Witches in the Shadows: Part Two
The figure, still clad tightly in robes that obscured most of his form, checked the contents of a small bag.
Inside, over a dozen Lightmites buzzed, filling the bag with their pure yellow glow. The light shone upwards, illuminating the face of the blue Kougra that held them. He smiled as he closed the bag.
“Yes, that will be enough,” he whispered.
It had been the work of a moment to capture them. Hundreds of the things buzzed about in the night air near the Marketplace, filling the area with a curious twilight glow, even in the dead of night.
The figure marched off towards the Bazaar. There he would find his next objective.
The streets of Neopia Central were quiet, most of the city’s inhabitants being fast asleep. Among those still awake were the shopkeepers, and a steady stream of shoppers who braved the night air.
None of them paid the figure any mind. He seemed to almost blend into the darkness, as if he wasn’t really there.
In the Bazaar, the figure headed straight towards the Battle Magic Shop. The building, shaped like a stone Uni, was locked tight.
The figure banged on the door, his hand sinking into the stone on the third attempt.
“We’re closed for stock taking!” a deep but nervous voice shouted from within.
“I know what’s wrong,” the Kougra replied in his echoing voice.
The stone door opened a fraction, revealing a yellow Grarrl within. He looked worried.
“Can you help?” he asked.
“Do you have a workshop?” the Kougra asked.
The Grarrl nodded, moving back from the door to allow the newcomer inside.
The cold stone shop was quiet; the normal buzz of activity was gone. Normally, an array of magical weapons filled the countless shelves, lighting the shop with their dazzling magical glows. Now, only a few burning torches provided dim light, deepening the shadows.
“You need more light in here,” the Kougra informed the Grarrl shopkeeper as he made his way into the backroom.
“Wait... you said you could help me!” the Grarrl protested. “The weapons, they’ve stopped working! What does light have to do with that?”
The Kougra stopped abruptly.
“Everything,” he stated.
He continued into the backroom. There was a small forge there, with some magic tools that now seemed largely useless.
“I will need materials,” the Kougra said as he sat down at the forge.
“You’re going to make a weapon?” the Grarrl asked. “It won’t work, I’ve tried... it’s as if the magic itself has gone.”
“This weapon will work,” the Kougra told him. “I will need materials.”
The Grarrl nodded eagerly, not quite understanding what the Kougra had in mind. He rushed off to the storeroom to gather everything that he could.
“It can’t be gone!” Sophie protested. “It’s the magic, it doesn’t just go places!”
“But it is,” Morguss agreed. “I can feel it... or can’t feel it.”
“That’s powerful stuff; sucking the magic out of people... can the shadows do that?” Sophie asked.
“Well, they just did,” Morguss snapped.
“Not just people,” Edna muttered from the window.
“What?” Sophie and Morguss asked together.
Edna nodded towards the scene outside. The Darigan Citadel overlooked much of the land of Meridell. The kingdom slept on silently.
“Look at Illusen’s Glade,” Edna told them.
The magical Earth Faerie maintained a small area of forest near King Skarl’s castle. Even at night, the forest sparkled with the green hues of Illusen’s spells. Now it appeared quiet, and the glow had faded.
“Faerieland as well,” Edna continued.
On the horizon, the clouds that the magical land of the Faeries normally sat upon seemed darker and a little less solid.
“They’ve taken the magic from everything?” Morguss gasped in shock.
“The Citadel...” Sophie whispered, looking around in sudden fear.
“It runs on technology,” Morguss said dismissively. “Darigan was very insistent that no magic was involved in the engines, in order to avoid the influence of the Three.”
Sophie nodded with relief.
“How do we get it back then?” Morguss asked.
“They must have hidden it,” Sophie suggested. “You can’t just destroy that much raw magic in a few seconds. The shadows are powerful, but they aren’t that good.”
“Then we have to find where they hid it,” Morguss replied. “Any ideas?”
The witches stood in silence for a few moments.
“Neopia’s a big place,” Sophie sighed.
“I know where to start,” Edna announced, her resolve setting.
“Where?” Morguss asked.
“Neopia Central,” Edna told her. “There’s only one person I know that can locate magic, and that’s the barmaid.”
“Maria? The girl who fell from the sky?” Sophie asked. “But she doesn’t have a magical bone in her body!”
“I’ll explain on the way,” Edna said, hurriedly reaching for her broomstick.
She paused as her hand touched it. She didn’t have magic anymore... there would be no flying around on cleaning equipment this time.
