Witches in the Shadows: Part Four
The witches stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the eclipse.
“That can’t be natural,” Sophie muttered.
The darkness was spreading over the sky, but the eyes of all three witches were squared focused on Neopia Central, only miles away.
“That’s not shadow magic,” Morguss told them.
“No, it’s our magic; they’re using our magic!” Edna spat.
The three witches watched in horror as the shadows completed their spell. The darkness in the middle of the eclipse seemed to grow deeper, and then spill out across the sky like tendrils of smoke.
“It’s a portal,” Edna gasped. “They’ve opened a gate to the Void!”
Sure enough, as the black tendrils descended towards Neopia, the witches saw the thousands upon thousands of red eyes swarming within.
“They’re going to try and claim Neopia Central!” Sophie gasped as the army of the darkness bore down on the city like a sandstorm.
“We have to find Maria! Now!” Morguss said, breaking into a run once more.
The other two witches followed close behind, taking care to keep close together.
The shadows swirled through the streets of Neopia Central.
This is our city now! they rasped.
People ran in fear, but the shadows overwhelmed them. They pounced upon their unsuspecting prey, and then after a few moments twitching on the floor, the Neopets got back to their feet. Like zombies, they began to move jerkily, nothing more than puppets under the control of the shadows that possessed them.
Maria watched silently as Neopia Central slowly erupted into chaos. Fires were already billowing in parts of the city, and screams echoed from alleyways. She poked her head back inside the tent.
“Don’t leave,” she told the Shop Wizard.
The JubJub looked up from the book of price reports he was reading to the disabled Soup Faerie.
“Is something going on outside?” he asked.
“Don’t leave,” Maria repeated.
She turned back outside, but found a shadow swirling in her face. Two beady red eyes watched her as it slowly circled.
Flesh! Witch! It reeks of magic! the shadow cackled.
No, it is different, another shadow rasped as it joined the original. It is less than a witch! A failure!
“Who are you? What do you want?” Maria demanded, backing away from the tent.
We are the darkness! the shadows rasped. We want nothing, only Neopia Central... and it is already ours!
Maria ran through the shadows as they screamed with laughter. She had no idea where she was going.
Everyone in Neopia Central that could help was gone; she didn’t have anywhere else left to go.
The yellow Grarrl came back into the workshop.
“Is it finished?” he asked expectantly.
“Yes,” the Kougra said as he leaned back. “It was difficult, but it became easier after I became fully solid.”
He experimentally pressed his hand against the wall. Unlike before, he did not sink into it.
“Is that good?” the Shopkeeper asked.
“For me, but also for them,” the Kougra replied. “They will have form like me, soon enough... then it may be too late to stop them.”
“There seems to be something happening outside...” the Grarrl told his visitor.
“Yes, soon there’s going to be a lot more happening,” the Kougra said as he picked up his newly built weapon.
It looked something like an energy weapon used onboard the Virtupets Space Station, only much larger. The Kougra had to hold it with both arms. Instead of the complex circuitry of the Space Station, it seemed to use a peculiar type of Neovian clockwork, and a small cage at the rear of the weapon held a collection of Lightmites. Their dim buzzing was the only sound in the workshop for a few moments.
“So this will make my stock work again?” the Grarrl asked.
“No,” the Kougra replied simply as he walked out of the workshop.
“But, you said it would!” the Grarrl shouted, rushing after the mystery visitor.
“This weapon will stop the shadows outside,” the visitor replied. “When they are gone, your stock will work again.”
He opened the door to the shop. The sounds of screams and explosions rushed in from outside.
“Close this door and do not open it for anyone, do you understand?” the Kougra asked.
The Grarrl nodded, and closed the door after he left. The shopkeeper was left alone; the silence of his shop surrounded him. He edged slightly closer to one of the torches burning on the walls, finding comfort in the light.
The shadow flesh! the darkness screamed outside. He has survived!
The Kougra smiled.
“Does that scare you?” he asked.
We do not fear! We are eternal! the shadows rasped. You cannot stop us! We have already won!
The Kougra merely smiled, and readied his weapon.
As he pulled the trigger, the clockwork gears inside sprung into life, and arranged a series of mirrors as the Lightmites sparked in their cage.
