The Mysteries of Mr. Cuddles: Part Seven
It hadn't been hard to decide on a plan of action. Zillie, Mr. Cuddles, and whoever had taken them were all inside Castle Nox – as was a small horde of Meepits that Tamm had seen scale a tower and slip in through an upper window. Thus, Katrina and the four fighters needed to get inside as well.
Bones had hefted his bag of explosives and grinned. "Plus, other baddies won't be so keen to set up shop in a castle with a great big hole where the door ought to be."
Magax nodded. "Very well. Do it quickly."
Bones set several little spheres all connected with thread along the massive door to the main part of the castle, laid the wick out down the path, and lit it. Katrina covered her ears as the explosion went off.
The doors were gone, as was a large amount of the stonework that had surrounded them. Jonquil said, "You know, my mother always taught me that it was more polite to knock before going in."
Tamm shrugged. "I'd say we knocked."
Bones corrected, "We knocked down. There's a difference."
But Katrina was already following Magax, who called, "No time to waste! They know we're here! Move!"
Katrina stood on a block of stone in the door, and took in the sights.
Zillie was there – she looked safe and whole, cradling Mr. Cuddles in her arms, but she was held in the air by a wraith. A royal Lupe, a Halloween Ixi, a Darigan Shoyru, and a zombie Grundo were all pulling themselves to their feet, along with the small army of Meepits.
And Katrina said, "Put my sister down. Now."
Zillie beamed at Katrina, and Mr. Cuddles waved a stubby little forepaw. Those two gestures made Katrina forget just how cold and tired she was.
But then the Lupe grinned a rather nasty grin. "It seems that your plan may proceed, Overlord. Asander, get that Kyrii."
Glowing green light gathered in Magax's hands. "I think not. I know not who you are, nor where you come from, nor what your purpose may be. But I am Magax, and I will suffer no more evil to occur in this cursed hall. Depart, or perish!"
Katrina was watching Magax – there was something almost magnetic about the short Wocky as he delivered his ultimatum. But out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Zillie mouth the word "Awesome!"
The Halloween Ixi turned up her nose. "Big words from a little man. Lord Joraskan, must we bandy words any longer?"
And then there was a voice that went straight past Katrina's ears to resonate in her mind. Brothers, attack!
And the Meepits swarmed toward them, screaming "Meep! Meep! Meep!" as they came.
The green light in Magax's hands formed into a battle-axe as Katrina's other three companions started slinging stones into the melee of little figures. Tamm shouted, "There are too many of them – and we don't have long before those sorcerers join in!"
Magax said, "The girl! Get the girl away from the wraiths!"
And then the Lupe – Joraskan – started chanting. Immediately, the chandeliers started to burn higher, and Katrina had the feeling that they wouldn't like what happened if he finished what he was trying to do.
So she picked up a fallen piece of rock no bigger than her fist and chucked it at him as hard as she could.
It didn't do much, but it caused him to stumble backwards and stop whatever spell he'd been doing. Zillie shouted, "Go, Katrina! Get that stupid sorcerer!"
And then the world became a swirl of color and light.
Zillie saw Lirai's spell hit Katrina – all of a sudden, her big sister looked dazed and confused.
She had to get away from this stupid wraith! Someone had to help Katrina or the other Meepits would run her over!
Mr. Cuddles cried, "Meep! Meep!"
And it hit her. Maybe she couldn't get away from the wraith right now, but she was the one holding onto Mr. Cuddles. "Go! Go! Help Katrina!"
And Mr. Cuddles sprang from her arms and dashed toward Lirai. He climbed up the Ixi sorceress and ended up pulling on her ears. Lirai clearly lost all concentration on her spell, and Zillie laughed as she cried. "Get it off! Get it off! Ow! Ow! Get it off!" Katrina was back to herself. She was gripping her flashlight like a very short baseball bat as the four people she'd brought – including the awesome guy with the skull collar – wreaked havoc on the attacking Meepits and wraiths.
Then a green beam of light shot by her, and Zillie fell back onto the floor. She was free! She looked behind her quickly – Magax had disintegrated the wraith, apparently, which was fine with her. Asander had too many, anyway. What could she fight a wraith with? Or distract the mages – how could she distract the mages? She didn't have long before someone noticed that she was free and came after her.
