The Tree of Pillar Grove: Part Nine
"It's the Firefly! He's escaped!"
"He's at the warehouse at the base of pillar five! Stop him! Don't let him get to the amber!"
Jacenty sat on one of the elevated pathways, under the shadow of a nearby house. Even from a distance that he needed binoculars to see what was going on, he could still hear the roars of the soldiers inside the storage building.
He instructed Flicker to stay in the hallways for as long as soldiers were coming at him. In an open area, he ran the risk of being overpowered by more Neopets than he could handle. But in a bottleneck, the Buzz could plow through the soldiers without having to worry so much over being attacked by them all at once.
The sound of a hammer smashing against armor here, a soldier being flung out a window there – Jacenty could see enough to get a general idea of how things were progressing, but he was given very little clues to the whole picture. Eventually, the commotion in the building ceased. After seeing a brief green glow pass by one of the windows, there was nothing more for Jacenty to observe.
Then, after a minute, a door near the back of the building was kicked open. Flicker walked out of it with a large bag in his hands. Jacenty grinned and put away his binoculars.
In a stiff, almost mechanical sort of manner, Flicker turned sharply in Jacenty's direction and flew towards him. Once he landed in front of the Zafara, he wordlessly handed him the bag.
Jacenty opened it and ran his hand through the amber inside. "Excellent work. It's such a shame that the bunch you retrieved yesterday was confiscated, but no matter. This more than makes up for it," Jacenty complimented Flicker, although he wasn't expecting much of a reply while the Buzz continued to stare off into the distance. "Now, I believe Halloy is still waiting for us. It would be rude to keep him waiting, yes?"
Jacenty gestured for Flicker to follow him. As he strode along the walkway, he listened to his own footsteps followed by Flicker's heavier ones.
But then he caught the sound of a third set of feet. "Hold it."
Jacenty glanced over his shoulder. He sneered at the blue Buzz, "You should be asleep."
Lampyri returned the glare. "Funnily enough, I'm not. Might that be because I didn't actually drink any of your tea this time around?" She narrowed her eyes. "I had a feeling it was tainted."
Jacenty turned himself around completely so that he could watch Lampyri directly. He saw for himself how strong she was and knew better than to underestimate her. "Slumberberry makes for a wonderful cure for insomnia. Simply adding even a minute amount of its juice to any beverage should keep a Neopet asleep for many hours."
Lampyri nodded, feigning interest. "So what was it that you put in Flicker's tea?"
"Ah, that?" Jacenty laughed, adding another dose of false amiability. "A mixture of twirly fruit and voidberry creates a rather interesting concoction. It makes anyone that drinks it rather... receptive to orders, shall we say?" He pulled out his watch, checked the time, and sighed, "As much as I would love to give you a lecture, I'm afraid that I'm due for an important appointment. Flicker, get rid of her."
Flicker obeyed, instantly jumping up to send his hammer down on Lampyri. She had kept her guard up, though, and promptly slid herself out of the way. Jacenty expected her to try to fight off Flicker after dodging his attack, but instead she whipped her string of chains at him instead.
Jacenty just barely evaded the brunt of the attack. His hand grasped his shoulder where he felt the chains graze by him. He saw Flicker try to pound Lampyri again, which served as enough of a distraction for him to make his escape. He leapt off of the walkway, jumping off at just the right spot so that he would land on another one just below.
He dashed off towards Pillar Grove's exit, leaving the Buzzes behind in a hurry. Flicker had completed his role, and now it was time for Jacenty to focus on the next step of the plan.
* * *
With Flicker constantly swinging his hammer at her, Lampyri could do nothing but watch Jacenty get away. Dodging his attacks was only getting her so far with how relentlessly he was fighting, as he was not allowing a single opening for her to give chase to the purple Zafara.
"Flicker! It's me, Lampyri!" she shouted, hoping that she would be able to reach him somehow.
But Flicker's only reply was to send another strike in her direction. Lampyri understood that Flicker could be rather enthusiastic about battling, but the amount of viciousness which he was attacking with was unusual even for him. But while he was being plenty ferocious with his attacks, he didn't put the slightest effort into evasion or defense. Even though he was hypnotized, he was still his amateurish self, in a way.
