Agent of the Sway: Induction - Part Six
12 Years Ago...
Neopia Central had been quiet for a year. Lord Faversham had assured him that situations like that never lasted for long, so when the Kyrii ordered Clayton to meet him at the docks, he practically jumped at the chance.
This time, however, he was determined to play things a little differently. No more being kept in the dark.
"No more secrets," Clayton announced as they set sail. "If I'm going to carry on working for you, I want to know what's going on in advance."
"That's not up to me, Clayton," Faversham replied. "There is a hierarchy."
"I've been down to the hold," Clayton added. "I've seen what cargo we're carrying - near enough a ton of Slothite explosives. New formula, which happens to be very volatile. The captain says we're heading to Terror Mountain."
"Your point?" Faversham asked.
"Nothing's happening on Terror Mountain," Clayton explained. "The only people we might need to blow up there are the Thieves Guild. If we're going there to take down the Guild, I have to know."
"Why?" Faversham asked. "So you can warn your friend Kanrik?"
"Don't worry, Clayton," Faversham chuckled. "Our organisation takes precautions with this sort of thing. We would never send someone into a situation where they could be personally compromised. If we wished to take the Thieves Guild down, we would have someone else do it. Which isn't to say that Galem Darkhand's days are not numbered - he will be removed at some point. Just not today. We have other fish to fry on Terror Mountain."
"Such as?" Clayton asked.
A knock on the door interrupted them, one of the deckhands barged in carrying a note.
"Sorry, sir," he said, "but you ordered any messages delivered by Crokabek to be given to you as soon as possible."
Faversham nodded, but waited until the crewman had left before breaking the seal and reading the message. Faversham gave a little chuckle.
"It still surprises me even now how she knows so quickly," he commented. "It appears your actions have impressed our leader. She says that I am to share operational details with you now. Your request, so to speak, has been granted."
"Good," Clayton said, drawing closer. "So what's happening?"
"Many thousands of years ago a great earthquake collapsed a fair portion of Terror Mountain's east face," Faversham explained without hesitation. "The cocoon formed by the falling ice protected and sealed away a portion of ancient Neopia's most primitive civilisation - a land, at that time, known as Tyrannia. It has remained, as far as we can ascertain, in exactly the same state of cultural and technological progress as that day, while the rest of Neopia has carried on without them."
"What value does this Tyrannia have to us?" Clayton asked.
"None," Faversham stated. "Which is entirely why it has remained hidden until now. It would stay so forever, if we got our way. But sadly forces are working against us now. Our grand scheme has been recalculated to allow for the reintroduction of Tyrannia to the political stage."
"Sloth is involved?"
"Exactly." Faversham nodded. "Quite how he has managed to gain access to the Tyrannian plain through the ice sheet escapes us for the time being - we think perhaps some form of teleportation - but regardless he is now in Tyrannia. Sadly, given that Sloth is such an ancient being himself, he is more than aware of the hidden powers Tyrannia holds. We believe he is raising an army in the north of the area, and will soon attack the other Tyrannians. If they fall, Terror Mountain will be next. And should that happen, Sloth will have a staging ground to launch attacks on Neopia Central itself."
"So what's the plan?" Clayton asked.
"We can do nothing to prevent Tyrannia being attacked," Faversham explained. "What we can to is ensure the Tyrannian Army's ranks are bolstered by reinforcements. We will use the explosives in the ship's hold to punch a hole in the ice sheet surrounding Tyrannia. Hopefully the explosion will be misunderstood by locals as an earthquake, and inevitably, they will discover Tyrannia when they come to investigate. That will be phase one."
"And phase two?" Clayton asked.
"Full of questions," Faversham chuckled. "We will try and give the Tyrannian council advance warning of the invaders - without directly telling them, of course. The council will start enlisting the newcomers to bolster their defences. Once the war actually begins, we will help in any manner we can."
"Sounds easy," Clayton remarked.
"Make no mistake, Tyrannia will be a dangerous place," Faversham said. "You must always be on your guard. This will be a bigger test than any you have undergone so far. And before all that, we have to smuggle a crate of high explosives up a mountain."
"I can't wait."
The Terror Mountain docks were quiet when the ship arrived - which was just as well. Clayton didn't want to get caught unloading explosives in the dead of night.
"Where did you even get these?" Clayton asked as they watched the crewman struggle to hoist the large canvas clad box off the ship.
"You'd be surprised how easy it is to find high quality explosives in Neopia Central," Faversham replied. "Some days you'd almost think the stuff grew on trees."
