Out of the Shadows: Part Six
He felt groggy. He tried to move a muscle, any muscle, but all he could manage was a slight twitch. His eyelids were weighed down and glued shut, and his hearing was fuzzy. He lay limp for a few seconds more, then a sharp chink of glass make his whole body jerk. Violet eyes snapped open and he looked around.
Karl was busy threading a number of pulsing jewels onto a long golden chain, humming to himself. The chink of glass had been the sound a jar being placed on the desk. The jar containing his friend. He had thought Adele would be busy beating at the glass with her now-tiny fists, but the Dark faerie just looked miserable, huddled in the centre of the jar with her knees hugged under her chin.
Cobolt tried to move again and found that his muscles were finally responding to his wishes. His movement was abruptly cut short, and he looked down in surprise to see that his limbs were chained to the floor. The chains themselves were grey metal with six different colours running through it like veins. The colours of all the elements.
"I can't allow you to cast any sneaky spells," said a deep voice, and he looked up with a scowl.
Karl had finally finished his task, and the chain was looped several times around his neck. It would have looked extremely gaudy if Cobolt hadn't known that each of those coloured jewels had a powerful store of magic in them. No, wait, it still looked gaudy. He smirked.
"Nice jewellery," he said.
Karl gave him a look that clearly said 'Insult me all you want, but I'm a free pet and you're in chains', and idly twirled a wand around. Cobolt's eyes widened – that was his wand!
The Chomby obviously caught the recognition in Cobolt's eyes, because he immediately grinned lazily and brought the wand down on the edge of the desk, snapping it clean in half. There was a shower of multicoloured sparks and Cobolt gritted his teeth in anger. Karl would pay for that. He struggled against the chains, but they were stuck fast.
"Well, now that you've got me completely tied up, would you care to tell me what's going on?" he growled.
Karl pulled out a chair and sat down, picking up Adele's jar and inspecting it.
"Well, it's quite convenient you came down to see me," Karl said. "Otherwise I would have had to find you myself. And you brought another faerie for my collection. You really are a helpful fellow."
"What do you mean?" Cobolt was suspicious. Karl had been arrogant and aloof to everybody in the class. It hadn't seemed like he had any particular animosity towards him. What did Karl want with him?
"Well, because you're a Wraith of course," Karl said. He put down the jar and leaned forward, resting his chin against his fists. "You know your history, don't you? Tell me about the Faerie's Ruin."
"Um... well, I know that all the Faeries got turned to stone and without their magic the Shadow creatures managed to come out of hiding..." He trailed off, he brain piecing everything together.
"Aha!" Karl clapped with delight. "So you've figured it out. I needed to get as many Shadow Wraiths into the city as I could, but there was simply too much Faerie magic about."
"So you imprisoned them!" Cobolt spat. "That's despicable!"
"Well, it certainly weakened their magic well enough," Karl said completely unapologetically. "And finally, last night I managed to catch enough of them to let the Wraiths come streaming in. I don't think anyone saw them, except perhaps for you. It must have something to do with your colour. And I managed to get rid of some of the more powerful teachers here into the bargain."
"What's your plan?" Cobolt asked. "You can't capture every single Faerie in Neopia. There's no way the Shadow Phantoms could ever come back."
"I don't need them!" Karl said with delight. "There are plenty of Shadow Wraiths still on Neopia, enough for my purposes. I needed to get them strong enough to possess pets' shadows. And the best thing is that I live right in the Academy, so they've all attached themselves to the magic pets. Now not only can no one stop me, but the Wraiths can feed off their magic."
"You've forgotten about the faeries" Cobolt pointed out, quite reasonably. "There are hundreds in the City alone, not to mention the Faerie Queen."
"The Faerie Palace is under siege even as we speak," Karl said dismissively. "Those Wraiths are very angry that they managed to be tamed the first time."
"So what do you want with me?" Cobolt asked, pulling at the chains.
"Well, technically you're part Wraith. I quite haven't figured it out yet, but..." Karl frowned, and Cobolt felt a bolt of pain stab through his head. He flinched away, and Karl smiled slowly. "As the Wraiths get stronger, you'll be more inclined to join them."