"Sorry, Flicker," Lampyri sighed, realizing that she had no choice. Evading one more of his assaults, she weaved around him and wrapped him up in her chains, bringing him to the ground in mere seconds.
Lampyri sat down on his back for good measure, although his struggling was already futile. She had the feeling that Flicker wouldn't be back to normal for a while yet, so she took the opportunity to think the situation over some more.
* * *
Before long, Lampyri could see reinforcements scrambling all over the city, desperately searching for Flicker. She hid him in a small nook in the wall up in the highest part of the cave, hoping that none of the winged Neopets would think to look there. If they did, Lampyri was ready to defend on a moment's notice.
Flicker had shouted a little earlier, but after muzzling him with a rag, he became slightly less prone to attracting attention. Every now and then Lampyri would hear a muffled growl, but he was –for the most part- quiet for some time.
Lampyri had hoped that her thoughts were unfounded. When Flicker had been accused of criminal activity on the same day that all of them happened to sleep through him leaving the inn, she began to grow rather suspicious. It was a feeling that was only fueled even further when she learned that the crime involved the very tree that Jacenty was so eager to have Flicker escort him to.
After a while, Lampyri heard a lengthy moan from beside her. At first, it was the kind of noise that one would make right as they were waking up. But then it transitioned into a sickly, queasy sort of grumble. If Flicker wasn't already glowing, Lampyri would have said that he looked rather green in the face. She reached her hand over to him and untied the rag around his mouth.
"Urgh... Where...?" Flicker muttered as he came to. A few seconds later, he noticed that he was bound up and began to struggle once again. "What's going on?! Lampyri?! Get me out of these things!"
"Maybe later," Lampyri replied nonchalantly; preferring to assume that Flicker wasn't entirely level in the head just yet. To test her theory, she added casually, "So I was thinking that today you could try out some of the new clothes I bought you. It'll only take a few hours and I think you'll look great in them."
"No, no, no, NO!" Flicker yelled, squirming around even more furiously. "Let me go! Right now!"
Lampyri smiled slyly. "Just making sure that you're yourself."
She obliged and freed Flicker from the chains. But she still didn't allow him much freedom, as she pushed him back deeper into the nook. Lampyri peeked around the corner to make sure that nobody heard his outburst before even making so much as a whisper.
Flicker hadn't gotten the hint yet, though. "How did I get out of my cell?" he asked loudly. Lampyri shoved her hand over his mouth, bringing the volume of his voice to a decent level as he continued, "Did you guys prove that I'm innocent? Am I free to go?"
Lampyri sharply exhaled. "Not quite... We have some big problems on our hands. The least of which being that you are sort of guilty..."
She explained what was happening to Flicker. At first, he wasn't willing to accept the reality. But as Lampyri went on, he slowly became more irritated with the facts presented to him. When she finished, he didn't even allow a second of tranquility before he growled out in frustration.
"Grah! He tricked me! Darn it, if he thinks he's getting away with that..." Flicker paced around a bit before he turned to face the city's exit and snarled, "I'm going to go give him a piece of my mind!"
"Hang on, Flicker!" Lampyri said, bringing him to an immediate halt.
"What do you mean, 'hang on?!' Do you know how much trouble Jacenty's causing everyone?!" Flicker spat.
"Yes! I do! I don't blame you for wanting to go after him, but I'm just asking that you think for a moment!" Lampyri shot back. She observed the city again as she continued, "Even if Jacenty is behind all this, as far as Pillar Grove is concerned, you're still the main culprit. If you just run right out there without a clue as to what you're going to do, you'll just be caught again and all of us will be sent back to square one. Still, the local army does need to know who their enemy should be. They won't believe you if you tried to tell them, and I doubt that I'd have much luck either."
Lampyri's eyes moved in the direction of the inn, although -at their position- she couldn't see it behind the pillars and walkways. "Your father might be more successful, though. If he could persuade Zircon to end a war, then he should be able to convince him that you aren't at fault. So our first action should be to tell him and Wingen."
