Out of the Shadows: Part Three
Cobolt yawned, resisting the urge to sink face first into his desk, despite the fact it was uncomfortably hard stone. They were working in the laboratories, mixing a number of pungent mixtures in squat metal cauldrons. Apparently, the one they were making now gave super strength to any pet who drank it. But the pet who drank it would have to be amazingly tough already just to be able to swallow the vile stuff.
By some stroke of ill-luck he had found himself partnered with Mariel, which wouldn't usually be a problem for him; he usually did the work himself when that happened. But he had spent over an hour last night trying to catch Adele, and had crawled into bed in the small hours of the morning.
"Are you sure you should be doing that?" Mariel squeaked.
He jolted his head up and stared at her blankly, then followed her terrified gaze to his paw, which was slowly emptying a bottle of Essence of Everlasting Apple into the bubbling brew. He immediately jerked his paw, and the bottle skittered over the desk, then rolled over the edge to the floor.
Without a second's thought he snatched up his wand, which was lying on the table, and halted the bottle mid-air, centimetres from the floor. Casting a glance at their teacher Kaumina, an ancient looking fire Kau who was apparently Kauvara's second great-aunt, or something, he plucked it out of the air and replaced it on the table. No one else had appeared to notice.
Mariel stared at him wide-eyed. "That was amazing," she breathed. "You were so quick!"
"Um... sure," he said. There was an ominous rumble and he glanced at their potion. The sluggish liquid had gone blood-red, and the whole table was beginning to vibrate. "Oops," he said.
That was as far as he got before the entire cauldron exploded.
He was still gripping his wand, and he managed to create a bubble of air in time to stop fragments of metal and boiling liquid from hitting any nearby pets, or the shelves lining the walls. That would have been a disaster, as there were all kinds of ingredients in the room, and who knew what would happen if they combined.
He compressed the bubble from a metre in diameter to a third of that size, then lowered it to the table, where the contents spilled out messily to the stone. There was the sound of clopping hooves, and Kaumina came over, inspecting the damage disapprovingly through thick spectacles. She spotted Mariel and her face rearranged itself into resignation.
"Good one, sister," Karl snorted. The Halloween Chomby had managed to sneak up behind their table, and was now grinning as he inspected the damage. Mariel gave Cobolt such a pitiful look that he turned to Karl, glowering.
"It was my fault," he said. "I wasn't paying attention. Don't just assume things, Karl."
This caused quite a stir in the class, as everyone had automatically assumed it was the pink Lutari's fault, as was the case the majority of the time. He turned to Kaumina, who looked just as surprised as everyone else.
"W-well then," she stuttered in shock. "Cobolt, I expect you to clean this up after class. And don't forget you still have to complete the potion," she warned.
She trotted off, and Mariel smiled at Cobolt gratefully. "Thank you for that," she said.
"Don't thank me," Cobolt said, locked in a glaring match with Karl. "It was actually my fault. It would have been completely unfair to let you take the blame."
Karl finally looked away, but Cobolt had noticed something interesting. The Chomby had a brooch that held his cloak around his shoulders, and the dark stone set in the metal was flickering like flames. However, there was a thin stream of white coming from the stone. He followed the stream to the identical stone around Mariel's neck, hanging off a gold chain.
"What's that necklace you're wearing?" he asked, as soon as Karl had lost interest and plodded away.
"Oh, this?" Mariel fingered the stone carefully. "It was a gift from my brother a few years ago. Apparently it gives us some sort of sibling connection."
There's a connection, alright, Cobolt thought to himself, but he couldn't figure it out just now, so instead he focused on their current task.
"Okay, we need to start again. Do you think you can start a fire at that other table?"
He didn't hear the answer, as he was already rushing to the shelves stacked with ingredients, collecting what he needed. He glanced across the classroom, where Adele was leaning on her desk, a look of utter boredom on her face. Of course she didn't look tired at all from last night's adventures, and she had created a miniature Hissi out of black cloud, watching it coil around her fingers. As potion making didn't involve a particular type of magic, she had to attend these classes. But she didn't have to like it. Her partner, a shorter Fire faerie, shot her dirty looks every few seconds, which the Dark faerie ignored.
