The Play's the Thing: Part Three
In which there is an exorcism, candles are lit, and the Baron makes a startling exit.
Archie poked his head through the curtains, taking a look at the audience.
“They seem alright,” he reported back to the others still on stage. “I don’t think they noticed any difference with the show.”
“Philistines!” Heston declared dramatically. “They have no appreciation for art if they can’t tell my masterpiece from that drivel.”
“So,” Archie continued diplomatically, “what do you need to do this exorcism?”
Edna glanced around the stage, and noted that several of the actors had wandered off back to their dressing rooms in the confusion.
“We’ll need everyone who was affected to be gathered together,” she instructed him.
“Everyone one stage during the first act, right.” Archie nodded.
“And candles!” Morguss added.
“Candles?” Edna asked. “Why would we need them?”
“Makes it seem more official, doesn’t it?” Morguss replied. “Big dripping gothic candles. You can’t have a good exorcism without one.”
Edna sighed before turning back to Archie and adding, “Several candles, the bigger and more gothic looking the better.”
Archie nodded again, before rushing offstage to gather the necessary equipment.
“Do you think this will work?” Heston asked.
Sophie shrugged. “Never done one before.”
Heston deflated. “You fill me with confidence.”
They had gathered in one of the dressing rooms. Heston reliably informed the Witches that in the house’s previous life it had been the pantry. Now it served as the dressing room for Felicity Wave, the young Kyrii who was playing the part of Esmeralda. Quite why they all had to gather in her dressing room was beyond Edna until Archie had told her that Felicity had felt ‘quite faint’ and refused to leave. Such a statement had only served to cause Edna’s nostrils to flare.
The remaining actors, the Witches, Heston, and Archie had all gathered in the room. Thankfully, Felicity Wave must have been considered one of the more important actors, as her dressing room easily accommodated them all.
“Do you have the candles?” Morguss asked.
Archie produced three very long candles, which did indeed look suitably gothic, with wax drippings down the side.
“No candlesticks?” Morguss asked dejectedly.
“I’m not lugging three great candlesticks all over the place,” Archie stated flatly.
Edna cleared her throat. “Let’s get on with it.”
The three Witches spread out across the group, forming a triangle around the actors while Heston and Archie stood in the doorway. The Witches each summoned a magical fire which they used to light their candles. Morguss added the touch of magically extinguishing the main light to the room.
“Adds effect,” she mumbled as an explanation.
The three Witches began chanting under their breath, filling the room with a gentle murmur in strange, unknown languages.
“Argh!” Morguss shrieked eventually, recoiling backwards and making several of the actors jump.
“What is it?” Sophie asked.
“Wax,” Morguss grumbled. “I burnt my hand.”
“Candles aren’t so important anymore, are they?” Edna smirked.
Morguss wrapped her robes around her hands and reclaimed her candle before she began chanting again.
Gradually, the volume of the chant seemed to increase slightly, and as it did so, Heston noticed that the floor began to vibrate.
The tremors seemed to increase with the volume of the chant, and before long Heston and Archie were having to hold onto the doorframe to stop themselves falling over. Perfumes and makeup on the dressing table smashed to the floor, and the candles held by the Witches began to flicker despite the stillness of the air. The Witches were shouting their chants to be heard above the din.
A stagehand came running down the hallway and almost collided with Heston and Archie.
“Sir!” the Techo exclaimed. “The crowd are getting restless, talking about this being some kind of earthquake, and the second act’s long overdue!”
As if the Techo’s words had been some kind of a trigger, the tremors stopped immediately. An invisible shockwave of energy seemed to blast forth from the actors in the centre of the room, and collided with each of the Witches, sending them flying back against the walls.
The cast of the play stood in the room, slightly dazed. Then, as one, they turned and marched out the door, returning to the stage.
“It didn’t work?” Heston asked.
Edna got to her feet and dusted herself off. “Oh, it worked. I can guarantee there are no ghosts within a mile of this place now.”
“But...” Heston frowned, glancing back towards the last of the cast disappearing down the corridor.
“We’re not dealing with ghosts,” Morguss added.
“What are we dealing with then?” Heston asked.
“I don’t know,” Edna snapped, more than a hint of anger in her voice as she stormed past the Tonu. “Yet.”
“Why must you go?” the Kyrii on stage pleaded with the Scorchio.
“Dearest Esmeralda, you know that my position has certain... obligations,” the Scorchio replied.
“But it’s Faerieland!” Esmeralda protested. “So far away!”
“But so important,” the Baron added. “The Faeries are our only source of magic. With their help, we can turn the woods into something glorious!”
Esmeralda scowled and looked away from him. “Bah! Faeries and their magic. They horde it all to themselves instead of sharing it. Sometimes I wish we all had magic.”
“And maybe with their help we can,” the Baron told her gently. “Which is why I must go. The trip will take no longer than a few weeks.”
