How do you solve a problem like Neovia?: Part Three
Mayor Thumburt woke slowly the following afternoon. It had been a bad few days, so he had given himself the morning off for sleep. Besides, he was tired after his midnight adventures with Edna and the shopkeepers. When he eventually did wake, it was the slow kind of waking up used only by the cautious. It took twenty minutes for him to venture getting out of bed. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be that much commotion outside. Perhaps Edna’s idea had worked. He dressed himself slowly and then pulled back the curtains letting the light stream into the room. There was only one figure on the street below, Bruno. He had been tasked the job of getting rid of the zombies, and was currently sweeping a bunch down the street with a large brush.
There was a loud knock on the door. Thumburt groaned.
“Mr. Mayor?” the unmistakable voice of Prigpants said politely.
“Coming,” Thumburt replied with a sigh.
He grabbed his hat and cane, and opened the door cautiously.
“Something dreadful has happened,” Prigpants told him.
“I thought as much,” Thumburt replied, opening the door fully.
The other shopkeepers were also there. The Crumpet Monger was jumping up and down in panic, still perfectly silent. Mayor Thumburt had to admit it was an improvement over the gossip that usually escaped her lips.
“The spells appear to have backfired,” Prigpants told him.
Thumburt looked again at Prigpants. He was completely covered in warts. Swolthy, who was standing behind him, also seemed to be suffering from the same condition.
“Of course, we wear our own clothes,” Prigpants explained sharply.
“So the curses are working?” Thumburt asked experimentally.
“Oh yes, one might say too well, sir,” Alabaster informed him.
Thumburt groaned, and put on his top hat.
“You’d best show me,” he said unhappily.
The streets were deserted, Thumburt noted. The usual bustle of Neovia was gone. Bruno was the only one they encountered as the shopkeepers escorted the Mayor across town. He nodded sullenly at them as they passed.
“Where is everyone?” Thumburt asked.
“You’ll see,” the Printing Press Pteri replied.
Thumburt felt guilty that even in the morning, when he normally had a sharp mind, he couldn’t remember her name.
Noise greeted them as they passed by Alabaster’s furniture shop.
“My furnishings came alive this morning sir,” Alabaster explained. “I managed to contain most of them in the cellars, but a wardrobe got by me. It’s been careering around inside ever since. It almost did me a mischief.”
“That’s not what we need to show you, Mr. Mayor,” Prigpants said quickly.
The Crumpet Monger jumped up and down a few times and pointed in the direction of her shop.
“It’s not about Edna breaking her window, is it?” Thumburt asked.
“I am afraid it is something a little more serious,” Prigpants confessed.
It soon became clear what Prigpants meant. As the group rounded the corner to the Crumpet Monger’s house, the Mayor saw that the street was littered with what looked like more dead zombies.
“Bruno doesn’t appear to have cleared this section of the town yet,” Thumburt said disapprovingly.
“They are not dead, sir,” Swolthy told him.
Thumburt moved closer. He could clearly make out the form of Herman Dorfdrap as the closest of the floor bound figures. He looked around and recognised several other townsfolk. Thumburt jabbed Herman with his cane, the Korbat snored slightly.
“They are all asleep?” Thumburt asked.
“Yes sir, it is the curse of the Crumpet Monger’s pastries,” Alabaster told him.
“The pastries, you say? But the townsfolk were not supposed to consume them, only tourists,” Thumburt considered.
“Well, normally they wouldn’t be allowed. The rest of us informed our customers this morning sir, but the Crumpet Monger... she still can’t talk sir,” Alabaster explained.
Behind him, the Crumpet Monger pointed to her throat in a very deliberate manner.
“I see, I thought the curses were not supposed to kick in quite so soon...” Thumburt said as he examined the sleepers.
“We believe Edna may have mixed up the doses,” Prigpants said scathingly.
“Yes, she most likely did. Has anyone sent for her?” Thumburt asked.
“Naturally,” Prigpants told him.
“She isn’t coming though,” Swolthy ventured.
“Why?” Thumburt asked.
“The messenger said there is a sign on her tower door. It says she’s gone to visit Morguss in the Darigan Citadel, and won’t be back for a week. It’s probably because of her leaky roof,” Swolthy explained.
The Mayor considered this.
“Very well, there is more than one witch we can call on... Bruno!” Thumburt called.
Bruno sloped around the corner slowly.
“Yes, Mr. Mayor?” he asked glumly.
“Is something the matter?” Thumburt asked.
“The zombies smell something rotten, sir,” Bruno replied.
“Ah I see... I say, haven’t you eaten today?” Thumburt asked, gesturing to the Crumpet Monger’s shop.
“Yes sir, it’s just that,” Bruno replied, leaning in closer, “I don’t much care for her pastries.”
“Ah,” the Mayor replied while glancing at the Crumpet Monger, “jolly good show. Listen, we are in a bit of a magical bind at the moment. You couldn’t go and fetch Sophie, could you?”
“Of course, Mr Mayor,” Bruno replied loyally.
The hulking figure slumped off towards the woods.
“We’ll soon have all this sorted out,” the Mayor told the shopkeepers apologetically.
“Which witch did this?” Sophie the swamp witch asked scathingly.
“Edna,” the shopkeepers chorused.
“I should have known, really; the old sleeping curse always was one of her favourites. I’m only surprised she didn’t turn someone into a Mortog,” Sophie said critically.
