deep breath before padding in, bracing herself to be thrown out once again. HS followed closely behind.
As they approached the desk, the Library Faerie looked up and smiled. Instead of the usual look of disappointment or annoyance that she usually reserved for Vivi, she looked relieved to see her.
"I was told that you two brought something for me all the way from Moltara," she said softly. She looked at the two of them expectantly.
"Y-yes..yes we did! The Yurble at the Arcanium gave us this book to replace the one that we destroyed." Vivi pushed across the desk the golden package they had carried back with them. The Library Faerie unwrapped the golden cloth and chuckled as the book's flames tickled her fingers.
"I'm very thankful that you two brought this back for me. I know it must have been quite the journey to get there." She pulled out from under her desk a plate of faerie éclairs and leftover Fyora Day muffins. She gestured towards an empty reading corner with three squishy chairs at the far end of the first floor. "Why don't you tell me about your adventure?"
Vivi and HS spent the afternoon sipping Delicious Faerie Bubbles and recounting all that they saw in Moltara, about the Peophin that helped them find the entrance, and the delicious honeyplume pie they had in Mystery Island (after which, the Library Faerie excitedly filled in her crossword puzzle). She laughed and refilled their plates of faerie desserts until they were properly full.
She thanked them both again for bringing her the book, and told them that Fyora was not cross with them or roaming the top floor without permission. She did, however, remind them that Fyora was not like to be quite so lenient the next time.
As they left, the Library Faerie stopped them, "You are welcome back to the library anytime. The both of you." She smiled warmly at Vivi. "Just no more troublemaking, understood?" She let them out and closed the door, having promised that she would report to Fyora as soon as they returned with the book.
Vivi turned and gave HS a big hug. "Thank you so much for coming with me. I told you everything would be alright!?" HS nudged Vivi with her horn and laughed.
"Sure, but next time..let's go somewhere cooler!" They made their way down the road, back towards home, where they would sleep well into the next afternoon.
The tale of their journey reached all the way around Faerieland, to Brightvale, Altador, Shenkuu, and then some. They were called the Great Adventurers and when the Yurble in Moltara heard about their story, he set out a new piece of parchment and wrote their story, to be forever immortalized in the books of the history of Moltara.