Her eyes strayed toward the door that only she could open, where the noxious blade, the odial sphere, the puzzle box, and the Book of Death were hidden. Those would make a good bargaining chip.
But no. If they were willing to kidnap her to get to those things, that meant that they wanted them far too much, and that it would probably be a bad thing if they fell into their hands. Zillie was the only kid running around, so she needed to stay very far away from that door.
What could she do? What could she do?
She looked up at the massive chandeliers above them. A sudden – most likely stupid – idea occurred to her, but she had to do something. She ran for the steps.
Katrina was doing her level best to keep shining her flashlight into the eyes of Meepits – she'd learned from Mr. Cuddles that Meepits hated that, and even with the chandeliers this room was fairly dim, and the contrast shocking.
She recognized Mr. Cuddles as he ran up to her – she'd seen him on the head of the pretty sorceress when the swirling kaleidoscope that had surrounded her had dissipated, and she knew that he'd saved her once again. He came up to her and immediately jumped on the nearest Meepit, and they bit and scratched at each other. Katrina let him handle the fighting, and used her flashlight to keep all of the other Meepits from piling onto him.
She took a second to look up, and she realized that the wraith no longer held Zillie. In fact, she couldn't even see Zillie? Where had she gone? There was too much pink in here for Zillie's hair to stand out the way that it normally did.
Jonquil shouted, "Katrina! Where'd your sister go?"
Katrina shouted in reply, trying to be heard over all the squeaks and squeals, "I don't know!"
Magax was fighting like ten men, somehow blasting wraiths with that glowing green light while keeping the sorcerers too off-balance to cast any spells. Katrina knew that they had to get out of here fast – she shouted, "Mr. Cuddles! Find Zillie and tell her that we need to leave now!"
Mr. Cuddles looked up.
And Katrina saw Zillie jump from the balcony onto the chandelier level with it. Candle wax sprayed, and everyone else looked up. She shouted, "I've got a whole lot of fire here, and I'm not afraid to use it!"
Joraskan's eyes narrowed – and then he had to dodge another blow from Magax. He shouted, "You dare to use fire against me?"
The zombie woman held a rope above her head. Joraskan shouted, "Now!"
And before Katrina could shout a warning, the zombie ripped the rope in two, the chain of the chandelier snapped, and it all came crashing down.
Katrina ran toward the mess as everyone else dashed for the safety of the walls, heedless of the candlewax and the furniture that was catching fire. Zillie was getting shakily to her feet – her coat was smoldering, and she threw it off as Katrina reached out a hand to her sister to help her get free. Zillie carefully picked her way out of the ruins of the chandelier and then threw herself at Katrina – Katrina in return hugged her little sister so tightly that her ribs hurt.
And then she had the presence of mind to look around. Magax, Tamm, Jonquil, and Bones were all close to the hole where the door had been. A thick band of Meepits was blocking them from actually leaving, and another was already re-forming between the two sisters and their help. Mr. Cuddles was at Magax's feet, which was a small blessing, since they could probably fight their way out, but for Katrina and Zillie escape was as far away as Kreludor.
And then the Darigan Shoyru pointed, and before Katrina could react she was swept into the air by a wraith. Joraskan stalked over, accompanied by a Meepit with a white moustache and Mohawk. He said, "Now you see why you should have obeyed us earlier, child, without all this fuss. Now open the door."
Katrina looked over toward Magax, who was frowning as he looked at them – the Meepits seemed to be paying them no mind. She didn't know what the sorcerers wanted from Zillie, but from the horror on the purple Kyrii's face it couldn't possibly be good.
Katrina tried to struggle free from the wraith, but it was completely useless. And there were several more waiting behind – Magax might be able to do something with his axe, but she didn't know if even he was that good.
That voice that had nothing to do with ears said, She stalls. She hopes for a rescue. She defies you still.
Katrina joked feebly, "If you think this is defiance, you ought to see how she treats her teachers." No one paid her any attention, which was probably for the best. The moment stretched out, breathless and unbearably tense.
And that was when the howling began outside.
To be continued...