The Return: Part Five
The Crossway ran directly behind many of the main shops in Neopia Central's business district. It heralded the entry to the Docklands, and as such many of the stalls and services located there were... less than savoury. That at least gave Jennings some hope as he approached the battered purple tent – Mistress Morag was likely to be genuine. A charlatan would likely have pitched somewhere more profitable.
He pulled open the flap and entered, being assaulted by all manner of smells – herbs and concoctions from all over the planet mixed and fermented in the air. Magical artefacts hung from the roof of the tent, while a table sat in the centre, a crystal blue ball sat atop it, pulsing slightly.
"Welcome, Mr. Jennings," a figure hunched behind the crystal ball greeted him.
She was covered in a thick dark cloak, with a hood that obscured many of her features, but Jennings thought he could make out the yellow gleam of a Hissi's eyes, and a few brown scales in the shadows of her face.
"You were expecting me?" Jennings asked.
"Of course," she cackled. "I wouldn't be a very good fortune teller if I didn't know when people were going to walk through my own front door now, would I? Would you like to take a seat?"
She gestured to a chair on the opposite side of her table.
"If you are a seer, you already know if I am going to sit down," Jennings replied sceptically.
"And I do." She nodded.
"Then why bother to offer? Why not tell me to sit down, or to stand?" Jennings asked.
"Because that would remove your choice in the matter, Mr. Jennings," she replied with a knowing smile. "And that would be quite rude of me. Stand or sit, please yourself. You'll get the same answer either way."
Jennings paused, before deciding to sit.
"I wanted to sit," he muttered.
"Of course you did," she smirked. "Now, you have questions."
"You are Mistress Morag, I take it?" Jennings asked. "Saline suggested I come to see you regarding a problem with a ghost. I feel you should know that I don't enjoy dealing with... witches."
"I am Morag," she answered. "And I know why you are here. But I am no witch."
Jennings glanced a critical eye around the arcane contents of the tent.
"Are you quite sure of that?"
"Sometimes you need to keep up appearances," Morag explained. "Be what people expect you to be. I hold no real magical power, Kauvara is your best bet there. I am I fortune teller, a seer. Nothing more. I spent some time on Mystery Island, trying to learn their brand of voodoo, but nothing came of it. Nothing good, in any case."
"Then why did Saline send me to you?" Jennings asked.
"Because I can help you," Morag answered. "You don't need to wage a magical battle across the city to get rid of a ghost, Mr. Jennings. At this point, you are going to need to cross my palm with silver."
"Why?" Jennings asked.
"As payment," Morag replied.
"I gathered that much," Jennings replied. "I meant, why silver? I don't have anything of that description."
"An antiquity," Morag said. "Neopoints will do just fine."
Jennings reluctantly complied, delivering a handful of gold coins to the table which Morag quickly spirited away to the depths of her robes.
"You seek answers regarding Madame Guillotine," she said, instantly getting to business. "It is indeed her ghost that stalks the streets of the city once more."
"She seemed almost solid when I saw her, not an apparition at all," Jennings observed.
"Powerful spells were used to return her to her current state," Morag explained. "Forbidden magic, known only to a few. You have already guessed the one behind it."
"Brodman," Jennings said.
"Exactly. He seeks to use the ghost to bring chaos to the streets. He has invoked the most terrible of forces to achieve this, but if we act quickly, this can be undone. With each passing moment, Guillotine grows stronger and her hold on this world increases. But, she is still weak enough for us to remove her influence. We must do this in two ways – attacking the body and the soul at once. If the same incantation is performed on both, she will return beyond the veil."
"Why are you allowed to tell me this?" Jennings asked suddenly. "Information about whether or not I am going to sit down is taboo, but you'll happily send me on an errand to destroy a vengeful spirit?"
Morag smiled. "You paid me. That makes things different. You have another question, I believe?"
Jennings paused, not sure what she meant for a second, before remembering the Zafara he had been seeing about town.
"I have been seeing a red Zafara in several places," he said. "Saline would not tell me her identity, but stressed I should ask you."
