Three Wishes: Part Seven
“I can’t believe what he did!” Ellie fumed as she paced the next street, her eyes thunderous. “That rotten excuse for a Uni! If I could see him now...” She held out her claws in a strangling motion.
Crack! A form of lightning shot across the clear blue sky before them. The next moment there was something between Ellie’s claws, the very pet she had been hoping to strangle.
With a cry of shock she jerked her claws out of his mane. “What...?” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”
Sylkon just gave her a dazed look and stumbled away from her, dropping the book he was clutching into the grass on the side of the road as his legs folded and he collapsed. His neck was bleeding from where Ellie’s claws had scratched him.
Ellie looked at her black claws wonderingly, then glanced up at Ophir, whose eyes were wide in complete shock. Her jaw was slightly parted. Ko was the first to recover, taking a hesitant step forward.
“Sylkon...?” he began, then his foot touched the book and he jerked it away. Far from burning him, it just sat there, and he bent to pick it up
Ellie shook her head vigorously, noting for the first time Sylkon’s ruffled appearance. His clothes were coated in dust, as was his fur. His main and tail were in tangles, and his hooves were scuffed. It looked like he had been walking through the Lost Desert for a week without washing. He still looked blank, but when he saw Ko reach for the book he jerked to his hooves and started forward.
“Don’t touch that,” he said sharply, wresting it out of the desert Lupe’s paws and hugging it to his chest.
“You can’t tell us what to do,” Ellie said just as sharply. “You wished us away. Go back to your Palace.” She looked at Ophir, but the Kau did not reprimand her for being nasty to Sylkon. Her eyes were narrowed slightly.
Sylkon seemed taken aback at the venom in his sister’s voice. “Elloria...” he saw her face change. “I mean, Ellie... I didn’t mean to. It just came out. Is it my fault if you were always so mean to me?” Then he looked away and sighed. “And I can’t go back.”
“Why not? You’d be doing us all a favour!” Ellie snapped.
“Because Maleficus has the lamp now!” Sylkon cried. His siblings looked at him incomprehensibly and he realised that they had no idea what he was talking about. “Maleficus, the Genie. He took the lamp from me and sent me here. And I can’t do anything about it.”
Even as he said that he remembered the magic that he had been granted by Maleficus. Would it still work? It hadn’t when he had been fighting on the balcony. And the book! His eyes fell to the bundle of pages clutched in his hooves. He let it tumble to the ground, and he saw Ko snatch it up. This time he only blinked slowly.
“Chapter twelve,” he croaked.
“What?” Ko said, staring at the royal Uni like he was crazy.
“Maleficus told me to read chapter twelve...” Sylkon furrowed his brow. “What is it called?”
Ko flipped the book open to the contents page and ran a golden brown paw down the list of chapters until he reached number twelve.
“Malevolent Genies,” he announced, then paused. “What’s mal-le-vo-lent mean?”
Ophir stepped forward unobtrusively and peered over his shoulder. “It means hateful, spiteful, vengeful.”
“You mean, evil?” Ko asked, eyes wide.
The striped Kau smiled. “Not quite. But close enough. Right, Ellie?”
Sylkon looked up at his other sister, but the cloud Bori was hanging back, watching warily.
“Read out chapter twelve for us, Sylkon,” she said.
Sylkon reached out for the book and rested it on the ground. He found the appropriate page and felt Ko and Ophir draw closer on either side to read, while Ellie leaned against a nearby lamp post.
“Malevolent Genies...” he began hesitantly. “Not all Genies take kindly to their confinement. In fact, many Genies despise all solid beings and to take revenge on them. Only a handful are powerful enough.
“When a Genie is first released from their Vessel, their powers have not fully formed, and it make take hours, even days for their magic to be complete, depending on their strength. Once they have reached the peak of their magic they are able to stretch the boundaries binding them to their Vessel.
“The most powerful Genies can take control of their Vessel and banish their Wisher. Only if the Wisher dies, or the Wishers finishes their number of wishes will the Genie be forced back into their Vessel. But the same Rules of wishing still apply, and the Wisher must be touching the Vessel to Wish.”
Sylkon stopped and took a breath. “I have to make my last wish,” he whispered, more to himself than the others, but Ko heard him.
“That’s the only way. Well, the only right way...” Ko’s voice faded.
“How can we trust you?” Ellie snapped, stepping forward and glowering up at her royal brother. “You sent us halfway across the World, and to the Snowager’s Lair, no less.”
Sylkon’s eyes widened. “I didn’t ask Maleficus to send you there!” he protested. “Just like I didn’t ask him to declare war on the Haunted Woods.”
Ellie cocked her head. “You didn’t start the war?” she asked.
“No! Maleficus pretended to be me. And now he’s taken my place as Prince of Sakhmet. He can change form. Which means everyone thinks I’m a bad leader.”
“You kinda are...” Ko pointed out. “You lost your throne.”
Sylkon lifted his head high and puffed out his chest, ready to object, but then he seemed to deflate and shrunk back down again. “I know,” he said quietly. Then he turned and plodded away.
“Hey! Where do you think you’re going?” Ellie shouted as his retreating back.
