The Return: Part Eight
Who exactly Chaos was, Jennings didn't get to ask. The fire Lutari turned his attention from the Krawk as if he were a mild annoyance, focusing on the cane and the green gem atop it. The magic crystal glowed, and Jennings felt the wash of magic as whatever spell the creature was working took effect.
If the drama at the Smeltworks had seemed like a riot, this was ten times worse. The crowd that had been standing in avid silence watching the Faerie's battle with the Judge now turned on each other, punching and kicking and clawing with no real aim or reason. Pets tumbled forwards, blocking Jennings's view of the Lutari, and by the time the Krawk had moved, it seemed like the Chaos character had disappeared into the crowd.
Someone caught Jennings round the back of the head, forcing him down to the floor. Jennings looked up, finding the crazed face of the normally kindly Ruki who ran the second hand shop next to the Defenders Building. The Ruki lifted a moss covered rock, the object he had struck the Krawk with.
Then suddenly Mr. Black was on him, allowing Jennings to get back to their feet. Together, the pair made their way to Judge Hog, who was standing with the light Faerie. All memories of their previous fight had been forgotten.
"This is exactly what happened at the Smeltworks," Jennings informed them. "Guillotine, and it appears this Lutari, have the power to magically incite rioting."
"Well there's one difference," the Judge stated. "This time they are doing it right outside the Defenders Headquarters. That means it won't last long."
Other Defenders were already emerging from the building to begin arrests, and the Judge headed off to organise them. Jennings meanwhile caught a glimpse of blue in the crowd.
The blue Blumaroo gave a little curt nod towards Jennings, before running off into the Marketplace amidst the chaos. Jennings gave chase, as best he could with the limp.
Brodman did not seem to be trying to lose Jennings, though, and the Krawk soon caught up to him in an alleyway.
"So you've shown your face at last!" Jennings declared. "All this has been your scheme, yes? What was it? Use Guillotine to bring riots to the streets of Neopia Central?"
"This is far bigger than just Guillotine, Jennings," Brodman said, maddened fire in his eyes. "You saw that Lutari just now, didn't you?"
Jennings nodded, but there was not the reaction that Brodman had been hoping for. The Blumaroo collapsed in fits of laughter.
"You still don't get it!?" he cried. "Just how slow are you!? You practically had to be spoon fed information about the Lady, yet you still don't put two and two together!?"
"The Lutari is related to the Lady?" Jennings asked. "Chaos... a name with more meaning? You mean to say that he is a spirit, like the Lady, or the Spirit of Giving?"
"Exactly!" Brodman declared. "Chaos is Neopia's spirit of rebellion! A representation of all that is disorder and destruction! But he was weak in this city, so weak, after your efforts to rebuild it, so he needed a vessel to inhabit – I willingly provided it, the ghost of Madame Guillotine. Now, you've given him the magical stone, more than enough power for him to physically manifest."
"This seems like a very intricate plan," Jennings said.
"Necessary, I had to test a theory," Brodman explained. "You're a very lucky man, Jennings. Though I got to thinking, after you survived my bombs, that maybe you weren't so lucky. Maybe it was something more. Maybe you died on Mystery Island."
Jennings merely stared blankly and the preposterousness of such a statement.
"Maybe what came back from the island was something different," Brodman added. "Maybe this city has come to need you so much that, in its darkest hour, it manifested you, just like all these spirits. Maybe you've become an immortal being. The only way to test this theory was obvious – set you against another one."
"And your conclusion?" Jennings asked.
"Chaos overpowered you too easily," Brodman said. "Seems like you're just flesh and bones after all."
He produced a rusty knife, and at once Jennings realised he was unarmed against the Blumaroo.
"So now you intend to kill me?" Jennings asked.
Brodman gave a childish giggle.