Half an hour later the class was dismissed. He had managed to produce a reasonable attempt at the strength potion, and Mariel had managed to magically light a fire without blasting the desk to pieces. All in all, it had ended up being quite successful. But now he had to clean up his mess.
"Have fun," Karl smirked as he strode past. His Captive Shadow Wraith darted out of his shadow long enough to give Cobolt a gloating grin, then the class was empty. It was weird, but the Wraith looked larger than it had yesterday.
"I couldn't agree with him more," said Adele, as she stepped out of the shadow of her desk, unfolding herself slowly from where she was bent double.
"Good, you're still here," Cobolt said as he waved his wand a few times. The red liquid had become quite viscous, and he was having trouble controlling it with Water magic. "I know you can see auras. Can you tell me what Mariel's looks like?"
Adele looked faintly surprised as she glided over. "Why, hers is a horrible blinding white. Not quite as yellow as a Light faerie's, but Light magic should be her forte, if she could actually use magic at all."
"That's just cruel," Cobolt said. Her response was to grin. "Anyway, I saw a bit of white light connecting her to her brother. Do you know what that means?"
"Her brother?" Adele tapped her long purple nails on the desk, watching as he finally managed to direct the potion to the sink. "Well, he has a lovely dark aura – almost as nice as yours, but not quite as violet. In fact, I might have become acquaintances with him, if he wasn't so arrogant."
"Oh, yes. Arrogant people are just so hard to deal with," Cobolt said sarcastically as he started to move the remains of the cauldron to the bin.
A sudden cloud of purple wafted over the twisted shards of metal he was directing, reducing it to a fine purple dust. He glanced over at her in surprise, but she was already stalking away through the doorway. He smiled and shrugged, depositing the dust into the bin. Then he padded out of the lab, stomach already rumbling for dinner.
A sharp knocking woke him up from his comfortable sleep. He had returned to his room after dinner to practise some spells, but somehow his bed had just compelled him over, and he had completely forgotten about meeting with Adele tonight.
Quickly he kicked off the covers and raced for the door. The knocking was not that insistent yet, but at any moment it would reach the pitch that didn't bode well at all for his door. He had already had to re-hinge it twelve times.
He unlocked the door and flung it open. Only then did he rub the sleep away from his eyes.
"What time is it?" he mumbled.
Adele swept into the room, closing the door with a wave of her hand. "It's midnight," she said. "I've been watching Karl's room from the shadows, and he left half an hour ago. I think now's the perfect time."
"Of course," Cobolt said. He flattened his mane into a more presentable hairstyle, then padded silently after Adele as she opened his door once more.
Her room was on the floor below his, and Karl's was the next floor up and a few rooms over. The corridor was mostly silent. Most of the students had already curled up in their beds and were fast asleep, ready for another exciting but exhausting day tomorrow. There were a few muffled snores, and murmurs of conversation, but the walls of the Academy were thick, so it was unlikely anyone would hear them ghosting down the hallway.
At this time of night only a few of the Light globes were floating along the walls, every one hundred metres or so. They cast conveniently long shadows, and to any observer it would look like the pair would disappear for a few seconds, then reappear, but never quite fully, unless they were standing next to one of the globes. Most of the time their feet were hidden from sight.
They crept up the stairwell, Cobolt practising silencing his paws with puffs of cloud. He followed Adele until she stopped outside a wooden door, identical to the others down the passageway. She summoned a nimbus of Darkness as she approached, but it remained steady as she stood facing the door.
"Looks like he doesn't have any wards on this side," she muttered.
"It would be too obvious that he was hiding something if he did that," Cobolt observed. "If anyone like you had noticed, they wouldn't have been able to resist a peek."
Adele smiled evilly at him, then lowered her hand. The lock on the door was covered, as usual, with a spell to stop it from being unlocked by magical means from the outside. The Dark faerie didn't even try to unlock it – oh no, she would never be as unsubtle as that – instead she simply blew the door off its hinges.
"Adele!" Cobalt hissed as the door disappeared into the interior of the room with a screech of metal.
She was too busy using her other hand to create a magical wall to muffle the noise. It slowly faded and she turned to consider him.
