...The Eyrie winced. "Let's start with a less painful one," he suggested.
Keemif snarled. "How dare you refuse to give me the information I know you have! Tell me, or I'll... or I'll..." Keemif spun around, searching for something to threaten him with, and settled on a nearby umbrella. He quivered slightly as he brandished it at his foe.
"There are reasons I cannot tell you yet," the Eyrie replied sadly, putting up his paws in surrender. "Look at my eyes, Keemif."
The Elephante snorted. "What do your eyes have to do with..." His voice trailed off, and he dropped the umbrella in astonishment. Clear, blue eyes stared at him hard, begging him to recognize them.
"Doctor... Doctor Wyndar?!?" Keemif gasped.
Wyndar nodded. "I couldn't do anything as an Elephante. I was far too slow to give chase when our beloved Injolva..." he cleared his throat, quickly regaining his composure. "Listen, Keemif!" he exclaimed, seizing the Elephante by the shoulders. "You do remember the sort of work I used to do in the village, don't you?"
Keemif blinked. "Of course!" He gasped. "You were the best alchemist in all Neopia! Your potions were rivaled only by Kauvara herself. So then, why did you--"
Once more, Keemif's mind put two and two together. "You transformed yourself to find out all you could in here... why Injolva was destroyed..." Keemif's eyes filled. How he wished he could have done something instead of grieving so much!
"Yes and no. I need your help, and yours alone." The doctor gave Keemif a sad smile. "You see, buried by the archives is my miniature cauldron, filled with a draught whose fumes would be capable of wiping the memories of everyone in its relative vicinity. I grabbed the books that talk all about the villages the Sway has targeted, and may target for recruits in the future. The potion won't work, however." He sighed. "I'd forgotten one little thing. Without it, the cauldron is likely to blow up these tunnels in approximately..." Wyndar checked his watch. "Nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds."
Keemif recoiled. "And no one's seen this yet?!? What is it you need?!?"
Now it was Keemif's turn to shake the Eyrie by the shoulders. "No, miraculously, no one has seen it. All I need is a pinch of Elephante tail fluff. Slate, no matter how I tried, wouldn't dare let me sneak one. You know what happened to him..." The Eyrie looked down and sighed. "He was such a wonderful child, always ambitious, eager to learn from me..."
"Doctor Wyndar, you know I have lots of questions, and I'll bet you do, too, but I think we should complete your potion before we all die."
The Eyrie shook his head as if to clear it. "Oh. Of course. To the archives!" He ran, tottering on slightly unsteady legs, into a room... into another room... into a corridor... with Keemif dashing behind him.
Several candlelit corridors later, Keemif frowned. "How much time did you say we had?" He panted.
Wyndar checked his watch. "Three minutes and twenty-six seconds!" he called out nervously. "We really should be there by now," he muttered as the two came to a dead end. Right away, Wyndar started to feel around the stone wall, trying to find one such moving panel that this Sway location was famous for.
Keemif groaned. Of course. He recalled, back in Injolva, the doctor had been extremely helpful as a teacher, but was often... careless.
Now, though, it was a gross understatement. Even so, careless or not, Keemif wasn't just going to stand on the sidelines. "We have to hurry!" he exclaimed, joining the Eyrie in the quest for a continuing path.
"Stop." It wasn't a scream. It wasn't a sharp bark. It was a soft, austere, and chilling command. Keemif and Wyndar turned around slowly to see Slate in his robes, with Kimique and Kyoya behind him.
"You thought you were very clever, didn't you?" Kimique sneered, flapping her wings in distaste.
"You, Public Enemy #1 to the glorious Sway... you, who joined the Seekers, switched factions when you got the chance, but were never loyal to us..." Slate folded his arms. "And we've got you, like a Spyder trapping a helpless little Vernax."
"I only did that to support the village! I'd never even heard of the Sway before I got here!" Keemif protested, casually touching another brick to try and find an escape.
"Enough!" Kyoya screeched, pinning down Wyndar.
"One move and he gets it," Kyoya hissed.
Slate grinned at Keemif, who expected to feel himself withering under his gaze. Instead, the robeless Elephante felt something he thought he hadn't felt in a long time.