"Don't be silly, Jennings, this is just to deter you from trying anything." Brodman laughed. "If I killed you now, you'd miss all the fun of witnessing the city tear itself apart. Fools like to say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but you and I both know the truth of the matter. Revenge is best served in courses. I have so much more in store for you. You agree, of course. Why else would you be keeping that Shaman alive in your Baker Street compound?"
Jennings was momentarily taken aback by Brodman's words. The Blumaroo had become a deranged, hateful creature... but was Jennings really so different?
Brodman edged himself out of the alleyway, disappearing back into the remains of the riot. The Defenders had worked quickly, and the disorder was fizzling out already.
Jennings noticed that he was still carrying the bottle of potion he had attempted to use against Guillotine, and there was a little liquid left inside. Perhaps it had not worked because of Chaos's interference before, but now... if he tried again, perhaps he could exorcise her ghost and weaken Chaos's grip. Maybe then, dealing with the problem would be a little bit easier.
The sun was setting by the time Jennings and Black reached the Helm on the west side of the city, and Jennings instructed Black to wait at the foot of the hill as the Krawk climbed up.
As expected, Jennings found the disturbed grave and the long dead skeleton of Madame Guillotine resting inside. Looking around, Jennings found the ghost of the Faerie Kougra resting on part of the ruined castle nearby. She looked faded now, and much of the air of strength she had previously radiated was gone.
"I'm sorry," she said as he approached. "I could see what he was making me do, and I tried to stop myself... I just, couldn't. It was just like it used to be..."
"Used to be?" Jennings asked.
"I led the revolution against the King of the city," she explained. "He was corrupt, yes, but now, looking back, we could have resolved it peacefully. We were driven to war, driven to combat, and madness. Looking back now, it is clear – Chaos was influencing us, twisting our minds and marching us forward to his own beat. Then, once it was done, I was appointed leader. Protector of this city – the first Judge, if you will. I came to represent order, everything that he detests. So he turned on me, arranged a counter-revolution to get rid of me. There was madness in the eyes of those who came for me. I remember it, it was the same madness that had carried my actions."
She glanced out over the city with a sigh. "And now he's going to do it all over again."
"We can stop him," Jennings said, gesturing to the potion in his hand.
Guillotine shook her head sadly. "Getting rid of me won't do anything to him now – he has that cane of yours. That's enough to keep him anchored in this world, and as unrest grows in the city, it'll only strengthen him. If you want to challenge him, you're going to need someone with a lot of magical power to stop him."
Jennings nodded; he knew what he had to do. The universe seemed to be arranging itself so that only one avenue was open – Jennings had to free the Shaman. His magic was part of the sum total held within the green crystal, he would be able to harness the power of the cane. He could stop Chaos.
"I believe I can find someone like that," Jennings said. "Will you help me, if I try and stop him?"
"Of course," Guillotine replied. "But I can't say what help I could be."
"You never know," Jennings said. "Do you know where I will be able to find him?"
Guillotine looked at him in shock, as if he should have known.
"He will try and assault that which stands against him," she said. "Attack the very symbol of law and order in this city – he will be targeting the blue lamp."
The blue lamp – the lantern that stood at the heart of the Defenders Headquarters. A flame that had burnt since the first days of the city, since the days of Madame Guillotine. A symbol few cared about, and few knew. But it seemed, a symbol at still mattered to some very specific people.
Jennings parted ways with Guillotine, who promised to be there if needed, and made his way back down to Black at the foot of the hill.
"Orders, sir?" the Grarrl asked.
"You are to head to Baker Street," Jennings instructed. "Relieve Mr. Decimal, his duties are over. You are to bring the Shaman to the Defenders Headquarters, to the room that houses the blue lantern. There may be rioters outside, but you must get past them. It is imperative that the Shaman is there. Clear?"
Black nodded. "What about you, sir?"
"I'm heading to the Defenders building to try and stop this before it goes any further," Jennings announced. "I'll meet you there. Time is of the essence, Mr. Black."
The two parted, one heading east, the other north.
To be continued...