Agent of the Sway: Discovery - Part Three
"Wessle," Hopesmeade's greeting came from the shadows.
The little Kyrii almost jumped out of his skin, before melting into the shadows beside his paymaster.
"How go your efforts?"
"Amira is set on not marrying anyone," Wessle replied. "Especially not this Jazan - she regards him as a pompous actor. No advisor, not even one so highly placed as me, can persuade her otherwise."
Hopesmeade frowned. This presented a problem.
At first, he had been convinced that a marriage between Jazan and Amira would break the curse, but now he was not so sure. Something about the tablets in the ruins of Qasala played on his mind - true love unites.
If Jazan and Amira did not love each other, the marriage would not work. Amira needed to come round, and frankly, Hopesmeade was out of options.
"I will instruct Master Thornpipe and his apprentice to begin work on a potion to alter Amira's mindset," Hopesmeade explained. "When it is ready, you will administer it."
Wessle nodded obediently.
A picture across the hall caught Hopesmeade's attention. It was of an Ixi.
"Who is that?" the Wocky asked.
"A portrait of Princess Neera," Wessle answered.
"I have seen her in the city," Hopesmeade said.
"That's unlikely," Wessle replied. "She's been dead for centuries. She fell in love with a commoner and was exiled from the palace as a result."
"Interesting," Hopesmeade said. "I'm sure I've seen her... But where? How much of a commoner, exactly?"
"Lowest of the low, I should imagine, given the punishment," Wessle replied.
Hopesmeade nodded, and allowed Wessle to leave.
Magic love potions could be unreliable. Vyssa was too young, she was not an option. It would be better if there was a different way - and the mysterious girl may just have proved to be it.
The Temple of One Thousand Tombs was not that far from the ruins of Qasala, really. The main body of the building was buried in the sand, with only the temple's entrance on the surface. A bored looking Ruki eyed Clayton suspiciously as he approached, but said nothing as he stepped inside.
It was clearly of construction to a similar style of Qasala. The corridors inside looked suspiciously like those in the ruins of the old city. As Clayton went deeper, he begun to wonder if the system was somehow connected. There were rows upon rows of doors, different in colour and shape with Sakhmetian symbols on top. He opened a few, taking care not to go inside and let himself be sealed in. Most of the tombs appeared to be rigged with traps or holding back giant Blobikins.
Thornpipe's theories seemed correct - everywhere there were scarabs, in places the walls almost seemed alive with them.
There were libraries down there, like the one in Qasala. Ancient scrolls were laid out on benches, waiting to be read - most gave generic information about ancient life in the Lost Desert - nothing relating to Nuria, Razul, or Qasala.
Clayton found himself drawn towards a specific door as he passed it, though he couldn't say why. Inside, there was a statue of the Faerie herself - Nuria, one hand stretched up towards the ceiling.
Clayton paused in the doorway, not sure for a moment if the statue was real or not. Gradually, he edged inwards. There was an inscription on the base of the statue, written in ancient Sakhmetian. Clayton took a few minutes deciphering it.
"Whosoever shall speak the prophecy here, shall be rewarded with treasures beyond compare..." he whispered to himself.
Clayton thought for a few moments, before standing back.
"Emperor Razul will rise again, and destroy the Lost Desert," he guessed.
Nothing happened for a moment, but then a grinding noise came from within the statue. The panel moved backwards, and light shone from within briefly. A few scarabs skittered out, before the light died down. Inside, there were four weapons - a scimitar, a spear, a mace, and a dagger. Instinctively, Clayton reached for the dagger. Outside of the statue, its glittering exterior evaporated - the dagger was rusted from centuries of misuse. But even so, Clayton could feel magic coursing through it - it was a powerful weapon, somehow.
Clayton didn't have much time to try out the new dagger though - a trap door in the floor opened up beneath him. He fell a short distance, and felt some brief magical tingling in his bones. Before he knew it, he was deposited roughly in the desert sands, the entrance of the Temple in front of him. The magic seemed to have teleported him outside.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" a voice asked from behind him.
Clayton turned, his heart almost leaping out of his mouth in shock. There was a fire Faerie stood in the desert sands.
There were slums in Sakhmet, that much was clear - no different to those of the Neopia Central Docklands. The buildings were packed in tight near the city walls, and the people packed in even tighter.
There were market stalls in the street there, and Hopesmeade knew that he would find the lowest of the low there. If the girl he recognised from the painting was one he had seen on the city streets during his stay, then no doubt she would gravitate there.