With a mighty heave, Slateof hurled the Korbat in the room against a bookshelf, causing it to empty its contents on top of the now-unconscious form.
"You traitor!" Kyoya hissed. "I knew there was something dodgy about you!" He lunged at Slate, his beak bared with full intent of vengeance.
Almost as if by instinct, Keemif tackled the Eyrie with all of his might, who then crumpled into a heap, moaning. "You... will... regret th..." He did not have time to finish his sentence before fainting.
Wyndar arose, still shaky from the ordeal. "Slateof? Since when have you come back to your senses?" he asked, his voice wavering.
"Slateof... what happened to you?" Keemif turned toward him, a look of utter disbelief on his face, mirrored by an equally unhappy Slateof.
"They told me to trade in 'loyalty or life.' I did neither, but I had to make it look like I did when they captured me. Watching my home burn down while I had to help..." The Elephante fell to his knees and sobbed piteously, his shoulders shaking. "Coward..." was all Keemif could make out.
"Slateof. You were never of the Sway. I can understand why you never recognized me." Wyndar raised a paw to console him.
"I searched for you day after day..." Keemif murmured.
"I thought I'd lost it when they marked you as the enemy. You, who brought me out of that fearful silence, but I had to pretend for fear of losing my life... Keemif, thanks. You know, for... for just now giving me the chance to stand up again."
Keemif was about to embrace his best friend when--
"Life?!?" the Eyrie screeched, leaping into the air. "We only have about one minute until the potion detonates!"
"And we don't know where the archives are!" Keemif wailed.
Slateof arose, tossing his Sway robes onto a nearby chair. "They're not too far from here; follow me," he said confidently.
The trio dashed into a well-lit room so positively stuffed with books that it seemed as though the walls, floors, and ceiling were made of them. "Here we are!" Wyndar cried, yanking a piece of fluff from Keemif's tail. He dropped it into the foaming brew, which grew agitated and began to spurt sickly green bubbles.
Keemif yelped, but barely had time to fathom the pain when he felt a furry arm wrap around his waist and felt himself zooming through the tunnels. "I know where the tree is!" Keemif called into the rushing wind. Wyndar beat his wings against the musty air, extinguishing candles in their wake.
"Is that so? You'd better tell me, or it'll erase our memories in ten seconds!"
Keemif's mind spun as the Eyrie reached a dizzying speed, but he tried to keep calm and direct the three of them. "Left here! Another left! Keep going!"
A faint trace of daylight filtered from the tree ceiling. "That's it!" Slateof cried as they shot through, closing the door behind them.
The earth roared as steaming white smoke whooshed out of a loose knot in the tree. "We did it! They won't remember anything they did, and we certainly didn't stoop to their level, now did we?" All three of them interjected, unable to stop their frenzy of excitement.
When, at last, things had calmed down between the three, Wyndar continued to hover, slowly ruffling his wings and gripping both Elephantes. Finally, Slateof spoke. "What should we do now?" he asked timidly.
Keemif surveyed the land below him, dotted with villages, just like his own. His eyes filled once more at the memory of its destruction, but that thought from earlier tugged at his mind yet again.
You are alive for a reason.
Keemif smiled. "Doctor Wyndar, have you still got the books?"
The Eyrie nodded and patted his satchel with his tail. "Of course I do, I'm not that forgetful," he chuckled.
Keemif looked at his friend, his friend with whom he'd shared and would continue to share a bond like no other.
Practically reading his mind, Slateof answered the question.
"We're going to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The Duchess sipped her cocoa, sighing at the mountains of paperwork her subordinate oafs had to sort through at a Slorg's pace. Even she could be faster than that.
The Lenny daintily picked up the first document of the pile, a letter addressed to her. Raising an eyebrow, she opened it with swift and terrifying grace.
Dear Lady Duchess,
We seem to have lost our memories. We don't know where we are; it's a sort of underground series of tunnels. We found this address and, well, maybe you can help?
The Duchess sighed, put the letter down, and resumed sipping her cocoa.
Her subordinates could deal with this nonsense.