Agent of the Sway: Betrayal - Part Four
Faversham returned later that night, though both Hopesmeade and Clayton pretended to still be asleep. When they woke the next morning, the Kyrii made no mention of his trek outside the city walls - taking his cue from Hopesmeade, Clayton said nothing. The Wocky had stressed that Faversham could do nothing to stop them, even if he had sided with Dr. Sloth. The Sway always had a plan B. Sometimes they came prepared with an entire alphabet.
Hopesmeade left the pair in an uncomfortable silence while he went out to meet his contact again. When he returned, he seemed significantly brighter.
"Brucey B and his friends have arrived in the desert," he announced. "The first of many, I don't doubt, once word gets out. Our agents in Neopia Central have already begun circulating rumors. My contact has directed Brucey towards the great Gebmid and Dr. Sloth's camp - by all accounts, the doctor should breach the tomb soon and then we will be underway."
"We had better get out there, then," Faversham suggested.
"...Yes," Hopesmeade agreed, eying the Kyrii suspiciously.
The three of them headed out of the city, westwards towards the great Gebmids. Faversham took point, allowing Hopesmeade and Clayton to drop a little behind.
"My contact had more to say," Hopesmeade whispered. "Before his return last night, Faversham ran some other errands in the city. It appears he has used some technology granted to him by Dr. Sloth to retrofit a tower in the city - now serving as an emergency escape pod. He has given Dr. Sloth an exit plan."
"Then the doctor knows our plans," Clayton replied, glancing ahead to make sure Faversham couldn't hear. "Shouldn't we abandon the plan?"
"No," Hopesmeade whispered. "We still need the contents of that vault. We can make further plans to deal with Sloth in the future. Regardless of forewarning, the majority of his forces will be wiped out in the attack on Sakhmet. Even if he survives this ordeal, he will be in a weakened position for years to come. We continue as planned, but if Faversham makes another move against us, he must be dealt with. I trust I can count on you?"
"How do you mean?" Clayton asked.
"Faversham recruited you," Hopesmeade said. "It is a conflict of interests the Sway would not normally place you in. But we have little choice, there is no time for reassignment now."
Clayton nodded. "You can count on me. Sloth is the enemy, and if Faversham has joined him, then he is the enemy as well."
"Good," Hopesmeade said with a curt nod, before quickening his pace to catch up with the Kyrii ahead of them.
It was afternoon when they finally reached the great Gebmid. Sloth's troop carrier had landed outside, and its boarding ramp was down, ready to receive the contents of the vault. They caught a glimpse of Brucey and his two friends heading inside - it would soon be beginning.
The three of them set themselves up in a good hiding place in the cover of one of the lesser Gebmids. They didn't need to wait long, Brucey B soon emerged from the tomb's entrance, running at a rate of knots away into the desert. Dr. Sloth came soon after, his prize in his hands.
It was a green and black staff, topped with a horrible twisted face that seemed to be caught in a perpetual state of agony. He fired a few magical blasts from the staff after the fleeing Bruce, missing him but scorching the sands around his feet.
"The Staff of Alhasutek, property of Emperor Razul of Qasala," Hopesmeade confirmed. "Its design is based on that of the ancient King, Jinn, whose spirit currently guards the Temple of the Watcher. Terribly powerful. It is a good job that Dr. Sloth has no magical talent, or the thing would easily give him enough power to conquer Neopia."
"What now?" Clayton asked.
"He will be tempted to attack the city, and test out his new found power," Hopesmeade explained.
Sure enough, once the last of the treasures from within the vault was loaded onto the troop carrier, Sloth gathered his Grundo troopers and set off across the desert towards Sakhmet. Brucey B returned briefly to locate his two friends, now mutated from Sloth's magic, before following the mutant army. The Gebmid was left unattended, and the treasure ripe for the picking.
The three agents broke their cover, heading down towards the ship.
"The addition of the ship is a welcome bonus," Hopesmeade observed. "It will contain Sloth's personal access codes, which will allow us entry into some of his more secret labs onboard the space station."
"I'll keep watch in case they come back," Faversham suggested, standing guard as Clayton and Hopesmeade climbed up the ramp.
The hangar of the ship was filled to the brim with gold and riches beyond the dreams of most Neopians. It appeared to be most of the material wealth of the old kingdom of Qasala. Hopesmeade immediately began to sort through it, directing Clayton to the front of the ship in the hopes of accessing the systems.
Behind them, the entry ramp began to lift, sealing them inside the ship. Faversham appeared to have triggered something on the outside of the ship.
Hopesmeade merely smirked. "That's his plan? It's a good job he betrayed us; that sort of move is very stupid."
"This terminal is locked," Clayton said. "No way to get the thing open, and no information. Just records of Sloth's most recently viewed projects - something called Neopet V2."
"Information we didn't have, all the same," Hopesmeade said. "We won't need access to break out. This is the contents of Razul's vault - one of the most powerful sorcerers the Lost Desert has ever seen. Aha!"
He located what he was looking for, the magical amulet appeared to have been mounted upon a sea blue staff. The object they had been through all of this for.
