Agent of the Sway: Departure - Part Three
"Mistress Quizara," the white Xweetok greeted her. "A pleasure to finally meet you."
"And you must be the renowned Lady Falmouth," Quizara said, shaking the knight's hand. "I'm eager to finally get this project up and running."
Falmouth gave a brief nod and smile, before showing Quizara the way from the Faerie Castle entrance hall.
"I must admit to having been a little hesitant originally," Falmouth said as they walked. "The idea of such powerful magic being loaned to students, even ones as skilled as your own, does not sit right with me. But the Queen's Will is absolute, and she believes in the long run it will help prevent instances of misuse later in magical careers."
"That is my hope, as well," Quizara said.
"There are some items within the Tower that of course, will remain off limits," Falmouth said. "Some things are simply too risky, under any circumstances. I have a list from the Queen detailing those artefacts you will be permitted access to."
She handed over a sheet of paper, which Quizara read.
"Yes, this should be most informative," she said with a smirk.
Falmouth led the Kougra through the castle to the east wing, and a seemingly random window. Quizara stopped dead, but Falmouth kept walking, seeming to levitate in the air.
"Coming?" the Xweetok asked back.
Quizara stepped out gingerly, finding the air beneath her feet quite solid.
"Amazing!" she said. "I knew the principles, of course, but never the specifics. I'd always assumed the Tower was hidden behind a shield of some sort which generated the invisibility - but the tower itself has been rendered invincible on an atomic level?"
"Yes," Falmouth supplied by way of a reply. "Though only the outer masonry, of course. Having the contents invisible as well would cause all sorts of problems."
She reached out and opened a door in the air, revealing a purple and pink room inside. Quizara followed, finding herself in the heart of the Hidden Tower.
While Falmouth was busy closing and bolting the door behind them, Quizara reached into her robes and found the small crystal orb she was looking for.
She gave it a brief charge of magical energy, hoping that would be enough. Any more, and Falmouth may have realised.
The orb was linked to two others. One was held by Clayton and Knight in the gardens outside of the Palace. They had decided against entering the building until Quizara was in control, just in case Falmouth spotted them.
The other was held by Xandra, hidden in the mists of the Underclouds.
It glowed green briefly in her hands, signalling that it was time.
Xandra pocketed the orb, and walked forwards through the wall of magic that lingered in front of her.
At once, it was as if all of her senses were being assaulted. The press of magic came hard and fast, and for a few moments Xandra was blind and deaf. Then, she gradually gained control of herself again - this was a defence mechanism, of course. Designed to keep unwelcome guests out. But Xandra was made of stronger stuff than that.
She reached out with her own magic, forming a shield of energy as best she could, then she tried to hook the magic that was assaulting her. She gave a satisfied smile as she felt it respond to her will, and she forced it backwards.
The effect to the magic was unnoticeable, but Xandra was forced forwards by the inertia, and fell through the magical barrier onto the floor at the other side.
She wasn't in Faerieland anymore.
It was a forest, she realised. Green and flowering. She had been forced into a clearing, a Faerie circle etched into the grass.
But she hadn't been thrown to another location in Neopia - she knew that kind of magic and hadn't felt it. This was something entirely different - a pocket universe, a small area of reality sewn onto Neopia. Linked, but forever separate. Xandra had studied it, creatures like the Spirit of Giving used them as homes. It appeared Fyora had one too.
"Faerie Haven," she gasped.
It was a legend, nothing more than a story amongst the students. A safe place for Faeries to flee to in the darkest of times. The Sway had been searching for it, and they had found it.
At once Xandra understood why - the Haven was the one thing that could save the Faeries from Quizara's curse. If the Sway controlled it, they controlled Quizara. Her betrayal would count for nothing, they could undo her in an instant.
Falmouth's eyes went wide a moment later.
"Is something the matter?" Quizara asked.
Falmouth didn't answer for a moment, as if she was somewhere else.
"Someone..." she trailed off, realising who she was talking to. "Nothing, nothing, I'm sure. Follow me."
She carried on, showing Quizara to he shelves packed with dangerous magical artefacts. For an awful moment, Quizara thought she had failed.
But then, Falmouth abruptly screamed and fell to the floor.
"Impossible!" she gasped.
All thought for Quizara was lost. She readied some magic and teleported away in an instant. Quizara was alone, and ready to run wild.
She danced forward with glee, running her hand along the shelves and the countless artefacts. At last, she found the one she was looking for. The Sceptre of Questions was an unassuming object. It was a simple gold staff, the one thing that marked it apart from any other was the stylised Q that rested atop it.
