A Week in the Life of a Junior Defender: Part Five
I felt dizzy as I slowly came to. My muscles felt all cramped from the electric shock, and the fact that me paws were shackled above my head didn't help either. I slowly opened my eyes and figured we were in some sort of basement dungeon under the manor. Typical.
Kieavin was perpendicular to me, her wings squashed uncomfortably against the wall with her claws suspended on either side. Her eye was just a single slit of purple, but it opened wide once she saw I was awake.
"Thanks Fyora you're conscious," she said. "I've been waiting for ages. I thought you might be in a coma or something."
I groaned. "What happened?"
"Well, Thunder knocked you unconscious then had his cronies carry us down here and shackle us to the wall. Not really sure what this place is doing in a manor, but it's the Haunted Woods, so it's sort of believable. He didn't say anything else, but I recognised one of the pets. You know the white Krawk? I swear he was a recruit a few years ago, but they dropped him from the force for being too careless around civilians. I guess Thunder must have been collecting disgruntled recruits for years. I think he's got a bit of a Xandra complex."
"Xandra complex?" I asked as I looked around at the room. It was only seven metres or so wide, with a staircase at the end leading to a door to the manor. Hanging on a hook on the far wall was a set of keys, way beyond our reach.
"You know, Xandra being all 'the Faeries are useless', kind of stuff."
"Why haven't you escaped already?" I asked. "You can just do your wraith thing and dissolve yourself out of those shackles, can't you?"
Kieavin shook her head. "Trust me, I tried. But they're wraith-proof, and magic proof. So are yours."
I craned my neck to stare at the band around my wrists, then gave an experimental burst of heat. Or, at least I tried to.
"I can't do anything," I growled in frustration.
"Oh. They must be negating any magic near them as well." She lapsed into silence, then looked up at me again, eyes glowing more fiercely than usual. "I think I've figured something out. The shackles may stop you from shooting fire out of your paws, but maybe if you, um, held in your heat long enough it could produce enough of a heat wave when you released it that it could melt the chains attaching you to the wall. Then you can unlock the shackles."
I inspected the chains as best as I could from this position. "It could work, if they're not magic-proof. But...." I felt a frown crease my forehead. "A heat wave strong enough to do that will be more than enough to fill this entire room. You're way too close to me..." I don't actually know what experiencing a burn is like, but I think it would be similar to me being doused in water. Except I can just go stand in a cozy fire to heal myself, whereas I knew burns on normal pets were much more permanent.
"It doesn't matter," Kieavin said. "One of us needs to go and tell Judge Hog what's going on. I'll try and counter most of it with my cape and my powers."
I let out a deep sigh. "You're right. Thunder could easily have set up an ambush and no one would be prepared for it at all." My next breath was more focused, as I drew in all the heat dancing on my skin, leaving my fur cold and dark. "It'll take hours for it to be hot enough," I warned.
"Well, I'd better get some sleep, then," Kieavin replied, and to my surprise she closed her eyes. Within minutes her breathing had become the even cadence of sleep. I marvelled at how she could be comfortable enough to sleep at all as my shoulders began to ache.
Time was impossible to keep track of in the this room, so I shut my eyes and focused on the uncomfortable heat in my chest and belly. I dozed a little, wondering what was going on in the outside world, and eventually the heat became a furnace smouldering inside me, itching for release.
"Kieavin!" I shouted, and she jerked awake, her face grimacing as she accidentally tugged on her wrists. "I'm ready now," I said in a quieter voice.
"Good." The Shoyru twisted around as best as she could in the shackles, leaving her back to me so that the black cape covered most of her exposed body. I waited until I saw her become slightly insubstantial, except for her wrists, which were the same dark purple as always. "Ready," she whispered.
With a sense of relief and trepidation, I released all of the heat inside of me.
I saw the air around me warp as tiny flames sprang to life on my fur. I tugged on my paws, and with a slow feeling like trailing my paw through magma, the chains pulled free from the wall, the metal red-hot and twisted. I head Kieavin let out a hiss, and saw her cape flutter, most of the heat being swallowed or dissipated. I was about to help her, then realised that I felt slightly dizzy. I'd forgotten that I'd probably stolen all the air in the room.
Quickly, I bounded towards the door, snatching up the keyring, the chains attached to my forelegs clinking against the wall and denting slightly. I made it up the stairs in seconds, fumbling with the lock for a few seconds more before I finally flung the door open. The rush of air that rushed past almost toppled me down the stairs, and my fur flared up.
I headed back down to see how Kieavin was doing, and found her hanging semi-limp from the wall, her eyes crinkled in pain. I quickly unlocked her and tried to help her, but she moved away.
"You're too hot," she said. "I need to find some water."
After a brief pause to finally rid myself of the melted chains still attached to me, I ran up the stairs, leading the way through the manor until I found a bathroom. Kieavin limped past me, though I couldn't see any visible burns on her scales. She went straight to the shower head and turned it on, easing herself under the cold water with a sigh.
"It's just like a bad sunburn, except all over my body," she told me, wincing slightly. "But those shackles actually protected my claws, so I can still fight." At that she sounded considerably brighter.
I wasn't really sure about that last part, but I just nodded, then went to check on the rest of the house. It was empty, even the rooms on the top floor. But I had expected that. It had been three or four hours already, by my calculations.
In the large ballroom (well, I think it was a ballroom) I found our packs, ransacked of everything useful, including our stock of healing potions. I growled again in frustration and went to find Kieavin again. To my surprise, she was no longer in the bathroom. I found her in one of the bedrooms, in the process of removing one of the posts from the four-poster bed.
"Ah..." I began.
"Maelith, you're here! Great!" she exclaimed. "I need you to help me. They obviously stole my staff, so I need a new weapon."
