The Witches Ride Again: Part Three
The sun gleamed down on another beautiful day in Neopia Central. The streets and alleys bustled with the trade of thousands of entrepreneurs attempting to make their way in the cutthroat world of business. Swarming around them were the tourists, hapless sheep driven from one peddler to the next by simple offers and a friendly smile. Swarming, though covertly, around them were the thieves, Neopia Central’s second biggest vocation. They silently picked the pockets of the customers, and were off through the crowds before anyone could notice. It was a system that had been in place for years, like a well oiled machine, albeit a well oiled machine designed to remove as much hard cash from paying customers as possible.
The three witches were strangers in this land. They walked through the crowds without a hint of swarming, covertly or otherwise, clasping their broomsticks firmly to their chests.
“I’m sure it was around here somewhere,” Edna shouted to the others above the general hubbub.
“How hard can it be to find a giant cauldron?” Morguss muttered beside her.
The three witches had arrived half an hour ago, and had sought the Soup Kitchen to satisfy their increasing appetites before confronting Kauvara. The crowds had other ideas, though, and the witches had been jostled down side street after side street. The witches were not used to such treatment. In their homes, which were characteristically more deserted than Neopia Central, they were treated alternatively as royalty or beggars. Either way, in both the Darigan Citadel and the Haunted Woods, crowds would part to make way for a witch. In Neopia Central, no one even noticed them.
“Hey, you there,” Edna called to a nearby yellow Bruce.
“Yes, madam?” he asked.
“Which way to the Soup Kitchen?” she asked him.
The Bruce pointed a flipper off into the distance.
“You can’t miss it, though I doubt the Soup Faerie will serve you if you have enough Neopoints to afford a complete Edna costume,” he told her.
“What costume?” Edna questioned as the Bruce waddled off.
“Don’t you know?” Sophie asked her. “There’s a shop here that sells imitation Edna hats.”
“They sell my image without telling me?” Edna asked.
“Oh, heads are going to roll for this,” Edna muttered as she marched off toward the Soup Kitchen.
“What I don’t understand,” Morguss said, “is why there are no normally shaped buildings.”
The three witches were seated in the Soup Kitchen, looking out at Neopia Central. The Soup Faerie had given into consistent demands and had provided the witches with soup for free.
“I mean,” Morguss continued, “I can understand the Neolodge and the hospital. They are sensible shapes for buildings to be. The problem is with the ones like the food shop. I mean, just look at it.”
She gestured to the food shop, located in the distance.
“Who wants to shop in a giant burger?” she added.
“What about that one?” Edna said disapprovingly.
She pointed her spoon toward the magical hat shaped building near the Soup Kitchen.
“I think that one is the Shop Wizard’s,” Sophie told her.
“Figures,” Edna cackled. “Wizards always tend to have a few screws loose. I can’t think of any other reason why you’d want to live in a hat.”
“Kauvara’s is more or less the same as her hat, I think,” Sophie told them.
“That’s city life for you,” Morguss chuckled to herself.
Edna finished the last of her soup.
“Right,” she said, “We’d best get after Kauvara, then we can deal with the Uni that’s been making a fortune off my good name.”
The three witches got up, then left the Soup Kitchen, curtsying to the Soup Faerie as they went. Kauvara’s magic shop was fairly close to the food shop, so they made their way through the crowds toward it. It was slow progress, as everyone else seemed to be going in ten directions at once.
“Here look at this,” Morguss said as they passed a stall, “they sell Petpets. It says here Noils, Gruslens, and Bearogs.”
“Oh my!” Edna said sarcastically.
“No need to be like that, I was only say-”
Morguss was cut off as a young Kyrii darted out of the crowd and snatched Kauvara’s hat out of her hands. He disappeared into the crowd.
“Well, that just takes the biscuit!” Morguss yelled.
“After him; we can’t let a magical hat go to just anyone!” Sophie yelled as she disappeared into the crowd.
Edna and Morguss looked at each other, sighed, hitched up their robes and followed in her wake.
Sophie was in hot pursuit of the Kyrii thief. She was a stranger in Neopia Central, so the thief had the upper hand, but Sophie was a witch. Witches never lose. She pushed her way purposefully through the crowd like a bulldozer trampling through a cornfield. The people of Neopia Central were not used to that kind of witch, but they soon adapted. Before long the crowds were parting to make way for her.
The Kyrii thief dodged down a side alley, Sophie mere milliseconds behind. She saw as the thief ran straight into Edna, who was barring the way.