Quizara seized it, and felt the power run through her veins. She called the Question Curse to the front of her mind, and let the magic roll.
Xandra wasn't alone for long. She felt the teleportation magic behind her and turned to see Lady Falmouth standing in the clearing.
"Xandra?!" she gasped. "What are you doing here!?"
Xandra knew this game. It was time to play innocent.
"Lady Falmouth?" she said, feigning not recognising her one time companion briefly. "I don't know... Exactly. I was investigating some old writings I found in the Academy's library about a powerful concentration of magic in the Underclouds, and then all of a sudden I found myself here. Where exactly are we?"
"You just happened upon this place?" she asked.
"Well, it is leaking magic something terrible," Xandra said. "Once I was in the area, it was hard to miss. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I got caught up in some sort of defence shield, but I thought it was better to plough forwards than to allow it to harm me."
"This place is... the Queen's private garden," Falmouth said. "Citizens are not permitted here. You must leave, now. Given that you did not know, I will not mention this to the Queen. However, come here again or tell anyone else of this place, and there will be serious consequences. Do you understand?"
Xandra gave her best bow.
"Of course, my lady," she said.
"Follow me," Falmouth instructed. "The shield only targets those who enter, not those who leave."
Clayton felt the shockwave of magic from the castle. What few Faeries were nearby immediately fell to the floor, a confused look on their face, seemingly unable to move.
"That's our cue," Knight said, striding forwards towards the steps that led up to the castle.
He found his way barred, as the great gates to the castle closed by themselves, six shining gems of different colours in the centre.
Knight exchanged a skeptical glance with Clayton, and then attempted to climb the gate, only to be forced back by magic.
"Irritating," Knight observed. "It appears Quizara has sealed the castle. I didn't think her betrayal would be quite so sudden."
"You didn't think?" Clayton mocked. "A Sway agent of your experience?"
Knight's nostrils flared.
"No matter," he said. "Xandra should easily be able to overcome this magic - and she, at least for the time being, is still on our side."
A Crokabek was fluttering down out of the sky, carrying a message from the pair.
'The curse is in effect all across Neopia. I have instructed local agents in all affected locales to begin countering the curse and freeing Faeries. Quizara should be undone soon enough.'
"You can tell her about the gates," Clayton smirked. "I'm sure a skilled agent like you will have a good excuse."
Figures were approaching from the city, so the pair had to hide once more in the hedge maze.
It was Falmouth, with Xandra in tow.
"Quizara!" Falmouth cursed as she came across the first Faerie stricken by the magic. "I wasn't thinking; I left her alone in the Hidden Tower. This is all my fault."
"No, it is mine," Xandra said. "It is my fault you were drawn away. I'm so sorry. Can we fix it?"
"Thankfully, yes," Falmouth said. "The curse Quizara has chosen is relatively easy to dispel."
She crouched down to the nearest Faerie, who was saying something about a kingdom, but appeared to be unable to complete her sentence.
"A king reigns over his kingdom," Falmouth told her.
The mere knowledge seemed to be enough for the Faerie, who suddenly brightened and stood up, the curse lifting. In a flash of magic she was gone, fleeing to the safety of the Faerie Haven.
"There will be others," Falmouth said, looking at the magic binding the castle gates. "Only when all of the Faeries are free will this magic be lifted."
"Then we need to get to work," Xandra replied.
The two ventured back into the city to locate any other cursed Faeries, allowing the Sway agents out of their hiding place.
"Another obstacle," Knight said. "With Falmouth around and leading the recovery in Faerieland, it is no doubt she will be first through the gates when they open - we will have no chance to access the Hidden Tower before Quizara falls and Fyora is restored to power. This cause is lost; I shall advise the Duchess to abort our mission here."
"And she'll let you?" Clayton asked. "One failure from me and I got stuck with you."
"One failure?" Knight remarked. "You are a catalog of failures, Agent Rook. Lord Faversham almost succeeded in betraying the Sway on your watch. Duke Hopesmeade was captured with you mere metres away. The death of Elizabeth Mayflower in Meridell did not go unnoticed. Being discovered by Nuria in the desert, using up our bargaining chip with the Order in Neovia, when we could have used it against Tura-Kepek. And, of course, Tura-Kepek himself. Given your history with the Sway, it is a wonder you are still a member."
Clayton fumed, but said nothing. Perhaps part of it was true, there had been a great deal of sacrifices made during his time in the organisation.
But he was sure he didn't deserve to be lumbered with Knight, of all people.
To be continued...