A radiant beam of pure yellow light shot out from the end of the weapon, and tore through the nearest shadow.
It screamed as the light consumed it.
“We’ll see about that, shall we?” the Kougra laughed, pulling the trigger again and obliterating another shadow.
Maria ran through the streets, the shadows hot on her heels.
Soon we will have form! they shrieked. Then the flesh can escape us no more!
The shadows seemed to hesitate slightly.
The survivor! they screamed in unison, recoiling away from Maria.
They snaked away through the alleyways, leaving Maria.
Maria stopped, and gasped for her breath. Looking around, she saw residents of Neopia Central lined up on the pavement, as if silently watching a parade that only they could see.
Maria waved her hand in front of a Nimmo’s eyes. They were glazed, as if he wasn’t really there.
Maria’s eyes were drawn to a Shoyru standing nearby. She recognised the apron and the hat. It was her boss, the owner of the Coffee Shop. She stood there exactly like the Nimmo, gazing off into the distance.
Maria shook her, but there was no response.
“What happened to you?” she asked to no one in particular.
The Shoyru’s eyes remained the same, looking past Maria as if she wasn’t even there.
Maria sighed as she let go of her. Everyone that could help was gone, and all the people she knew were being turned to living statues... was Maria the only one left now? Neopia Central had been taken over so quickly...
Tears began to run down Maria’s cheeks as the gravity of the situation hit her. She allowed herself a few sobs before the sensible part of her mind took over. It scolded her for getting so emotional.
Where was the girl who had escaped Krawk Island?
Where was the girl who had trekked half way across Neopia just to find the witches and give them a book?
Where was the girl who had saved the planet?
Maria’s jaw set solidly. She was that girl, and sobbing in the middle of the street wasn’t how she’d done it the first time. She gathered herself up, and ran off down the road.
The three witches ran through the streets of Neopia Central, brandishing bits of drainpipe they had claimed as weapons.
Against the shadows, they would be largely useless, but it felt reassuring to the witches to at least have some form of defence.
They passed rows upon rows of locals, all lined up on the sides of the streets.
“They did this in Neovia,” Sophie explained. “They never finished their plan, though.”
“If they hold on to these bodies long enough, the shadows will begin to take form,” Morguss told her. “That’s how I heard they do it.”
“It’s not going to come to that,” Edna said flatly. “We’re going to find Maria and end this.”
“How do we do that?” Sophie asked, looking around.
The world had been plunged into darkness. Only the faint halo of the eclipse and the firelight from a few blazing buildings illuminated the city. In the end though, what little light there was only served to deepen the shadows that lurked in alleyways.
“It’s a big city; there’re millions of people living here,” Morguss pointed out. “That’s if she’s still in control of her own senses. What if she’s turned into one of them?”
The Moehog pointed over her shoulder at one of the many rigid locals.
“She’s a smart girl,” Edna told her. “She’ll have gone somewhere she feels safe.”
“Kauvara!” Sophie shouted. “She’ll have gone to see Kauvara, I bet!”
“Good, we’ll pick up Kauvara while we’re there,” Edna nodded.
She turned to head off.
“...which way is Kauvara?” she said eventually.
The three witches looked at each other.
“We could always ask directions?” Morguss suggested.
“From who? Them?” Edna snapped, pointing at the living statues.
“It was only an idea...” Morguss muttered.
“Wait, I think I remember from the last time we were here,” Sophie said turning around as she tried to get her bearings.
“If this is the street that leads to Meridell...” she said to herself. “Then Kauvara’s Magic Shop is... over... there?”
She pointed down a side street.
“You’d better not be guessing,” Edna mumbled.
The three of them walked cautiously down the street.
“Where are the shadows?” Edna demanded eventually. “They should be attacking us or something!”
“Maybe something’s keeping them busy?” Morguss suggested.
“Let’s just find Maria,” Sophie told them. “We can worry about the shadows later once we have the magic back.”
“What if she isn’t with Kauvara?” Morguss worried. “It’s not like last time, where we’ll be flying along and she’ll suddenly run into us.”
The three witches rounded a corner as Morguss finished talking, and ran straight into Maria.
To be continued...