Storm of Fortunes: Part Three
"So, still nothing?"
Meske looked down.
"Nobody's seen him. He's like a ghost."
Vira growled, her pointed nails boring into the ornate wooden throne. Eischelswa averted her gaze at this, her eyes flickering instead towards Meske. The Grarrl didn't react at all. He was as still, grave and calm as she knew she should have been.
Vira stood and, with slow and deliberate movements, made her way down the steps. Eischelswa's stomach churned as she realised that the creature was going to walk right up to her. But then Vira shifted her course almost imperceptibly and carried on past the Eyrie and her companion. Eischelswa let out a soft sigh, and then turned as the sound of her mistress's footsteps suddenly stopped.
The former Acara was facing them side on, looking surprisingly thoughtful. After a few moments, she nodded and made her way swiftly back towards the others.
"He's not on any of their databases," she said. "There's no sign of him in Fleralsen, and our agents have yet to return from Tamsley. But he was here. Scour the castle thoroughly- he's not a ghost. He must have left some trace somewhere."
With this, she dismissed the pair and returned to the throne.
"Tamsley... hmm." Wolf traced wavy lines on the table with one claw. "That's less than an hour from Fleralsen."
"Do you think I'll be in danger, then?"
The wraith slowly shook her head. "I don't think so. Still... you could go there on reconnaissance."
"I'm not going near that place."
He averted his gaze.
"They won't know that you're with us. Could you at least go past the gate, and see if she's upped the security?"
The Bori bit his lip. Then, he sighed.
"Okay, Ms Wolf. And you have to keep me up to date on what's happening."
"I will." She blinked.
Something about her didn't seem right. Tyson wanted to be certain that she wasn't lying to him.
"So, you will keep me up to date about the Vira thing?" he pressed.
He nodded- unconvinced, but wanting to trust her.
After an hour or so of travelling, Tyson- already giddy on account of his nerves- called for Sia to halt the carriage. They were on a winding mountain road, with rock to their left and a sheer drop just a few metres to the right.
Tyson left the carriage, and went to stand by a small stone projection that jutted out over the lush, green forest below. He swallowed and inhaled deeply, trying to dispel this sense of nausea.
After a few moments, he realised that Sia had removed her harness and come to stand beside him. He glanced towards her to acknowledge her presence, and then continued to gaze upon the landscape before him.
"Are you alright?" Sia asked.
"We should leave soon if we want to be in Tamsley before eleven."
Tyson nodded again.
"Just give me a minute."
Sia shifted from hoof to hoof, evidently impatient. Tyson gave it a few more moments. Then he turned towards her.
"Just how close to Fleralsen is Tamsley?" he asked.
"About eight kilometres." Sia frowned. "Can I ask why you asked?"
"I'm just curious."
"Oh." Sia brightened. "Something happened there the other day, didn't it? Some vandals damaged the castle."
"Surely you know? The castle's a beautiful old place, ruled by Lady Eischelswa. Such a sweet little thing- I feel so sorry for her. I don't know how she'll cope."
Tyson gritted his teeth. What's going on?
"What does Lady Eischelswa look like?" he asked.
"The lady is an Eyrie with a blue coat that's patterned with yellow stars. She's a little bit shy, and loved almost universally. I don't know what sort of person would want to damage her home."
She paused. Then, when Tyson said nothing...
"We really must go, Mister Tyson."
"Okay." The Bori nodded and made his way back to the carriage. Sia assumed and tightened her harness, before turning to glance sideways at him.
Tyson nodded. "Let's go, Sia."
Wolf picked up the transmitter, the Virtupets' logo flashing silver and red in the lamplight. With her free hand she pressed some buttons on the receiver, and Clark's head appeared onscreen.
She pressed another button, and his image began to move.
"...this on channel 42. We need a plan, Wolf. Stone..."
Here, he took a shaky breath, before continuing.
"...Stone was the best for the job. We need to try a different approach. Contact Tyson and tell him to scout the perimeter."
Wolf pressed another button to freeze the image, and then spun a dial on the transmitter until it read "42". Then, she activated the camera.
"I'll pass that on to him, Mister Clark. Safe travels."
After this, Wolf packed up the equipment and opened her dresser. When she returned to the living room with her wallet, a grinning Poogle stood in the doorway.