“How do we get off the Citadel?” she asked the others.
Maria walked up through the Catacombs, leaving the Coffee Shop behind. She clocked off just before dawn. Working the graveyard shift wasn’t exactly her dream, but it was good pay.
Once of course, she’d had dreams of becoming a witch, back when she’d lived on Krawk Island. Some things involving an ancient magical book had happened, and Maria had found herself in Neopia Central.
She’d realised that magic wasn’t for her. She was after all just a barmaid, through and through. Her true dream had been escape from Krawk Island... and it had been granted.
Kauvara had found her a job in the Coffee Shop, and Maria had settled into her new life. Aside from a brief holiday in the Lost Desert, she hadn’t left the city since.
She shivered slightly as she emerged out into the cool morning air above ground. It would be dawn soon, and eerie twilight etched itself across the sky.
Maria wasn’t entirely sure that it was the cold making her shiver though. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing, and for some reason she couldn’t get thoughts of the witches out of her mind.
She took a brief detour on her way home, and headed towards Kauvara’s Magic shop. The starry tent with a roof shaped like the Kau’s hat wasn’t that far from the Catacombs. Maria ignored the crowds of people that were gathered outside as she approached the tent.
She lifted the flap, expecting to see the dimension-bending cavern that made up the interior of the Magic Shop, with endless shelves stacked high with potions, and the kind Kau behind the counter smiling pleasantly.
Instead, there was only darkness inside. The thin sliver of twilight that Maria let in illuminated the back wall of the tent, mere metres away.
“Kauvara?” Maria called out.
“She’s gone,” a voice from outside announced.
Maria turned to the young Bruce that had addressed her. He was part of the crowd that was milling around outside.
“Gone where?” Maria asked.
“No one knows; she just disappeared in the night, and took her shop with her,” the Bruce explained. “Something weird is going on if you ask me; the Defence and Battle Magic Shops are both closed as well, and people are saying that the books they are buying from the Book Shop aren’t disappearing when they get read.”
Maria glanced back towards the tent. In the entire time she’d been in Neopia Central, Kauvara hadn’t left her shop once. She’d certainly never taken her shop with her.
Maria walked away from the tent in confusion. Something was dreadfully wrong; she could feel it. Kauvara would have been the one she turned to for help, normally. Who else was there?
The Soup Faerie... she always seemed like the kind type.
Maria rushed off in the direction of the Marketplace.
Three witches carefully descended a rope between the Darigan Citadel and Meridell below. Dawn was just breaking on the horizon, lighting the witches up for all to see. Thankfully, it was still so early that only the farmers in Meridell were awake, and they were busy with their crops.
Edna’s nostrils flared audibly, conveying an unspoken message of unhappiness to the others.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Morguss snapped, trying her best to hold onto the rope and cover herself with her robes at the same time.
“How do other people in the Citadel do it?” Edna demanded.
“Shenkuu ships, Eyries, Faeries, riding on giant Petpets... you know, the usual,” Morguss explained.
“So why aren’t we doing that!?” Edna shouted.
“Because that involves talking to people!” Morguss shouted back. “The fewer people that know we can’t get off the Citadel by ourselves the better.”
“I still think you could have come up with something better,” Edna muttered.
“You said you’d explain about Maria,” Sophie said in the silence that followed.
“She followed a magical book around the planet like it was a magnet,” Edna explained. “Then she turned up in the Lost Desert, drawn there by the powerful magic of Esmeralda. The girl is drawn to magic like a Buzzer to flowers; it's simple when you think about it, really. If anyone can find out where the shadows put the magic, it’ll be her.”
“But... she’s not a witch; you said so yourself,” Sophie pointed out.
“You don’t have to be a witch to recognise magic when you see it,” Edna told her.
Morguss reached the end of the rope, and dropped lightly onto the grass.
“Even if Maria can’t help, Kauvara is in Neopia Central,” she explained to the others. “The more of us there are, the better.”
Sophie and Edna joined her on the grass, straightening out their robes. The farmers nearby looked up from their crops in curiosity.
“What are you looking at!?” Edna shouted, waving her finger aggressively.
The farmers went back to their work quickly. They knew the witches, and didn’t fancy spending the rest of their days as a Mortog.
Edna resisted smiling. She may not have had any power, but she still had influence.
“Let’s go, we don’t have time to waste,” Sophie said, hitching up her robes.
The three witches set off across the fields at a brisk pace. It would take a while to walk to Neopia Central, but it was the only option they had left.
To be continued...