A Very Neovian Election: Part Six
Sophie sprinkled a few more herbs into the cauldron. They weren’t magical, and were mostly to mask the smell of the ones she’d added moments before.
Once she was sure the room smelt acceptable, she removed the peg from her nose.
“It’s a long shot, but it might just work,” she said half to herself and half to her Meowclops.
She took a spoonful of the mixture and poured it over the lump of bronze she was testing.
Much to her delight, it did not glow blue or sprout tentacles. She smiled broadly down at her Petpet, though her look of accomplishment quickly began to fade. Out of the corner or her eye, she saw the lump of bronze begin to shine.
Groaning, she straightened up and adjusted her hat. The lump of metal was floating above her workbench, emitting a strong light that was slowly intensifying.
Sophie glanced meaningfully at her Meowclops, which understood her completely and rushed for cover underneath the witch’s bed.
The metal continued to rise in the air, and then exploded with a bright flash that made Sophie flinch. Once it was over, she dusted the remains of the bronze off her shoulder.
“Better than nothing I suppose,” she muttered, and proceeded to spoon some of the remaining mixture in her cauldron into some potion bottles.
She was interrupted as her door was slammed open. Reg, Thumburt and the Crumpetmonger ran in.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” Sophie shouted, pointing her spoon at her visitors. “You don’t just barge in here!”
“No time, Sophie,” Reg gasped for breath. “There’s shadows prowling around the town; we’re the only ones that made it out. Everyone else, it’s like they’re zombies!”
“The statues have escaped then?” Sophie sighed.
“Statues?” Thumburt questioned. “No, it’s the pastries!”
“What?” Sophie frowned.
“Desmond, he was taken over by the shadows. You remember him? He works in the Crumpetmonger’s bakery,” Reg explained. “He won the election in Neovia but using dark magic on the pastries so everyone obeys him, and now there’re shadows everywhere!”
“The statues aren’t involved?” Sophie asked.
“No!” the Crumpetmonger shouted. “We came here for help, not twenty questions! Stop the shadows!”
“Who invited her?” Sophie growled.
“Please, Sophie, Mum, Dad and Bruno are all under Desmond’s spell... you have to do something,” Reg pleaded.
Sophie’s jaw set solidly.
“Wait here... if I’m not back in two hours, go and find Edna. Tell her that the shadows are here and they are powerful,” she instructed them as she packed a few potions in a sack.
“You talk as if you won’t be able to stop them,” Thumburt said worriedly.
Sophie glared at him.
“Shadow magic isn’t like regular magic... Reg will explain. Just stay here,” she told him.
She grabbed her broomstick, and was away into the night.
Thumburt and the Crumpetmonger turned to stare at Reg.
“I don’t know that much, just what she’s told me.” The Lupe hesitated. “The shadows don’t live in Neopia; they don’t live in this universe, actually. They are creatures that don’t really exist, you see? They live in a place called the Void, an endless stretch of darkness in which there is no matter, no life, and no magic... just them.”
“They come from a place without magic but have more powerful magic than Sophie?” Thumburt questioned.
“No, not more powerful, just different. They come from a place that doesn’t live by the rules of this universe, so they can do things that we can’t,” Reg told him.
“What do they want?” the Crumpetmonger asked.
“What would you want in their position?” Reg asked her. “They want to exist.”
“Well, I’m sure we can reason with them,” Thumburt said, staring out of the window. “There’s room in Neovia for everyone.”
“It’s hard to explain, I’m not sure I understand how Sophie said it works... but there’s balance, you see? They live on one side and we live on the other. If they start living on our side, sir, we have to live on their side. Nothing exists on their side. If they live, we have to die.”
“Ah,” Thumburt sighed. “There’s no reasoning with those sorts of people.”
“We signed Neovia over to them...” the Crumpetmonger lamented. “We gave them the town.”
Thumburt glanced at the baker, sudden fire in his eyes.
“We didn’t sign anything!” he said with excitement. “The shadows started taking over before he had chance to sign the paperwork!”
“That means it’s not official yet!” Reg gasped, catching onto Thumburt’s thinking.
“You’re still Mayor of Neovia!” the Crumpetmonger joined in, temporarily forgetting her dislike for the man.
“We have to tell Sophie,” Thumburt announced. “Maybe she can force them back wherever they came from if it isn’t official.”
He ripped open the door to the shack and ran out into the swamp. Reg and the Crumpetmonger exchanged looks before following.
“Where are you going?” the Crumpetmonger called after him.
“To save Neovia’s sausage roll!” Thumburt called back. “Because without it, all we will have left is open topped sandwiches!”
Sophie walked through the streets of Neovia, her supplies and broomstick held tightly in one hand, a magical fire burning in the other.