Princess Amira was planning to make an announcement that day - according to Wessle, it would be about some grand street party to commemorate King Coltzan's passing. Hopesmeade was therefore free to explore.
Sure enough, he found his target within a few minutes of searching. A gang of thieves with scarab tattoos were casing a tchea fruit stall run by a Grarrl. Hopesmeade had heard of these thieves, known as the Desert Scarabs. The Thieves Guild often used them as a recruiting ground.
It was the Ixi Hopesmeade was looking for who made the move - she was pink in colour, assisted by a red Lupe. Together, they made off with a sizable number of the desert fruit, disappearing into the crowd quicker than the Grarrl could follow.
But Hopesmeade was faster, able to follow at a distance without losing them. The pair were making their way across the rooftops, vaulting up onto the high city walls where a Blumaroo was waiting for them. Together, the three of them began to share the spoils of their operation. Hopesmeade watched them - the Ixi was a spitting image of Princess Neera; she simply had to be related.
The three appeared to notice someone entering the city gates from the desert beyond. The Lupe and Ixi left their Blumaroo companion on the wall, heading down to a secluded area near the base of the tall structure, where a hidden backdoor was waiting. They took it, sneaking around to the grand front gate of the city - they were planning on lying in wait for whoever the visitor was.
Hopesmeade followed at a distance, concealing himself in an oasis not far from the city gates.
Too late, Hopesmeade glanced over to the trail of hoof prints that their would be victim had left as he entered the city - they had come from the direction of Qasala - Jazan had returned to the city.
Almost immediately, an ill wind picked up, and storm clouds gathered in the previously clear blue sky. Purple and blue magic was coursing along the city walls, emanating from in front of the palace.
Then, slowly, Sakhmet faded from view, disappearing completely.
The Ixi and the Lupe were clearly shocked, staring agape at the spot where Sakhmet had been for several minutes before discussing the situation - they set off in the direction of Qasala, hoping to find shelter for the night.
Hopesmeade let them go - if Jazan was in Sakhmet, Qasala would be deserted, and the pair of thieves safe. No, the Wocky had bigger fish to fry - Sakhmet was gone. Not destroyed, he was sure, and Jazan wasn't the type to simply render it invisible. No, it had to have been teleported somewhere, perhaps to the plain of despair his own people had been trapped in for two centuries.
And if they were there, Amira would be threatened into completing the marriage - an act that would not break the curse.
Hopesmeade had to find a way to return the city to Neopia, and quickly. People were already gathering from the tents nearby the city to see the spectacle. Hopesmeade set off towards them - things needed organising.
Hanso pinched himself.
"Please tell me you just saw that," he said.
"I saw that," the Bruce answered.
The pair had just emerged from the site of Razul's former treasure house. As Hanso expected, it was empty, not even a clue as to the location of other Qasalan sites. Foolish of them to expect otherwise, really. If there had been such a map, the Seekers would have found it.
They had both been discussing their next move when in front of their eyes, Sakhmet had faded from view like a suddenly disappearing mirage.
"This just got a whole lot more difficult," Hanso sighed.
"Well, that was quite easy," the Kau in the mystic robes said, standing back to admire her new tent, now pitched near the former site of Sakhmet. "Just in time, as well."
The Shoyru emerged from the tent.
"Easy?" he said, anger in his eyes. "Easy!? I did it all myself, no wonder it was easy for you! That's it, I've had it with you! I'm leaving! You can do the return trip yourself!"
He stormed off across the sands. She merely chuckled and went inside. Heading over to her crystal ball, she rubbed in once.
"I'm here," she said.
A face appeared in the glass - a pink Bori.
"Everything has happened as you have foreseen?" her voice came.
"Of course," the Kau scoffed. "Sakhmet has just disappeared. Very soon, Jazan will have his marriage and Razul will walk this plane of existence once more."
"Excellent," the Bori said with a wide smile. "You have everything you need?"
The Kau nodded.
"Over the coming days, I will guide visitors in the ways of decoding the Sakhmetian and Qasalan prophecies, before showing them the way to Nuria's temple and the weapons needed to defeat Razul," she said.
"And the... Other influences?" the Bori asked. "What will you do about them?"
"I see that our goals are aligned," the Kau replied. "They wish for the return of Razul as much as we do, but it is the Order of the Red Erisim who will have the spoils of this battle, not the Sway."
"You are sure of this?" the Bori asked.
The Kau gave an affronted look.
"I'm sure of everything," she replied. "That is why they call me a fortune teller, dear."
To be continued...