The Witches Ride Again: Part Four
Being thrown out of a shop into a puddle was a new experience for the witches.
Being told, “And stay out,” by the guards was also a new experience.
It was for this reason that the three witches sat in the puddle absorbing both water and the situation that had just occurred for a few moments before reacting.
“That was certainly unexpected,” Sophie said eventually.
There was silence from the witches in response for a few moments. Then, like a bolt of lightning, Edna stood up.
“No one does that to Edna the witch!” she screamed.
She rolled up her sleeves and turned to go back inside the magic shop, but Sophie and Morguss held her back.
“They have those anti-magic pendants; it won’t do any good!” Sophie told her.
Edna relaxed and the three witches collapsed back onto the floor, making a loud squelching sound.
“Mind control; it has to be, probably from that hat,” Edna muttered.
“It must have powerful magic cast on it to hold Kauvara,” Morguss said.
“Who’d have enough power to make such a thing?” Sophie asked.
“Us,” Morguss and Edna chorused.
Sophie gave them a sceptical look.
“Alright, but who else?” she said.
“Hard to say... certainly no one I can think of in the woods or Neopia Central,” Edna told her.
Morguss seemed to be deep in thought for a second.
“Well then,” she said eventually, “we shall need to find someone who knows Neopia Central better than us.”
“Not the Shop Wizard,” Edna groaned. “You know I can’t stand wizards. They’re all crazy hair and stupid high pitched accents.”
“That can’t be true for all of them,” Sophie said. “I mean, witches don’t go around cursing apples and saying ‘lawks’, do they?”
“I’ve never said ‘lawks’ in my life,” Edna agreed.
“So maybe the Shop Wizard is a perfectly reasonable person,” Sophie suggested.
“How many reasonable people live in hats and do magic related solely to items in the marketplace?” Edna replied.
“Fair point; he’s probably a loon,” Sophie conceded.
“We’re not going to the Shop Wizard,” Morguss said patiently.
“Then who are we going to see?” Sophie asked.
“Follow me,” Morguss replied.
She got up from the puddle with difficulty and walked off through the crowds, Edna and Sophie following behind.
It didn’t take long for Morguss to find what she was looking for; if a witch wanted to find a needle in a haystack, all she’d need do would be to stare at the hay till the needle presented itself. Morguss stopped in front of a small stall selling snow globes and waited, folding her arms. Edna and Sophie caught up to her.
“What are you doing?” Sophie asked.
“Just wait,” Morguss told her.
Sophie followed the direction of her gaze. After a moment or two, the crowd moved ever so slightly, and Errol the Kyrii thief appeared. He caught one glance of the witches and froze.
“Hello again,” Morguss said kindly.
What followed was probably instinct, as Errol’s legs tensed for a millisecond before he launched himself back into the crowd, attempting to make an escape. Morguss had expected it, and held out her hand firmly. Errol stopped in mid run, immobilised by the magic hold. Morguss approached the young Kyrii slowly, rotating him on the spot to face her. His face was frozen in an expression of panic.
“We are not here to hurt you,” Morguss told him. “We just want to talk. Is that okay?”
She appeared to relax the spell slightly, as Errol managed to nod.
“Good,” Morguss said cheerfully, “This alley should do.”
She led the witches into a nearby alley, levitating Errol a few feet in front of them. Once they were in the shadows, she released him from the spell.
“You’ve lived here a while, yes?” Morguss asked him.
“Good, then do you know what’s happening at the magic shop?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” Errol asked her.
“Do you know what’s happened to Kauvara?” Morguss asked more concisely.
“Something’s happened to Kauvara?” Errol asked.
Morguss sighed. Edna stepped forward.
“When did she get the new security?” she asked.
“What security?” Errol asked.
“Three big Grarrls, wearing suits,” Edna told him.
“Oh them; they must have appeared not more than a week ago,” Errol told them.
“Who do they work for?” Edna asked.
“Kauvara,” Errol said simply.
Edna sighed. Sophie stepped forward.
“Who do they really work for?” she asked in a threatening tone.
Errol hesitated, but gave in under pressure.
“A man called Mr. Jennings. He’s new in town,” he told them.
“How new, exactly?” Sophie asked.
“Oh, I don’t know... two, maybe three months,” he replied.