She saw Flicker cringe at the latter's name. "He's not going to like this..."
"Well, we can't lie to him, I hope you realize that. Besides, we're probably going to need his help," Lampyri replied. "I'll go sneak back to the inn. You should stay here while I do that."
Flicker crossed his arms, a little insulted. "How come? I can be stealthy," said the glowing Buzz.
Lampyri gave him a blank stare at first, but she eventually relented. "Alright. But if you're going to insist on coming..."
She reached into the bag she had with her slowly at first, but then caught Flicker off guard when she swiftly whipped out the item she was looking for. Lampyri quickly forced the robe over his head before he had the chance to resist. The robe was a simple black one with a hood; she didn't intend for it, but it did a great job at making Flicker look even more menacing than he actually was.
"...You will be wearing that. It'll help obscure your glow so that you're not such a glaring target," Lampyri said.
Flicker was already gritting his teeth and twitching his limbs in discomfort. The moment Lampyri saw one of hands move up to take the robe off, she added, "Flicker, if you wear that this one time, I promise that I'll never whine about you and clothes ever again! Okay?"
His reply was an unintelligible, unhappy grunt. Lampyri could only assume that he meant, "Yes."
* * *
The first thing that anybody would notice upon walking into the inn was the mass of soldiers laying down on the floor. There wasn't a conscious soul in the building – even the innkeepers were out cold.
Flicker instinctively ran over to one of the soldiers, probably with the hope that he could help somehow. Lampyri shook her head and told him, "They were all like that when I left to follow Jacenty. They'll probably be fine, but I'd actually be more worried about them waking up. We still need to keep a low profile, so we need to be quick in here."
Lampyri and Flicker ran to their suite, passing by even more unconscious soldiers in the halls. Despite what she had told him about what Jacenty had been putting in everyone's tea, the first thing that Flicker did once he arrived was to try to wake Wingen up. After several attempts of trying to jostle the Wocky out of his slumber by shaking the his shoulders, he finally realized it was no use. "They're going to wake up, right?" he asked in a quiet, concerned tone.
"I don't doubt it, since the tea eventually wore off last time. But it'll be a waste of time to wait for that to happen," Lampyri answered as she quickly scribbled on a piece of parchment. "Alright, I've written them a note detailing everything. Go put this someplace where your father will notice it."
Flicker thought to himself for a moment. His face brightened up with an idea, after which he grabbed the note and ran into Lumin's room.
While he did that, Lampyri picked up the small bag next to Wingen's bed and called to Flicker, "Where does Wingen keep his magic gems?"
"In his Inventory. But he's the only one that can use the key to..."
Flicker walked back into the bedroom to find Lampyri putting the key into Wingen's hand and manipulating his wrist to turn it. It made no difference if their master was awake or not, as the doors of light appeared in the air.
Lampyri reached inside the miniature dimension and found the small sack of gem-candy. She rummaged around it in until she pulled a handful of mostly yellow ones. As she shut the doors and made them disappear, she asked, "These ones grant invisibility, right? It would be best if we had some of these incase we need a little more stealth. Wingen won't mind, will he?"
Flicker was slow to answer at first, still surprised at Lampyri. "I-I guess not. I think he'll understand."
"Good. Now, on to what's next," Lampyri began to say. While Flicker was still under the effects of Jacenty's poison, she had the time to think over their plan in detail. "Jacenty said that he was going to meet up with Halloy. We find him, we find Jacenty. Considering the type of person Halloy is, the first place he would go to would be his laboratory. Problem is, the people of Pillar Grove searched for the lab after he was captured, but they never found it."
Tapping her index finger against the side of her head, she began to take herself back into her adolescence. "When I was younger and in training, I spent a lot of time around soldiers. And of course, I'd listen to their conversations. I remember them speaking of a few rumors having to do with the location of Halloy's laboratory."
Flicker shrugged and furrowed his eyebrows. "But they're just rumors."
Lampyri expected that kind of response, so she gave small smile to Flicker. "Sometimes, though, rumors can have a little bit of truth in them."
To be continued...