It was the only light in the town; the shadows had extinguished all others. They swarmed around her, unsure of what to do. She seemed powerful, and people shouldn’t have been entering the town, people shouldn’t have been entering their town.
It wasn’t just the creeping shadows that watched her. Lined up along the streets were the townsfolk, still entranced by the spell of the pastries, and still claimed by the darkness. They looked ahead silently, like statues observing centuries pass.
What do you want, flesh? the shadows rasped.
Sophie ignored the voices, and continued towards her goal.
The town hall was up ahead. The darkness writhed over the stones, completely covering the building. Sophie paused to adjust her hat on the threshold, before carefully striding in.
Inside, her magical fire lit up the lobby, revealing the darkness coursing along the walls and floors like oil. The dark tendrils recoiled as she entered, attempting to keep out of the light.
What are you doing here? the shadows rasped.
Sophie saw the figure of Desmond standing at the foot of the stairs. He watched her malevolently.
We asked you a question! the shadows shrieked, Desmond opening his mouth to form the words, but no sound escaping. You cannot harm us. Neovia is ours now!
“I could ask you the same question,” Sophie replied.
There was a deal with the flesh! A price was agreed! This is our payment! the darkness told her.
“Edna the witch of the tower made that deal with you, not Neovia!” Sophie shouted. “This has nothing to do with the town! That doesn’t explain the statues, or why you killed Oldnose!”
All flesh is the same, the darkness told her. We made a deal with the flesh, Neovia is the price to pay. The flesh, Oldnose, was required to bring about the election. His statues provided the pretence for the election, for our rise to power.
“It needs to be official,” Sophie guessed. “You can’t just take over Neovia the old fashioned way.”
Rules bind us all, the shadows explained.
“Then I am going to stop you,” Sophie replied, almost whispering.
She hated what she was about to say, but she knew it was the only way of buying herself time.
What are you going to do? the shadows asked.
“I am here to make a deal,” Sophie said flatly.
The Meowclops finally plucked up the courage to peek out from under Sophie’s bed. He glanced around for his owner, but it soon became clear she was gone.
Still, it was hard to tell with witches, so he experimentally peeked out of the door.
There were only trees outside. Slightly darker than usual perhaps, but still only trees nevertheless.
There was still a rather delicious smell coming from the cauldron, and the Meowclops casually sidled up to it, leaping onto a nearby chair to peek inside.
The potion inside bubbled temptingly.
But this Meowclops was not a fool. He had lived with Sophie a long time, and he had seen what had happened to the lump of metal before. Turning pink or growing an extra head was one thing, exploding was quite another.
Instead, he hopped up onto a shelf above the cauldron and carefully snaked between the various jars. He selected the one he thought would work best, and flicked it with his tail. The jar fell sideways, emptying a great deal of powered herbs into the cauldron.
The mixture below seemed to glow purple for an instant. Happy with his work, the Meowclops returned to chair, and began to lap up the mysteriously delicious mixture from within the cauldron.
When he was finished, the Meowclops sat back and gave out a deep burp.
Then a strange tingling sensation began to take over his body, and slowly, the creature was lifted off the chair.
The Meowclops stared curiously at his paws, which seemed to be glowing, ever so slightly.
At that point, had the Meowclops been capable of intelligent thought, he might have thought, ‘Oh dear’.
Thumburt paused at the crest of the hill outside of Neovia. Below him, the town was shrouded in darkness that extended far beyond the graveyard.
Dark tendrils were searching out into the woods. Slowly, the shadows were gaining more territory.
“It won’t stop at Neovia,” Thumburt told the others as they caught up. “They want everything...”
“If they keep going much further, they’ll reach Ilere’s Lair. She won’t be happy to see them,” the Crumpetmonger pointed out.
“It won’t matter by then,” Reg told her. “If Sophie can’t stop them, they’ll just keep growing in power.”
“We have to help her, any way we can,” Thumburt announced.
“What do you suggest?” the Crumpetmonger snapped. “I throw some buns at them while you lecture them about tax returns? Sophie’s the one with the power; magic got rid of the shadows when they were in Neovia the last time, and it’s all that can do it this time. I don’t know about you, but just running in there doesn’t seem like a good idea. We can’t defend ourselves against them; the shadows might kill us before we even get near to Sophie.”
“Magic...” Thumburt considered. “You’re right, more magic might help! I know what to do!”
“Look! What’s happening?” the Crumpetmonger asked, wildly pointing towards the town.
The black tendrils that were sweeping out from the town had stopped, and seemed to be almost retreating back into the town.
“Sophie,” Reg whispered.
“She fights for us,” Thumburt explained.
To be continued...