"This will allow us to further our plans for Maraqua and Captain Dread, at last," Hopesmeade announced. "Though in the short term, it will help us with our current predicament. I think we may be able to chance a small burst of magic without destroying it."
He held the staff out towards the circuitry near the ship's exit ramp. A jet of water shot out of the end, short circuiting the system and opening the hanger again.
Outside, Faversham was already running across the desert to catch up with Sloth's forces.
"We have authority from the Duchess to deal with him," Hopesmeade informed Clayton. "Traitors to the Sway are not tolerated."
Clayton nodded, and the two set off back to Sakhmet.
The Rock Beast emerged from beneath the city, called forth by Sloth's magic staff. The craggy and hulking beast let out a deafening roar, one spin of his boulder hands demolishing several buildings.
Grundo troopers swarmed through a hole they had bunched in the citadel wall, firing blasters wildly. Robot troopers backed them up, targeting citizens with a merciless steel glare.
Brucey B ran through the chaos, his friends hiding in the relative safety of the tents outside the city. He had to find Sloth, he had to stop this.
There. A shadowy figure issuing commands from a tower. Brucey set off towards him - if nothing else, he had to find his lucky coin again.
Faversham was gradually making his way across the city to the same tower, keeping to the shadows to avoid open conflict with either side.
He rounded a corner, and found himself facing Clayton.
The Kougra had him pinned up against the wall before he could speak, already drawing a dagger.
"Why!?" Clayton demanded. "You've helped me defeat Sloth before, and now we're so close to finishing him off! Why now!?"
"He has access to time travel technology, Clayton!" Faversham insisted. "There can be no victory against someone with such power!"
"But the project wasn't finished," Clayton pointed out. "You told the scientist to hide in Tyrannia. He doesn't have that technology yet!"
"He's too powerful, Clayton," Faversham maintained, his free hand snaking towards the amulet around his neck.
Clayton realised too late what he was doing. Faversham flicked open the Bori amulet and the Kougra felt the overwhelming white glow wash over him. It was an amulet of hypnosis, and Clayton had been caught in its thrall.
"You will stop following me and let me go," Faversham instructed.
Clayton felt light, like he was flying, somewhere, far away. The Kyrii's words drifted to him like a gentle breeze and, though he knew he shouldn't follow them, they seemed to make perfect sense. They seemed to be right.
Faversham broke free from Clayton, the Kougra merely standing there, absorbed by the rhythmic light of the amulet.
"You will sabotage the Sway from within, and assist Dr. Sloth in any way you can," Faversham added, closing the amulet and disappearing off into the chaos of the battle.
Hopesmeade caught up to Clayton soon after.
"Did you find him?" the Wocky asked.
Clayton wanted to tell him. He wanted to shout and scream, but the words would not come.
"... No," Clayton's hollow voice came back.
Hopesmeade gave a sad little nod of recognition. "The amulet. Do not worry, child. Once I deal with him, I will recover it and undo whatever he did to you. I will see you again."
Hopesmeade, by some stroke of luck, ran off in the same direction that Faversham had gone.
Clayton didn't doubt that he would be able to follow, or aid in the battle against Sloth's forces. But he decided not to. If Faversham's words had worked their way into his mind, he would be compelled to help Sloth's forces whenever he entered battle.
Instead, he remained rooted to the spot, trapped in his own body and able to do nothing but watch the battle around him.
Hopesmeade caught up to Faversham on a rooftop not far from Sloth's tower. The Kyrii immediately tried to use the amulet against his new adversary.
"Come now, Edward," Hopesmeade laughed the magic off. "You know all too well I have been trained in how to resist that thing."
Behind the pair, there was a great flash from Sloth's tower. The Rock Beast, or what remained of him after the Sakhmetian army had finished with him, crumbled to dust. The staff had been broken, and it's magic undone. The top of the tower, meanwhile, broke off, revealing a rocket which shot up into the atmosphere - Dr. Sloth's escape pod.
"He has abandoned you," Hopesmeade sneered. "We could have protected you, Edward. We could have made you great. But you turned against us, and joined him. One who would save his own skin and abandon all of his forces to die."
"This isn't over yet," Faversham maintained, drawing his sword. "I can still make my way as a free agent."
"I can't allow that," Hopesmeade stated. "The Duchess has ordered your elimination."
He draw his own sword, and the pair clashed. Faversham seemed to be an expert swordsman, but Hopesmeade gradually forced him back until he stumbled over the edge of the rooftop.
Faversham fell, his hands only just grasping the edge of the roof. Hopesmeade glared down at him, mercilessly reclaiming the amulet of hypnosis before, as an afterthought, taking the Sway signet ring from his finger. The effort of prying it away dislodged the Kyrii's hand, causing him to fall.
Hopesmeade did not care to look down, pocketing the ring and making his way back to Clayton - the Sway did not waste time grieving for traitors.
The sounds of celebration rang out as Sakhmet realised it had claimed victory. But the Sway's work was only just beginning.
To be continued...