Agent of the Sway: Induction - Part Seven
Clayton and Faversham were not the first to explore the passage. Despite the urgency of their mission, Faversham insisted that going first would draw attention - particularly from Taelia.
So it was a few days in, when news of Tyrannia had already spread, that the pair ventured down the tunnel. It was about a mile long, the mountain seemingly having reconfigured the crystal structure to allow the safe passage. Boats were already docking at the now revealed Tyrannian ports, but Faversham was insistent they should do things properly and go through the tunnel.
Gradually, vines began to creep along the passage floor as they went, and ahead they could see a gleaming midday sun. At last they emerged into the baking heat of a Tyrannian afternoon, the sweltering heat of the jungle a contrast to the winter conditions of the mountain.
The jungle itself looked almost like Mystery Island, but beyond it Clayton could see the plateau - a barren and vast plain - and a volcano on the horizon.
"Shirtsleeves weather, I think," Faversham announced optimistically, hastily removing his winter jacket. "Truly, quite impressive. Come, we have work to do."
Faversham unrolled a scroll and handed it to Clayton, before he set off into the jungle, cutting aside vines with his cane. Clayton rushed after him, hastily reading the list of names on the scroll.
"The Tyrannian council currently has six elders," Faversham explained. "Kyruggi, the current Grand Elder, is the effective head. She's a clever politician, from what we can gather, and an expert negotiator. Grarrg is the current head of the Tyrannian Land Army. He's a fierce warrior, and as long as he is kept alive Tyrannia will have a chance of winning this war regardless of reinforcements."
"How do we know all this?" Clayton asked. "You told me Tyrannia's been sealed off for generations."
"Sealed off to the public, perhaps, but not us," Faversham explained. "We have agents everywhere, and ways of getting information through things as simple as ice sheets. Plesio is the head of the army's sea division - probably won't have much call in this war, but you never know. Sabre-X is Grarrg's right hand man - an excellent strategist. Tekel is a powerful mage, though how much he'll be able to do against Sloth's army is unknown. The last member of the council is our primary target - Myncha. He's the head of the army's reconnaissance. We shall have to convince him to scout the northern plains, near the mud flats. I believe, for now, we should set up camp on the plateau. We may draw more attention to ourselves if we stay in the jungle near Tyrammet."
"Where will we find this Myncha?" Clayton asked.
Faversham stopped to catch his breath. "Now that... is a good question. He is, effectively, Tyrannia's spy chief. If he's any good at his job, we shouldn't be able to find him at all."
Camp, as it turned out, was a small canvas tent propped up against one of the rock outcrops on the plateau. Faversham's original comment of 'shirt-sleeves weather' had been optimistic. Clayton had certainly never experienced temperatures of such an excess and was finding it difficult to cope - certainly he didn't think the cloak he had been carrying was at all appropriate. He'd stuck so far to exploring some of the caves in the area, hoping that they would be cooler. The pair of them split up during the days, and returned to camp as the sunset to share news, or lack of it. A steady stream of messages left by Crokabek always greeted them - updates on situations elsewhere in Neopia for Faversham to read.
It was about a week in when Faversham returned to camp late, finding Clayton pacing about impatiently.
"There you are!" the Kougra declared. "I've been waiting here for hours - I came across our Myncha character. He was lurking about in a cave near that strange omelette, almost killed me with that blowpipe of his. I supplied the information as planned, he's going scouting in the mud flats to the north tonight."
"Excellent," Faversham commented, sitting down to read his messages.
"Where have you been?" Clayton asked.
"I came across a scientist on the plains this afternoon... the information he provided was most illuminating," Faversham answered. "I have located the means by which Dr. Sloth reached Tyrannia, in any case."
"How?" Clayton asked.
"The scientist worked for him," Faversham explained. "Perhaps, in fact, he still does. Though I have convinced him to lay low in the caves for as long as possible. He was camped near a crashed capsule, apparently a 'failed' experiment. It appears that Sloth never intended to travel to Tyrannia, but now that he is here he is making the best of it."
"Wouldn't a space capsule have broken the ice sheet?" Clayton asked.
Faversham gave one of his characteristic chuckles, "The capsule was not intended to travel through the atmosphere, and in fact, it did not. It was, according to the scientist, a time machine."
"Now, don't have that reaction," Faversham said with a smirk. "A year ago you didn't believe there were lands beyond the Haunted Woods. You were proven wrong then, as well. Time travel has long been considered possible by senior members of the Order of the Red Erisim, but controlling the process would be incredibly difficult. Sloth, it would seem, was trying to perfect the process. In this instance, he failed. The capsule merely teleported himself and the scientist in space, rather than time."