The royal Uni turned around and gave her a baleful stare. “I’m going to the Lost Desert to find the lamp. Someone’s got to stop that malevolent Genie, and it might as well be me seeing as I released him in the first place.”
“You can’t go to the Lost Desert by yourself,” Ophir said. “It would take weeks by boat. And by land... you’d have to go through the Haunted Woods.”
“And unless you haven’t noticed, they’re preparing for war,” Ellie growled.
Sylkon paused for a single second. “Your point?”
“I’m coming with you,” Ophir declared without any bravado. “You’ll need someone to watch your back.” She shot Ellie a defiant look, but the Bori only looked a little surprised, then disappointed.
“Ko?” Ophir questioned.
The desert Lupe squirmed under both of his sister’s gazes, then finally closed his eyes and hid his head under his paws.
“Stop staring at me!” he cried. “I can’t think.”
Ophir and Ellie looked away, but unfortunately Ko couldn’t see because he still had his eyes shut.
“Just choose already,” Ellie snapped.
Ko jumped and scurried to her side. “I’m staying here. I don’t want to go into the Haunted Woods.”
Ophir shrugged, not really worried. “Come on then, Sylkon. The sooner we begin, the sooner we’ll finish this.” The striped Kau trotted away down the street and after a moment Sylkon cantered after her.
Ko looked at Ellie questioningly. “So what do we do now?” he asked. He turned to his sister, but she was already halfway down a pathway between the neohomes, her claws clacking determinedly against the pavement. “Ellie, wait! Where are you going?”
“To the Haunted Woods, of course,” she replied smugly. “Do you think I’m going to let Sylkon get the better of me? I’m going to find that lamp and get rid of the Genie.”
“But... you’re not the Wisher,” Ko objected.
Ellie chose to ignore this comment. “If I remember the way out of the city well enough, then we should be out a few minutes before Sylkon and Ophir. Then we’ll be free to go to the Haunted Woods.”
Ko looked unhappy. “I never wanted to go to the Haunted Woods in the first place,” he muttered. But he hurried after his sister anyway.
Sylkon had been surprised at how Ophir had reacted. He watched her cantering gracefully along through the creeping tree, and wondered why her previous owner had ever abandoned her. She looked over her should at him and frowned, motioning with her tail that he should catch up.
He did so, eyeing the drab scenery around them warily. “Why did you help me?” he asked her softly.
She raised an eyebrow. “Because I know you’re not as bad as Ellie thinks. Ko doesn’t have as strong an opinion as her, but he also looks up to her, in a way.”
“And what about you?” Sylkon asked.
“I only believe in what I observe. You looked genuinely sorry back there, and you didn’t snarl at Ko when he said you were a bad leader. I think you’re learning that you don’t own the world.”
“Is that really what I was like?” Sylkon asked. “I didn’t think so.”
“You still are if you can’t even admit it,” Ophir replied, but the insult didn’t sting as much as it would have from Ellie’s mouth.
They had passed the boundaries of the Haunted Woods nearly ten minutes before, and now they were looking for a place to spend the night. A neolodge loomed out of the darkness, and they stopped. Ophir began to pull out the spare neopoints that she and Ellie always carried with them, but Sylkon stopped her with a gentle hoof, pulling out a gold coin from his coat.
“There are advantages to being a Prince,” he grinned, pushing open the door.
The taproom of the inn was quiet, with only a lazy Gelert lying sprawled on a nearby chair, dozing. The owner of the establishment, a rather diminished ghost Eyrie, sidled up.
“May I help you, Sir and Ma’am?” he drawled.
Ophir hung back, into the persona she used with people she had only just met and didn’t trust. On Terror Mountain she had trusted Kai and Maryl straight away, but this Eyrie, who only came up to her shoulder, gave her the shivers.
Sylkon strode up to the Eyrie pompously. “Two rooms, my good Eyrie,” he boomed, pressing the coin into the Innkeeper’s paw.
The Eyrie held it up to the dull glow of a lamp for careful scrutiny, then tucked it away. “Follow me,” he said. “Would you like dinner served in your rooms?”
“If you please,” Sylkon said, glancing at Ophir, but she was staring ahead, watching the Eyrie.
They stopped in front of two doors and then the Eyrie left them. Sylkon pushed open his door and stopped with one hoof over the threshold. He paused and looked at Ophir.
“You okay?” he asked unexpectedly.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I just don’t like the look of that Eyrie.”
“Me neither,” Sylkon said. “But you know I don’t like the look of most people...” he frowned. “Well, goodnight. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Goodnight,” Ophir echoed, entering her own room and wondering where Ellie and Ko were staying.
Further down the hallway Ellie was already tucked into bed. In the room beside her, Ko glanced out the window and saw the owner of the neolodge stepping out into the night, his eyes moving shiftily from building to building. He didn’t think much of it; maybe that was the way Haunted Woods pets always acted.
As he turned away from the window the Eyrie moved off, pulling the cloak he was wearing further around him more against prying eyes than the cold. He had some very interesting information. All he needed was the right person to tell it to...
To be continued...