“Honestly, Sophie, how many times do we have to tell you?” Edna cackled.
“Why follow people when they will come straight to you?” Morguss finished from behind Edna.
The Kyrii thief was sprawled on the floor. Edna bent down to speak to him.
“Before you start, this is not a costume,” she told him, “I am the real Edna, and I’d sooner curse you than look at you, understood?”
The Kyrii thief nodded in fear.
“Good, now why are you going round stealing hats?” Edna said in a sweeter tone.
“It’s... it’s a Kauvara hat,” he replied.
“That’s no reason to steal it; she’s been wearing it for years,” Edna told him.
“No, I mean it’s a replica Kauvara hat, isn’t it? You can’t buy them in regular shops, but you can get a fortune for selling one on the black market,” he corrected her.
Edna considered this.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Errol, ma’am,” he replied politely, still unsure if he was allowed to move from the floor.
“The hat, if you will, Errol,” she said, holding out her hand.
Errol handed it over quickly.
“Good, now clear off before I think of a curse that’d suit you,” she cackled.
Errol didn’t need telling twice. He ran at top speed out of the alley and into the crowded streets.
“Why did you let him go?” Sophie asked.
Edna normally transformed people into Mortogs at the drop of a hat, let alone the theft of one.
“I don’t like all this business with hats and imitations; it’s got me feeling rather odd,” Edna admitted.
Morguss patted her on the shoulder.
“Let’s go find Kauvara and get this over with,” she said reassuringly.
She led them out of the alleyway and through the crowds to Kauvara’s magic shop. As Sophie had said, it did resemble her hat, being a blue tent with a black starry hat as the roof. The witches pushed their way through the people milling around outside and burst through the door in an overly theatrical style.
The inside of the small tent, the witches noted, was considerably bigger than the outside. Whilst on the outside it had appeared to be only a small stall, inside there were stands and display cases as far as the eye could see, all stacked high with Kauvara’s potions. At the far end of the dimension-bending tent was a large counter in front of a door that could only lead to an impossibly large backroom. Kauvara appeared to be standing behind the counter near a cash register, patiently serving customers.
The witches made their way toward the counter, pushing the other customers out of their way as they went. There was music playing from unseen speakers, happy and generic music. The witches shivered. None of them could have ever conceived witchcraft like this.
As they got nearer the counter, the witches noticed that Kauvara was indeed wearing a different hat. It looked similar to the old one, but was pure black, without the band of red or the stars. When they reached the counter they knew instantly that something was wrong. Kauvara’s eyes were not focused, and she was speaking in a droning voice to a customer, who Edna promptly pushed aside.
“We have come to speak with you,” she said threateningly.
“If you would like to make a purchase, please select a potion from the shelves,” Kauvara droned.
Edna waved her hand in front of Kauvara’s eyes, they didn’t react.
“Look’s like someone’s cursed her... but who’d do that?” Edna said to the others.
“We’ve brought your hat for you, Kauvara,” Sophie said slowly, holding out the magic hat.
“We found it in the Haunted Woods,” Morguss added.
“I cannot accept items for potions,” Kauvara told them in monotone. “I only take Neopoints.”
“Kauvara, it’s us!” Edna shouted as she leaned across the counter and grabbed her. “Your sisters!”
“Please do not assault staff,” Kauvara replied as Edna shook her.
Edna let go and thought for a moment.
“She was wearing the new hat when she left the woods... and there was a scuffle...” she thought out loud.
Without warning, she leapt over the counter and grabbed the hat Kauvara was wearing. She began tugging at it, but found it was stuck tightly on her head. Kauvara started shrieking, and all around her, the sound of ambient music was replaced by sirens. From the backroom two large Grarrls in finely tailored suits appeared and grabbed Edna by her arms, leading her away from Kauvara.
“Unhand her!” Morguss bellowed.
She threw out her arms and began to cast a spell. Instead of the sparks that were present in the Haunted Woods, there was a faint fizzling sound and nothing further.
“Look!” Sophie said pointing at the guards, “They are wearing the pendants!”
Morguss followed Sophie’s finger and saw that each of the guards were wearing a blue gemstone pendant. They looked identical to the ones in Meridell that had sapped the witches of their powers.
“I am afraid I am going to have to ask you ladies to leave,” a third Grarrl said from behind them.
He picked them up by their robes, one in each hand, and followed the two holding Edna out of the door.
To be continued...