“When the business in Meridell started,” Sophie reminded the other witches.
Morguss and Edna nodded in agreement.
“Who is he, a wizard?” Morguss asked.
“No, he’s a criminal,” Errol replied, “He came in, offered a load of thugs money to work for him, and began to take protection money off the shopkeepers. The Defenders of Neopia tried to track him down, but he’s escaped them so far. It didn’t help that he hired practically every thief in Neopia Central to cause trouble for the Defenders, of course.”
“He doesn’t have magical powers?” Edna asked.
“Not that I know, looks more like a businessman from what I’ve heard, though there are rumours going round he might have something to do with Shenkuu,” Errol told her.
Edna turned back to the other witches.
“If he has no magical powers, how did he bewitch the hat to take control of Kauvara? Something doesn’t make sense here,” she told them.
“Where can we find this Jennings?” Morguss asked Errol.
“You don’t,” Errol told her. “He finds you.”
Morguss made an unhappy mumbling noise.
“Well, we’ll have to deal with Kauvara first then,” Sophie said. “Tell me, Errol, does the magic shop ever close?”
Errol shook his head.
“Good,” Sophie said, the faintest trace of a cackle in her voice.
“What’s your plan?” Edna asked.
“We’ll need some pipes, a Petpet, and some water from the Rainbow Pool,” she said as she turned to Errol. “Think you can get them?”
It wasn’t night when the witches stormed the magic shop. It wasn't dusk or dawn or any other kind of significant point of the day. It was raining outside when the witches stepped into the tent, but that was about it. Each of them held in their hands a small length of iron pipe that Errol had stolen from some local gutters. Morguss held Kauvara’s old hat in her free hand, Edna held a flask of Rainbow Pool water in hers, and Sophie held a rattling Petpet cage.
One of the three body-Grarrls approached the damp witches.
“I told you ladies before, you are barred,” he growled.
“Too true,” Edna cackled.
She didn’t wait for a reply; she hit the Grarrl firmly in the knee with her pipe. He fell to the floor in pain, and the sirens started again. The two remaining Grarrls appeared out of the back room to help their fallen comrade.
Very calmly, Sophie placed the Petpet cage on the floor in front of her and opened the door. Out stepped a very wet Noil. It was angry, showing its teeth. It locked its eyes on the first people it saw, the approaching Grarrls, and broke into a run. A few metres from the Grarrls it jumped, and landed on the face of one, scratching him with its paws. The third and final Grarrl was distracted for just long enough for Morguss to swing her metal pipe into his stomach.
“I’ll get the pendants; you two get Kauvara,” Sophie told the others.
As Morguss and Edna made their way to the counter, Sophie went around the stricken Grarrls taking and breaking their anti-magic protection. As she broke the final one, she felt the air tingle slightly; the magic had returned.
Kauvara stood at the counter waiting to serve customers, oblivious to the situation. Edna stepped up and uncorked the water.
“I hope there’s enough residual magic in it,” she muttered, and emptied the contents over Kauvara.
The Kau recoiled in pain and screamed. The replacement hat flared and sparked, performing the magical equivalent of a short circuit. Eventually, the screams died and Kauvara collapsed against the tent’s back wall. Very slowly, the mind controlling hat flopped down off her head.
At the tent’s entrance the Grarrls were recovering. The Noil’s rage had been spent, and it was now prowling around the potion stands. The Grarrls stood side by side, facing Sophie.
“You are going to regret that, lady,” one of them growled.
Sophie smiled and cracked her knuckles.
“The correct term,” she said as the magic began to sparkle around her fingers, “is Witch.”
The screams from the Grarrls were heard on the other side of the shop, as Morguss and Edna helped Kauvara to her feet. Edna scanned the shelves quickly, and returned with a pale potion in her hands.
“I think this’ll help,” she said kindly.
Kauvara groggily took a few sips, and sat down on a chair behind the counter.
“We brought your hat,” Morguss said as she handed it over.
Kauvara stared at it for a few moments, her memories returning to her. Finally, she placed it firmly on her head, her horns pointing out of the holes. Immediately, both wearer and hat radiated unseen magical power. They seemed to glow slightly brighter than the rest of the shop for a few moments. Then Kauvara frowned and looked up at the witches.
“Let’s find Mr. Jennings and make him pay,” she snarled.
To be continued...