The Traitor: Part Eight
Mr. Duplicity and Mr. Tricks, still bound tightly by the shadows, exchanged helpless, uneasy looks.
Lockwood regarded them with cool malevolence. “I would not attempt to coerce you in any way, but I feel it is my duty to point out that I am of a singularly resourceful disposition. Should I decide that your shadowy friends here are not persuasive enough, I am sure that I will be able to conjure up something more convincing.”
Evidently they did not relish the idea of facing more of Lockwood’s creations; Mr. Duplicity shrugged at Mr. Tricks and Mr. Tricks nodded sourly at Mr. Duplicity.
“May I ask what precisely you intend to do with your friend once you have her here?” inquired Mr. Duplicity with surprising calm.
“I intend to escape with her; I trust you do not object?”
“You just wait,” snarled Mr. Tricks, struggling against his shadowy bindings. “I can’t wait till I meet you again –”
Somehow Lockwood was not terribly attracted to the idea, but he did not bother to reply; the power was in his hands and he knew it quite well. Anything that they said would be meant to disconcert him, and he did not intend to be disconcerted.
He felt the tension mount palpably in the room as the minutes ticked by. It was oppressively, intentionally, menacingly silent, and he could not help wondering whether, in spite of all the precautions he could possibly conceive, they might not be intending to double-cross him in some way.
It was as much as Lockwood could do not to start in surprise when the door opened at last, and the shadows did not manage even so much as that; they quivered rather noticeably and then wrapped more tightly around their prey. A hulking yellow Skeith – possibly one Lockwood had encountered before, though he could not be certain – held a limp Lisha in his burly arms.
“I would be very much obliged if you could put her down over there,” said Lockwood, gesturing toward the couch; and the Skeith, with several doubtful and rather fearful glances at Mr. Duplicity and Mr. Tricks, complied.
Lockwood was barely able to restrain himself until the Skeith had left, at which time he hurried over to Lisha to ensure that she was whole, unharmed, and authentic. She was. In her drugged sleep she shifted away from his hand with a slight cough, paler and much thinner than he remembered her; he wondered how long it had been now since their capture.
Keeping one eye carefully on the Krawk and the Eyrie, he placed both hands on Lisha’s shoulders and began to devise the magic that would remove them both to somewhere quite far away. As he did not know precisely or even remotely where they were, he decided that he would simply have to settle for a blind transportation spell. It did not help that his reserves of magic, whether because of his physical and mental exhaustion or the spells he had already cast, were seriously depleted; and as an afterthought he even attempted to include Regan in the sorcery, though he could not be certain that it would work – it was notoriously difficult to work magic on somebody without having them in sight.
He took a deep breath, hoped, and let the spell loose.
Lockwood awoke to find himself in a small, pretty dell (or at least he thought it was a dell, having remarkably little idea in fact as to what a dell was). At first he was under the impression that there was nobody with him, but he soon observed Lisha lying some way off and made his way naturally toward her. It was rather difficult, for he could not seem to walk in an entirely straight line; however he managed it after a few tries and seated himself next to the Aisha on a rock.
“That,” he muttered to himself, “is without a doubt the last time I do magic when I have none left to spare.”
He sat gloomily and reflected upon his situation. It would be prudent, he thought, to move again in case they had been somehow traced; but at the moment it was simply beyond him.
“Mr. Lockwood?” said a cautious voice from behind.
“That is me,” he replied with a slight sigh, recognizing Regan. “Or rather ‘I’, if I wished to be affected and pedantic.”
“That’s Lisha, then? – and if you answer with ‘it is she’ I will –”
“I would by no means offend you with pretensions to mastery of grammar. Yes, it is her.”
“No, I certainly couldn’t see you doing that,” said Regan with a touch of her most charming and ladylike sarcasm.
“Never upon any account,” agreed Lockwood drowsily.
“Although it was quite kind of you to bring me along,” she admitted.
He raised an eyebrow in her direction. “Quite frankly I am very surprised that it worked – and kind, perhaps, but I doubt that it was very intelligent.”
Perhaps she caught something particularly cold in his eye, or perhaps she remembered his earlier suspicion; in any case, Regan temporarily abandoned her invective for sincerity. “If this is about you still not trusting me, all I can say is that I have no way of harming you or giving you away even if I had any wish to – which I certainly don’t.”
“That is all very well,” he replied evenly. “By nature, of course, your trustworthiness and my suspicion can be very little worth discussing. In the meantime we might consider a meal.”
“You’re the magician,” she snapped. “Can’t you think of something?”
Lockwood considered pointing out that he was not precisely a magician; instead he only shrugged and thought dimly about how just terrible he really felt. Never had he been so completely and totally drained – his physical exhaustion was considerable, but it was nothing to the sheer uselessness of having such an integral part of him as his magic gone, however short-lived the absence. It had been essential, he realized, even before he had known about it; he did not even really feel like himself without it. It was almost as though, rather than simply expending his magic, he had somehow overstepped his bounds and was now in debt.
But he had no time to indulge in his own woes. “I have to go to Meridell Castle,” he announced abruptly and rather unsteadily.
“You can’t possibly.”
“I did not say that I could; I said only that I had to.”
“Well, then,” said Regan irritably, “it seems as though you might have a problem, Mr. Lockwood.”
He looked around him consideringly for a moment and then, most uncharacteristically, began to laugh. “How perceptive of you!”
Despite her most prodigious efforts even Regan could not entirely hide the smile that tugged at her mouth. “Some help you are! Well,” she continued more soberly, transitioning into her usual jaded manner, “while I was awaiting the pleasure of your consciousness, you’ll be glad to hear that I took a look around. There’s a village of some sort in that direction. I imagine somebody will be willing to give us a meal, although I admit you don’t exactly look like the most trustworthy person on Neopia right now...”
“Thank you,” replied Lockwood with a glare, who was positively unaccustomed to his current slovenly appearance and found his vanity quite seriously injured.
Several moments of silence intervened; Regan was so considerate as to refrain from further criticisms, and after some thought she even ventured to make a helpful suggestion. “Based on my experience I would say that your friend here won’t be awake for some time, and it’s getting late. But all the same, it seems unwise to leave her entirely alone. Why don’t I run down to the village to find some food and maybe even some shelter, and you can stay here on guard? If you feel up to it, that is,” she added dryly.
“I believe I will find myself tolerably capable,” Lockwood replied with a touch of nastiness; and on that amiable note they parted.
“I must compliment on your choice of sorcerer, Mr. Duplicity,” snarled Mr. Tricks, pouncing onto his leather chair as though it had personally offended him. “Really excellent. ‘Just what we’re looking for,’ you said. ‘He’ll get the work done,’ you said. Oh – my personal favorite – ’Won’t cause a bit of trouble’. All we need is a few more of you running this and we’ll have the job done in no time!”
The Krawk sat sulkily in a corner, regarding a billiard ball. “Your compliments are ever so kind, Mr. Tricks, but I’m afraid that matters are not quite so bleak as you present them.”
“Even you can’t spin this one off,” the Eyrie said dangerously. “One more step like this and I’ll rip your head off, so help me I swear I will.”
He looked very much as though he might, and Mr. Duplicity’s tone was quite conciliatory as he replied, “It hardly matters what Lockwood chooses to do now. He has already done everything that we needed – we have our traitor safely installed. Nothing remains but to watch.”
Mr. Tricks regarded his colleague’s rhapsodic grin with one cold grey eye. “You’re a lunatic.”
“Maybe so, my friend,” whispered Mr. Duplicity. “Maybe so. But he’s not.”
To be continued...