Esmeralda set her jaw solidly. “Then I am coming with you.”
“No! I can’t allow that,” the Baron replied firmly. “There are bandits on the road. It’s far too risky.”
“For you as well as me,” Esmeralda replied simply. “I will instruct the servants to pack my clothes. And my journal, as well. I can keep a diary while you are off speaking with Faeries.”
She smiled sweetly to the Baron, an expression that made it perfectly clear that he had lost the argument.
“So it could be a wizard?” Heston hissed to the Witches as they watched the action on stage.
“Could be, but I doubt it,” Sophie answered. “Wizards might be insane, but there’s normally method to their madness.”
“Perhaps it’s some kind of curse?” Edna considered. “The house might be cursed to replay their memories... no, that doesn’t make sense, why would it only kick in when the play started?”
“Whatever it is, it’s powerful,” Morguss added. “It threw us aside like we were rag dolls.”
“Can you try some sort of counter-curse then?” Archie asked.
“Not until we know exactly what we’re dealing with,” Edna told him.
Back on the stage, the scene had changed to a forest. The Baron and Esmeralda were travelling along in a mock carriage, Esmeralda busily writing in her journal. Suddenly, actors dressed as bandits jumped out from behind the cardboard shrubs.
“Stand and deliver!” the leader bandit declared. “Your money or your life!”
Inside the carriage, Esmeralda instinctively took hold of the Baron’s hand.
“Wait here,” he whispered to her.
The Baron emerged from the carriage, and the lead bandit pointed his wooden sword squarely at him.
“Your Neopoints,” the bandit demanded.
“Take whatever you want, just please don’t hurt us,” the Baron answered, hastily taking off his jewellery.
He handed it over to the bandit leader, who seemed to turn up his nose.
“Rings?” he questioned. “A pocket watch? What do I want with these?”
“They are solid gold, worth quite a lot,” the Baron explained.
“Neopoints!” the bandit shouted. “We want Neopoints! Cash! Not rings!”
The bandit threw the rings to the floor in disgust, while the Baron backed away.
“I... I have no Neopoints on me,” he explained fearfully. “I’m on a diplomatic mission to Faerieland; everything’s already paid for...”
“He’s lying!” one of the bandits shouted.
“Yeah,” the bandit leader sneered. “You’re a rich type, and rich people always carry Neopoints.”
“Please!” the Baron begged.
“We warned you, your money or your life!” the bandit leader said plainly, advancing on the Baron.
His wooden sword shot forward, and the Baron fell to the floor. From inside the carriage, Esmeralda screamed and ran to the fallen Scorchio, her journal falling from her arms.
“Why!?” she screamed. “Why!?”
“You’re next,” the bandit leader pointed out. “So don’t worry, you won’t be apart for long.”
“Stop this!” a powerful voice commanded from offstage.
The bandits seemed to freeze, as if magic was preventing them from moving.
From the opposite side to where the Witches were observing, a Zafara in an incredibly garish red dress made her way onstage. The red cardboard wings pinned to her back identified her as playing the role of a Fire Faerie.
“Please, help me!” Esmeralda begged, still weeping by the fallen Baron.
The Fire Faerie hesitated, “I cannot interfere directly... it is against Fyora’s code.”
“Please!” Esmeralda repeated.
The Faerie smiled gently. “I will give you a small sample of my power to repel these fiends.”
Her eyes fell on the discarded journal. “I shall infuse this book with the power you need.”
Esmeralda shook her head. “I don’t care about them! Bring him back!”
“I cannot,” the Faerie declared, handing Esmeralda the journal. “That is forbidden magic.”
As Esmeralda’s face creased with the onset of fresh tears, the Faerie began to infuse some of her power into the journal. Wisps of ethereal red and orange energy seemed to fly forth from her hands into the pages in of the book. As Esmeralda held the book, her face began to harden.
“You have the power, but you won’t use it!” she shouted. “You hoard it all to yourself! Magic should be for everyone!”
The Faerie’s eyes widened with fear as Esmeralda took charge of the magic now infused within the book. The Faerie found that the Kyrii’s grip on her was increasing, and she could not stop the magic she had begun. Gradually, the book consumed more and more of her energy, until the Faerie faded from view.
Behind Esmeralda, the magic holding the bandits faded, and they stumbled forwards. Esmeralda turned to them, fresh fire burning in her eyes. She held her journal, now with a crimson circle burned into the cover, and with nothing more than a flick of her hand the bandits simply vanished.
She leaned back over the Baron, now completely alone in the clearing.
“I’ll bring you back,” she whispered. “I promise.”
The curtain came down in front of her, signalling the end of the act. The Witches, Heston, and Archie were on stage almost immediately.
“Where did the bandits go?” Heston asked. “And the Fire Faerie?”
Felicity, the actress playing Esmeralda, looked up in a daze.
“What’s happening?” she asked, gesturing down to the Baron. “I think... I think he’s dead!”
To be continued...