She regarded the slumped figures of the townsfolk. The shopkeepers, with limited help from the Mayor, had moved them into the town hall.
“She did silence the Crumpet Monger,” Swolthy told her.
Sophie looked at the baker bouncing up and down silently. The familiar grin of a witch spread across her face.
“Yes, I can see,” she smirked, turning her back on the irate Meerca.
“Can you fix it?” Prigpants asked.
“Oh, I should think so. I’d burn all the clothes in your shop though, and take this potion to cure your warts,” she told him, handing over a purple potion.
“I am not burning our stock,” Prigpants said firmly.
“That’s the only way to get rid of the curse, break what’s cursed,” Sophie replied.
Prigpants & Swolthy wandered off back to their shop muttering.
“I am afraid that is the same for your furniture as well, Mr. Chesterdrawers, and you, madam,” Sophie told the other two shopkeepers.
The Printing Press Pteri nodded and ran off to her shop.
“It’s all very well saying that,” Alabaster told Sophie, “but I almost lost an arm to a hat stand this morning. Furniture can be quite violent when it gets a mind of its own.”
Sophie thought about this.
“You are quite right,” she said. “Take Bruno with you; he should be some help.”
Bruno nodded from behind Sophie and took Alabaster away with him. Sophie turned to the Crumpet Monger.
“What are you waiting for? Go and destroy your pastries,” she said simply.
The Crumpet Monger folded her arms.
“I’ll cure you when you get back,” Sophie told her.
This seemed to please the Crumpet Monger, so she scuttled off through the doors.
“What are you going to do about the sleepers?” the Mayor asked.
“Oh, that’s quite simple. I just need to use some Ground Bruce Eyes,” Sophie said nonchalantly.
She fished about in a bag of ingredients, and then looked up at the Mayor’s stricken face.
“Don’t worry,” she added. “Bruce Eyes is a plant that grows in the wood.”
The Mayor let out a sigh of relief as Sophie extracted a small jar of yellow powder. She took off the lid and began sprinkling it over the sleepers. Slowly, they began to twitch and regain consciousness. When she had emptied the jar, Sophie turned to Thumburt.
“We need to have a talk,” she said threateningly.
The Mayor gulped.
Sophie sat in the Mayor’s chair, peering at Thumburt on the other side as if he was a naughty schoolchild.
“You just agreed to all this?” Sophie asked after Thumburt had explained.
“It was either that or be marooned in a sea of zombies,” Thumburt explained.
“Hubrid wouldn’t have stayed long; he’s got Lupes to hassle. You just had to wait for him to move on,” Sophie said critically.
“I made an executive decision for the good of Neovia,” Thumburt said proudly.
“You made a stupid decision, for the good of yourself,” Sophie snapped.
“Well it’s too late now; we are committed,” Thumburt said dismissively.
“I’m warning you...” Sophie threatened.
Thumburt grasped the next of the Tourism Plans.
“Look at this one. It’s practically foolproof,” he said, handing it to Sophie.
Sophie considered the contents of the file.
“Alright then, but if this goes wrong, there is going to be trouble. Mark my words,” she conceded.
“Good,” the Mayor said happily.
He turned to the door.
“Reginald!” he yelled at the top of his voice.
The young assistant came running, though he was noticeably yawning, still recovering from his recent slumber.
“Yes sir? Oh, hello, Sophie,” he said as he saw his sister.
Sophie nodded politely.
“Get me Balthazar,” Thumburt ordered.
Balthazar growled contently as he stepped back and took in his work. The long sleep apparently had given Neovians a burst of energy, as construction of Balthazar’s Faerie Factory had only taken two days. Reginald stood beside the Mayor and the Faerie hunter, feverishly trying to make sense of the plans.
“So, it’s a bottling plant?” Reginald said eventually.
The Mayor nodded.
“It will shave weeks off my packaging time,” Balthazar growled, “I bring in captured Faeries, and you bottle them and ship them out to my customers.”
“It had better work,” Thumburt said. “The reinforced Faerie cages were not cheap to buy in.”
“It will work. We shall make good partners. Have you selected a foreman?” Balthazar asked.
“But of course; this way,” Thumburt told him.
He led Reginald and Balthazar over to the entrance to the small grey building that was already churning out smoke.
“Balthazar, meet the plant manager, Herman Dorfdrap,” Thumburt said.
The Korbat shook Balthazar’s clawed hand, wincing slightly under the pressure.
“I have been fully briefed on how it works, sirs,” Herman told them. “We should be ready to start her up whenever the first batch arrives.”
“That should be tomorrow,” Balthazar informed them.
Herman nodded expectantly as Balthazar turned to the Mayor.
“Hubrid has given me a message for you,” the Lupe growled. “He says that if this scheme fails, the committee will take matters into their own hands.”
“What does that mean?” Thumburt asked.
“It means that if you fail at this, you forfeit your title as Mayor of Neovia. We will take over in your place,” Balthazar replied.
“You have no authority to do that!” Thumburt yelled.
Balthazar bared his teeth.
“We have all the authority we shall need,” he sneered. “You have been warned.”
The large Lupe padded off to attend to his business. Thumburt wiped the sweat from his brow. If the Faerie Processing Plant backfired, he’d have the most powerful people in the woods against him on one side, and Sophie on the other. It seemed to him that no one was ever on the Mayor’s side.
To be continued...