The wraith gritted her teeth. "What do you want?"
The battlements were vast and dreary grey in colour, their bleakness intensified by the looming clouds. For the first time in perhaps two weeks, Hanniala was permitted to ascend to their giddy heights.
She leaned against the barrier, taking pleasure in the cool press of the wind on her face. Not three metres away, in the shadow of the doorway, one of Vira's guards impatiently waited for Hanni to retire inside. But the Kougra paid no heed. Why should she care? Ironic though it seemed, she was protected by Vira. The guards wouldn't dare lay a hand on her without that creature's permission.
She extended her hands, palms up, and rested each on a separate block of stone. Eyes closed, Hanniala tilted her head towards the sky, allowing the breeze to cool her throat. Inside by the fire it was madness. So much heat, and those blinding flames! Up here, she could be at peace. She could pretend that she was alone and queen of her own domain, high in the sky.
She remained thus for several minutes, eyes closed and palms upturned, before opening those cherry red orbs and turning to the guard behind her.
"I suppose it would be pointless for me to ask to stay longer?" she asked.
"You suppose correctly."
Hanni heaved an emotive sigh. "Okay. Take me back downstairs."
Tyson opened his eyes. They were in a tidy little square paved with cobblestones. The carriage passed a rather quaint water fountain, and stopped outside a café.
Sia looked at the Bori. "Can you see him, Jeremy?"
"Ummm..." Tyson moved over to the window. "Wait, yes! There he is."
He waved to his cousin, who smiled and returned the gesture. Tyson then turned to Sia.
"Well, thank you. How much will that cost?"
"For you, fifty neopoints."
Tyson counted out some coins. He dropped them into a bucket at the front of the carriage. Sia smiled.
"Take care. Maybe we'll meet again?"
"Maybe." Tyson smiled and exited the carriage. "Bye, Sia."
Vaughn was waiting by the fountain. The red Poogle was dressed in a shirt and dark trousers.
"It's been a while, Jeremy," he said.
Tyson nodded. "Five years, isn't it?"
"I thought it was six. How have you been, kid?"
Tyson shrugged. "I've been well. You?"
"Well, I can't complain. Jem, I need your help with something."
"Oh?" Tyson was worried that he might sound a bit too eager, and so deliberately lowered his tone. "What with?"
"Ah, I can't really tell you here." Vaughn glanced about anxiously. "How about we go to my house?"
Should I be worried? Tyson didn't know his cousin very well- the Poogle was ten years older than he, after all. But curiosity prevailed, and he nodded.
"Okay. Lead the way!"
Tamsley was nothing spectacular. Compared to Tyson's hometown of Harlington, it was simple and without any real landmarks. However, it was pretty in a common way. On their way to Vaughn's house, they passed a small stream with lilies growing along the bank. Tyson paused to have a look, but soon found him hurrying to catch his cousin, who had not stopped when he did.
One thing that did strike Tyson with particular strength was the layout of the place. Unlike in Harlington, the streets here appeared to follow no particular pattern. There were roads everywhere- some with no apparent purpose at all. Tyson saw one street that broke away and passed near to the river, only to join up with its parent just a few metres on.
They turned into a short lane, bordered on one side by a tangle of semi-wild roses. The flowers were pale pink in colour, with unusual darker markings in places. Tyson picked one and held it carefully beneath his nose. It had a familiar, delicate scent. Smiling, the Bori let the rose fall to the ground, and continued after Vaughn.
What could his cousin possibly want? The whole situation seemed so mysterious and exciting. Perhaps a ring of international criminals were using a code that only Tyson could crack? This scenario was, of course, extremely unlikely. Even so, Tyson couldn't help but fantasise and fixate on the idea.
After ten minutes of travel Tyson was sitting on a comfortable sofa, while Vaughn made some coffee. The Bori held a plain white envelope with no distinguishing markings whatsoever. He turned it over in his hands, ran a paw across the triangular flap at the back.
"Can I open it?" he asked.
"Of course," Vaughn called back. "Sugar?"
"What? Uh, no thanks."
He opened the envelope, and removed a creased sheet of paper. Even as he opened it, his heart began to sink.
It was the same message he had decoded for Wolf.
To be continued....