"What's the problem?" she asked. "I do that to your door all the time. I'm sure you've mastered re-hinging it by now."
"That's not the point!" Cobolt seethed as he followed her into the room. "What if he comes back now?"
"I'll wipe his memory clean," she said with a shrug.
"How do you even know that spell?" Cobolt asked, caught off guard. "They don't teach that in the Academy." Then he shook his head. "Actually, don't tell me. I just hope you're really better at spells than him. Look at this place."
The room was absolutely crowded with magical items. Along the wall that didn't contain the narrow bed and desk were piles of neatly stacked books, spines facing outwards. The floor near the window was completely obscured by random bits of metal, and neatly lined up bottles. On the desk was an open book, with a stack of papers next to it. The page was marked with a pulsing yellow jewel, while numerous other necklaces and jewels filled with magic created a sparkling finish.
"Yeah, he sure likes his jewellery," Adele remarked, picking up a silver chain with a red stone hanging it off it. Her face was a mask of distaste. Then she raised an eyebrow. "These jewels are absolutely brimming with magic. How interesting."
Cobolt went to join her, craning his neck over the desk, which was much taller than his own. Karl was large, even for a Chomby. From the multicoloured light of the jewels he could easily read the messy scrawl of the open book. "Hmm, it's talking about bottled faeries," he said.
He flipped the book closed and stared at the front cover. The illustration on the worn paper was that of a large blue Lupe with unusual yellow markings on his chest and face. He was towering over a number of faeries, while another one was gripped in his left fist. In the other fist was a small jar.
"It's just a book about Balthazar," he said, flipping the book to the marked page again. "I think Karl's from the Haunted Woods, so it's not that unusual."
He prowled towards the books lining the walls, scanning the titles. Most of them were books about magic, but a few had Neopian history in them, mostly about Faerieland. He saw Xandra's name in a few titles, and a slim book that was titled Shadow Phantoms & Wraiths. There still wasn't much known about them, and sometimes Cobolt felt uncomfortable around large groups of Faeries. It probably had something to do with his colour.
"What am I meant to be looking for?" he asked Adele, who was still studying the trinkets on the desk. "Something that says 'plan to take over the world', perhaps?"
"I don't know. But that's a lot of empty bottles over there." The Dark Faerie was frowning. "And this is seriously a lot of magical energy. I don't know how a first year got his claws on so much, but it don't think it's normal." She sighed. "I'm actually a bit jealous. I wish I could take a few of these, but then he might get a bit suspicious."
"And blowing the door off its hinges is not suspicious at all?" Cobolt asked incredulously.
He paused and pricked his ears. Then he quickly dived towards the shadow near one pile of books. There was a loud hissing which quickly turned into a growl, and he stopped in surprise when he found himself nose-to-nose with a spindly purple creature. He relaxed and let out a chuckle.
"It's just Karl's Shadow Wraith," he said, withdrawing from the shadow. The Wraith remained visible, probably knowing its cover had been blown. It flicked its forked tail and hissed again, empty eye sockets narrowing.
"I guess we had better go," Cobolt said. "This thing looks like it's getting a bit irritated."
"I guess so." Adele cast a regretful look at the magic jewels, which she had rearranged exactly how she had found them. She turned to the door, which was leaning jauntily against the bed, and floated it behind them on a cloud as they withdrew from the room. The Wraith watched them go, then faded back into a shadow once they had crossed the threshold.
Adele placed the door in its usual spot.
"Fix it yourself," Cobolt said in response to her expectant look.
"I can't. Dark magic doesn't exactly like fixing things. Use your wand."
Cobolt sighed and pulled his wand from behind his ear, pointing it at the hinges. Using a combination of Earth and Fire magic he repaired the metal hinges so that it would be very difficult for someone to tell they had been tampered with. Adele was right about one thing – he certainly had perfected that particular art.
"That is the last time I let you drag me out of bed," Cobolt said with a yawn as he padded back towards his room.
"Fine. But you can't say what we found wasn't interesting," Adele prompted.
"Right. If there is something suspicious going on you get all the credit," Cobolt said. They had reached his floor, and he turned down to the hallway. "See you tomorrow morning."
She faded into the shadows, making her own way to her room.
To be continued...