Well, it certainly would be a dangerous weapon, if a little unwieldy. I helped her by setting the bit attached to the bed on fire, and she ran down the hallway with it to douse it in the shower. Then we were ready.
"They left the compass," she said happily as she rifled through her bag. "And everyone knows where Castle Nox is. So this won't be hard at all."
Even I knew where Castle Nox was, what with him being a huge suspect of petrifying the faeries way back when. The Defenders had seized his mansion, and since no one had come forward to claim it, they now sort of owned it. We only used it when we were trying to hide our presence in the Woods, instead of using our normal Woods base. Too bad this time the enemy knew we were coming.
Kieavin was much slower than usual, wincing every now and then but trying to hide it. The bedpost was slung casually across her shoulders, but still we made good time. The mist had finally disappeared, although it was now evening, the last light fading from the sky. But my glow was more than enough light for us to see by.
As we approached Nox's mansion I carefully scanned the trees ahead of us, and noticed that a number of branches had been snapped off. The ground looked slightly trampled too.
"A large number of pets have been this way," I whispered to Keavin.
She looked down, then nodded. "I'm not sure if that's good, or bad."
The mansion came into view, eerily silent but with a few windows illuminated. The building was in good repair considering it was centuries old, though it did have a sad abandoned air. I pricked my ears and thought I heard voices, but I couldn't be too sure.
We crept closer, Kieavin doing her usual blending in. As we reached the massive stone steps to the mansion a pet stepped out.
"Hey, you shouldn't b—" he began, but then Kieavin knocked him out using her makeshift staff. I was not impressed with the pet if he couldn't notice a two-metre long bedpost floating in the air by itself. Then I shrugged; all the better for us.
Unlike Geneviere's Manor, the doors creaked when I pushed them open. I couldn't tell if it was Nox's idea of dramatic effect, or if the hinges were actually just rusty. But either way there were no immediate threats in the huge foyer we stepped into, so it didn't really concern me. What did concern me was that it was silent. Now, I can say a lot of things about Defenders, but we're not a silent bunch. Get a group of Defenders in a room together and they'll boast so loudly your eardrums will hurt. And a whole castle full? Needless to say, it was too quiet.
"I don't think anyone's here; let's split up," Kieavin said, sneaking away into a shadow so I could no longer see her.
I meandered my way through the house looking around for signs of fighting, but there were none. There was a weird smell in the air, but I couldn't place it, until I walked into the ballroom. Here the smell was much stronger, and there were broken glass bottles littered about. My nose wrinkled. The bottles must have contained some sort of spell. My eyes half closed and I yawned widely, turning slowly as I heard someone approach.
It was Kieavin. She also looked a bit drowsy, but she managed to drag me from the room, her cloak wrapped around her claw so she wouldn't have to touch me.
"I think there's a sleeping spell in there," she yawned.
"Mmm, probably," I agreed, contemplating taking a nap on the ground. Then I snapped out of it. "Where do you think the Defenders are?"
"Knowing giant creepy mansions in the Haunted Woods? In the dungeons. It's Castle Nox: Of course there will be dungeons here!"
We eventually found a hallway that was filled with half a dozen pets guarding a door. They looked at us in stupefaction for a few seconds, then I charged forward. I saw one of them lift a weapon, and another lifted her paws in readiness to cast a spell. I don't exactly know what came over me at that point, but when I called heat to my paws it consumed the whole surface of my body, and with a snarl a wave of heat rolled off me. The pets in front of me reeled backwards as the carpet beneath my paws burst into flames.
"Maelith!" I turned my head slightly so that I could see Kieavin while still keeping an eye on the other pets, who were beginning to pick themselves up. Fortunately it seemed my heat wave had actually travelled exclusively in front of me, so she was fine. She dashed past me and with a warrior's skill the pets were unconscious within a minute. She came back holding a set of keys and a healing potion triumphantly.
She downed the potion in one gulp, and her whole body relaxed as it took effect. "I really needed that. Now, let's take a look, shall we?"
I followed her past the pets, noticing that they didn't seemed to be burnt at all, though their fur looked a bit... wilted.
"I have no idea what I did back there," I said.
She shrugged in a helpless gesture. "Don't look at me for help." She unlocked the door. "But you weren't holding in your heat before, so maybe they just got warm air. You certainly caused quite a strong wind."
I nodded, wondering if I could replicate what I had just done. Down the bottom of the stairs we found what looked like most of the Defenders of Neopia, all knocked out by the sleeping spell. I nudged Lightning Lenny with my paw, but he didn't stir.
"What do we do now?" I asked.
"Simple." She zoomed up the stairs, obviously feeling better enough to fly. I strolled through my fallen comrades, looking to see if any were injured. But other than being unconscious, they were fine. Then I began to notice who was missing.
A whoosh of air announced Kieavin's return with a tall ornamental vase. I wondered what she was up to, until she upended water onto Vicious Vine's face. He awoke with a splutter, but she had already moved on to the next pet.
"Whu-what's going on?" he muttered, holding his head. "Where's Captain Thunder?"
"He's a traitor," I said blithely, and to the awakened pets' obvious confusion. "We'll explain when you're all awake."
That only took ten minutes, which was quicker than I expected, since there were two hundred pets sprawled in the corridor and in several cells off the corridor. A few of the larger ones were chained, but that probably wouldn't have held them for long. Thunder just wanted them out of the way for a little while, it seemed. But after a few others went and found similar water receptacles, it was quick work.
Eventually everyone was free, and Kieavin and I told the story. It was then that the Defenders began to notice what I had noticed before. Judge Hog and a number of the senior Defenders were missing from our ranks. Which meant that they must be with Thunder.
"We have to get back to Neopia Central," I said.
To be continued...