Faversham took out a blank scroll and began to write a report to his superiors.
"We'll have to stop that project somehow, won't we?" Clayton asked. "If Sloth could rewrite history..."
"It would be very dangerous," Faversham agreed. "It would make him the most powerful person on the planet. We must look into it further. As soon as this war has been concluded, I'm sure it will be our next mission. In any case, if the scientist remains hidden here in Tyrannia for a few years, Sloth's development will be stalled, if not halted entirely."
With the report finished, Faversham held out his hand. A Crokabek had been waiting on top of the tent for much of the afternoon, and now it swept down and took the scroll, flying off to return to its master at last.
An emergency meeting of the Tyrannian council was called the following night when Myncha returned from the mud flats. Faversham and Clayton listened from the darkness outside of the campfire's light, silently logging each and every detail.
"A big army," Myncha added, confirming the shocked looks from the other council members. "I've not seen one that size in all my life."
Kyruggi leaned in close to stoke the fire with a stick, "You are sure they were not some of these newcomers from foreign lands?"
"I know what an army looks like," Myncha replied defensively. "Large Korbat scouts at the head, but others. Buzzes, Grarrls, Chias, and Skeiths. Some were fire Grarrls - and all were dressed for war."
"Marching this way, you are sure? Not towards the west?" Kyruggi asked.
"This way," Myncha confirmed. "Only a matter of days away."
"We must prepare for battle," Grarrg growled.
"It will not be enough," Sabre-X said. "If Myncha is correct, we don't have the numbers to defend against that kind of army."
"Well we can't run!" Kyruggi protested. "These are our homes!"
"There may be another way," Sabre-X considered. "The visitors, many of them could be convinced to join our ranks, I believe. Those who would not do so out of altruism may be convinced by... incentives."
"You mean we should pay for mercenaries?" Kyruggi asked.
Sabre-X shrugged, "If it saves our homes, why not?"
The only sound for a few moments was the crackling of the fire.
"Alright," Kyruggi conceded. "Unless anyone has a better idea. Grarrg, I suggest you start advertising for new recruits as soon as possible. We need to be ready when they arrive."
Feemix soared high above the Tyrannian plain, the Korbat glancing around at his fellow scouts, sent ahead of the main force.
Below, the forces of Tyrannia had gathered - more than expected, but that wouldn't matter. The northern army would not be stopped by anything.
He let out a deafening screech, a signal to his fellow fliers to begin the attack. As one they dropped the rocks they had been carrying - large boulders from the northern mountains. Their loads fell like, well, rocks, towards the targets below, flattening the catapults the Tyrannians had managed to erect in time.
Another screech from Feemix, and the scouts put into action their next plan. Swooping down, they scooped up what smaller members of the Tyrannian Army they could find and then, once they were high enough in the air, let go.
A few of Feemix's fellow scouts were falling to well thrown arrows and spears, but he was too quick - he'd earned his position as head of the unit.
Round they circled, gradually picking off their prey - Feemix cackled to himself. If the fabled Tyrannian Army was this easy to beat, the other waves wouldn't even need to enter combat.
A sudden movement came from Feemix's left, a net of some sort. Too late, he tried to bank away, but was caught in the netting. He tried to turn in the air in an effort to escape the trap, but it only ended in him being snagged more. With his wings now out of action, Feemix plummeted downwards, landing hard on a rocky outcrop near the battle. The breath was knocked out of the Korbat, but he writhed on the floor, gradually cutting the net apart with his talons.
A new presence stopped him in his progress - a brown Kougra standing over him, with a menacing club.
"You don't know me," the Kougra announced. "But you and my friend here are going to get acquainted."
He tapped the club in his hand meaningfully, before advancing on the stricken Korbat.
Above them, on the peak of the rock outcrop, Faversham was busy loading a fresh net into his launcher. Taking a careful aim, he fired, taking down another of the Korbat scouts. The invader fell like a stone, directly into a group of Tyrannians who converged on him in an instant. Whistling a merry tune, Faversham loaded another net.
"Had fun?" he asked Clayton as he returned from battling Feemix.
"I've seen stronger thugs on the streets of Neopia Central," Clayton replied.
"You'll get your chance to fight stronger foes, I'm quite sure," Faversham chuckled. "If that's anything to go by."
He gestured to the horizon. It was black with the horde of invaders that were steadily marching their way.
To be continued...