"How are we getting it up the mountain?" Clayton asked.
The crewman deposited the box onto a palette trolley.
"Why ever do you think I made you come along?" Faversham asked with a smirk. "Grab a rope."
"Are you serious?" Clayton asked. "You want me to pull this through snowdrifts?"
Faversham broke into a little chuckle. "You really are quite gullible sometimes, you know? No, I've arranged for some local help. Captain? Captain, do you have them?"
The Captain of the ship kicked open another crate on the deck of the ship, and herded some Petpets down onto the dock.
"These are Bika," Faversham said, gesturing at the strange harnessed creatures that the crewmen were attaching to the box. "Don't let their size fool you; they can carry sizable loads."
When they were all set up correctly, Faversham said his thanks to the Captain, and they set off on their way. Happy Valley was peacefully sleeping, and Faversham made the Bika skirt round the outskirts of the town to avoid waking anyone and rousing suspicion. Thankfully, their destination was the Ice Caves, the entrance to which lay just outside Happy Valley at the base of the mountain - it meant they would not have to venture up the perilous mountain passes that led to the mountain's peak.
"There is, from memory, a crevasse in the heart of the Ice Caves," Faversham briefed Clayton as they went. "It will be the weakest point. That is where we shall deposit our merchandise."
"What if it causes a cave-in?" Clayton asked.
"It shouldn't," Faversham replied. "The crystalline structure of Terror Mountain is protected by the ancient magic of the Bori who once ruled this place - in order to protect the mountain as a whole, that magic will instead compromise the structure of the ice sheet covering Tyrannia."
"You sound very sure about that," Clayton pointed out.
"My organisation never does anything unless we are sure of the outcome," Faversham stated. "Guessing is something only a fool would do."
Thankfully, even at night the Ice Caves were lit up. The crystal sheen of the place seemed to capture the daylight, reflecting and refracting it long into the night, so that inside it seemed like dusk had only just fallen.
Carefully Faversham urged the Bika along the crystal paths that wound through the central cavern, finding the position he wanted and bringing them to a stop.
"The shock of the impact will, I believe, trigger the explosion," Faversham said. "We had best be prepared to run. I will go left, and you right. We return here once a crowd has gathered. Clear?"
"Yes," Clayton replied as he set the Bika free.
With that, Faversham kicked hard on the front of the box, sending the whole thing, trolley included, over the edge of the crystal pathway. Not waiting for the explosion, both set off running in opposite directions. Clayton was already half way to his destination - the Ice Crystal Shop, when the explosion hit.
It rocked through the entire cavern, louder than any roar the Snowager had ever given. Icicles clinging to the ceiling were set free, falling and smashing. Above him he could hear the rushing of snow as an avalanche had been dislodged by the sound - but he couldn't stop to admire his handiwork. He dived for the cover of the Ice Crystal Shop's spiky structure, nestling himself into the gaps between the crystals to avoid detection. He caught a glimpse of Faversham disappearing into a cave on the west side of the area, and then the voices and the lights began to come.
The Negg Faerie was first to rise, emerging from her home near Clayton's hiding place. Shopkeepers and other locals gathered with her, all staring down into the abyss. Gradually, people from Happy Valley made their way upwards to join the crowd.
"What was it?" someone asked the Faerie.
"I'm not sure," she replied. "Perhaps an earthquake? Someone summon Taelia, please?"
Word went out to fetch the Snow Faerie from the mountain's peak, and together they waited, watching the silence of the abyss.
"That was quite something," a voice said in Clayton's ear.
The Kougra wheeled round, finding himself face to face with an old friend.
"Kanrik!" Clayton greeted the Gelert.
A long scar now ran down the Gelert's snout.
"How did that happen?" Clayton asked.
"I challenged Galem," Kanrik replied glumly. "You were right, he kept me around as an example to the others. And you? Blowing up mountains now, are we?"
"I didn't come here to blow this place up," Clayton corrected him. "I'm just... clearing a path. Please don't tell anyone. We need people to believe this is all an earthquake."
"What are you involved in, Clayton?" Kanrik asked.
"Something big," the Kougra replied. "Something important. Please, if this doesn't work, we'll all be in danger."
"Alright," Kanrik replied eventually. "Good luck."
With that, the Gelert was gone. Clayton emerged from his hiding place and joined the crowd, reuniting with Faversham just as the Snow Faerie arrived.
"There is a passage down there," she said instantly. "I can sense it. I think, yes, I think we shall have to send some people down there to investigate."
To be continued...