Cobolt stared at him uncomprehendingly, but the Chomby stood up and stretched, fastening his red-lined black cloak over his shoulders. Karl grinned at him, but not in a friendly way, then headed towards the door.
"I think I'll leave you now," he said. "You can't get out of those chains without a wand, and I have one last thing to attend to, to ensure victory is mine."
He swept out of the room, and the door banged shut behind him. His shadow remained for a few moments, the Wraith leering at Cobolt with crooked purple teeth. With every passing second it seemed more and more substantial. Finally it disappeared though the crack under the door, and Cobolt was left alone.
The candles flickered, and Cobolt closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Karl was wrong. He was not a Wraith at all, he was just painted the same colour. Sure, he could do things that most pets couldn't do without wand, but that didn't mean he was one of those life-hungry creatures. Then a thought hit him. Maybe they did have some similarities.
He concentrated hard, letting his body relax. He felt it trying to fade into a shadow, but the candles cast too much light to make that possible. After a few moments he couldn't feel the floor beneath his paws, and opened his eyes again.
His whole body was semi-transparent, and he could see the whorls of black and purple that made it up. Before he lost concentration he stepped away from the chains, and watched in fascinated horror as the metal tore through his legs, leaving a definite gap where his ankles should have been. Wisps of purple smoke swirled in their place, and then his ankles quickly reformed. He let out the breath he didn't know he had been holding, and felt solid ground beneath his paws again. He had escaped the chains!
Quickly he rushed over to the table and seized Adele's jar. The lid was screwed on quite tight, but after a few seconds of struggling he managed to rip it off. Immediately purple smoke poured out of it and there was flash of purple light. Adele appeared in front of him, back to her full size. Her eyes were positively glowing with fury, and the jar flew out of his hands and smashed into the nearest wall, splintering into tiny pieces. Cobolt used his new-found ability to become insubstantial, and the glass passed through him harmlessly.
Adele finally took stock of her surroundings and her eyes grew wide, before falling on Cobolt. She rushed forward and seized him in a tight hug, while he simply hung limp in her arms, paws dangling. It was such a surprising move; he hadn't even suspected that Dark Faeries could hug. But after only two seconds she quickly dropped him, brushing off her dress to hide her embarrassment.
"Where did that cursed Chomby go?" she growled. "When I get my hands on him I'm going to hit him so hard there won't be anything but an ash pile left. And I won't even use magic to do it!"
"I have no idea," Cobolt said. "But listen..." He related their entire conversation, and her face went white with anger when he described just how unconcerned the Chomby had seemed at the idea of imprisoning faeries.
"I don't think I'll have the chance to hit him before some other faerie does," she said. "Such a shame. But he didn't have any of those jewels on him when he attacked me and you. How did he get so much power?"
Cobolt frowned, trying to figure it out himself. It was extremely unusual. Then he had it.
"It's his sister," he said.
"Mariel? But she's so hopeless. It wouldn't be worth using her power."
"But what if she's hopeless because he's using her power? She told me he gave her that necklace years ago, it could have been before she came to the Academy. I saw her aura streaming off her towards him. He could have been stockpiling that power for years. It would make sense that they were both talented if they were from the same family, but he's leeching her power away, so that she can barely do anything."
"Everything I learn about him makes me hate him more and more," Adele observed. "And I have great reserves of that particular emotion."
Cobolt tactfully decided not to say anything. He picked up the pieces of his wand and regarded them sadly. They would be absolutely no use anymore. It looked like he was stuck with Dark magic until he could get a new one made. He put them down carefully, resisting the urge to throw something.
"I have a hunch," he said. "He said that there was a Wraith with every magical pet in the Academy, but he probably wouldn't bother with Mariel, knowing that she probably doesn't have enough power left to feed a Wraith's. I think if we can find her and destroy that necklace he'll lose enough of his power for us to bring him down."
"Well, if it helps take him down, I'm in," Adele growled. She continued to growl under her breath as they left the room and headed back up the secret passage to the Academy.
To be continued...