"She is the Lady," Morag said, voice full of a strange sort of awe.
"Lady what?" Jennings asked.
"Not Lady anything," Morag corrected him. "Just the Lady. She is not, as you would call it, a Neopet."
"She was a Zafara," Jennings observed.
"The form she has chosen," Morag told him. "There are creatures in this world that act and think and look like Neopets, Mr. Jennings, but they are anything but. You know them, you have heard of them. The Spirit of Giving, the Spirit of Scaring, the Easter Cybunny. Magical manifestations. All of them brought to life by the background magic present in everyone, their collective belief creating an entirely new being."
"And the Lady is one of these?" Jennings asked. "What holiday does she represent? Meridell Day?"
Morag gave a little chuckle. "There are spirits for many things, Mr. Jennings, not just holidays. You see this table, it has a spirit, a magical aura surrounding it. Of course, with only you and me here, the aura is weak. But if every Neopet gathered together to behold this table, why, it's spirit might just be strong enough to manifest. Everything has a spirit. The great Batrin river, and his mother, Demonica in the Haunted Woods. Terror Mountain, the great rock father, and even Neopia herself. Though, she works on such a grand scale that few have ever seen her."
"Nonsense," Jennings stated. "Tables do not have souls."
"Not souls, no," Morag replied. "But magical auras, yes. Is this so difficult to understand for one who is originally from Shenkuu? The custom there is to believe in spirits of rivers, of trees, of families, even."
"I don't believe in spirits," Jennings stated.
"Well they believe in you, Mr. Jennings," Morag replied bluntly. "You view yourself as the steward of this city, but the Lady is its master. She is Neopia Central, the magical manifestation of the streets and buildings and people and history... anything that has made this place."
This was all vastly new information to Jennings. He had viewed himself as being at the top of the Neopia Central food chain, and now there was someone else moving in the shadows?
But no, that wasn't it... there was something more. Morag had said that all things had spirits, and if Neopia Central had one, it was entirely possible that Mystery Island had one as well. The Shaman, who Jennings had been sure was just blustering about his island spirits because of his own magical power, may have been right. And if he was, Jennings may have angered a very powerful force.
"She is dangerous?" Jennings asked.
"Certainly," Morag replied. "If she wanted you dead, you would be. But if you are asking, is she a threat, then no. She doesn't desire control or power. She just wants what's best for herself, and by extension the city. As long as you keep working to improve Neopia Central, Mr. Jennings, I'd say you have little to fear from her."
From her, perhaps. But what he had to fear from Mystery Island remained to be seen.
"Well, that's good to know," Jennings replied, even though it wasn't. "But we should focus on our immediate problem. I presume, by indicating that two people are needed, you are offering to help?"
Morag nodded. "I'll take the body; she's buried up on the Helm."
"Leaving me with the soul," Jennings said. "Which could be wandering anywhere in the city. How lovely of you."
"You might want to try the industrial district," Morag supplied with a wink.
She reached under her table and produced a small bottle.
"You'll need to pour this over her," she instructed.
"No magical words?" Jennings asked. "I was under the impression magical words were required during an exorcism."
"Then you were under the wrong impression," she told him curtly. "As long as the potion is poured on both parts, the spirit will be drawn from this world."
Jennings nodded, standing up. He noticed Morag eyeing his cane, and the magical green gem atop it.
"If I could offer some advice, I wouldn't take that along with you," she said. "It's very powerful magic, and if it falls into the hands of someone who knows how it works, we could all be in a lot of trouble."
"But you already know if I'm going to take it with me or not," Jennings said. "Any advice you give me is surely worthless."
"Yes, it is," Morag replied sadly. "We can but try though. You will do as you wish."
Jennings had never had much time for people who tried to control him, be they friend or foe. He knew the seer probably had good reason for dissuading him, but he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of handing over the gem, as she seemed to want.
"Yes," he replied curtly. "I will."
He took the potion and limped out of the tent, leaving Morag to sigh slightly before picking up her potion.
"It must be fate then," she remarked, before leaving and heading west towards the Helm.
To be continued...