Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Long Shadows: Part Five
Chloe hurried into the HQ the next morning, glad to see the doors were already replaced. She walked into the control room to find Judge Hog and Loraine on a call. She stepped back into the doorway to wait for them to finish. When they did, she entered again.
“Go downstairs and have Dr. Flexo check your head,” Judge Hog told her immediately.
“No, that's okay, I'll save us the time by confessing. I'm completely nuts, but with a family like mine, what's to be expected?” Chloe quipped.
Judge Hog smiled, somewhat reluctantly, and shook his head. “Duly noted; now go.”
“Before I go, did the hunch my sister have lead to anything?” Chloe asked.
“Dominica spoke to an expert who specializes in such things, and she's coming to meet with us in person to discuss the situation. It's not a good sign, which means your sister might be dead on,” Loraine told her. “Now, go get checked out. You'll be kicking yourself if you have to sit out a mission because of a preventable complication.”
“Right, I'm going,” Chloe called as she walked out of the room.
“I told Lightning you arrived. He claims you owe him money and he wants to collect before you try to get yourself killed again,” Loraine called after her.
“Way to have my back, Loraine.”***
Chloe was in the waiting party for the faerie Dominica was sending to help assess whether Lady could somehow use the helmet she had stolen for some dark purpose. She was fully suited up as Morphica, not willing to take any more chances that they might be caught off-guard by the Painted Lady. She shifted in her seat, trying to get comfortable, but couldn't. Everyone else was out hunting for Lady, and while she knew that helping the faerie assist them in figuring out what Lady's ultimate goal for the theft was important, she couldn't help but feel as though she had been benched due to her injuries of the day before.
Finally, the moment she had been waiting for arrived. Loraine entered leading a dark faerie who was carrying a stack of books. She set the books on the table where they were gathered and smiled nervously at the heroes assembled there.
“Please don't mind my mess,” she stammered. “Dominica arrived at my tower only an hour ago and told me to come down here to assist you. I wasn't entirely sure what I would find, but I was told that the case would have something to do with utilizing magic through items so I grabbed every relevant book I could on the topic before I left, in case I would need to do any research. I hoped it would save time.”
“Thank you for your help,” Judge Hog said, nodding. “Your name is?”
“Oh, of course, please forgive me. I'm not good at the formalities; I rarely leave my tower. I mostly only speak through others; I am only a researcher and collector of knowledge, after all,” the faerie rambled. “Oh, yes, my name. I am Rebekkah.”
“Thank you, Rebekkah,” Loraine said, taking control. She spread out a picture of the stolen headcasing for the faerie to see and pointed to it. “This is what was stolen from our display yesterday. It belonged to Captain Nefarious for several years, during his reign of terror. It was recovered from the wreckage of his final robot after his death and has remained here since. Lady is a dark mage of great power, so we are worried that she could somehow be planning to tap power from this item? Is that even possible?”
“Nefarious was an engineer and scientist, wasn't he?” Rebekkah asked, looking closely at the picture as if it held some clue she hadn't divined yet.
“He was,” Judge Hog confirmed.
“And, at any point, did he use magic?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Not himself. Some of his protégées did, and he might have acquired items of magical power to use, but he himself was not gifted in any sort of magical art,” Judge Hog told her.
“Without some measure of magic himself, I don't think she'll be able to extract power from it. She must have a different motive in taking it. He wore this, so he will have left an imprint on it. I'm guessing he wore it a good deal, wouldn't he have?”
“He would have,” Chloe chimed in. “None of his protégées were allowed to know his real identity, so he would have worn it even when in hiding for many years. He probably wore it more than he was without it over the course of his time as Captain Nefarious.”
“I'm going to need to know more about Lady's background, her associates, her abilities if I am to discern why she took the helmet,” Rebekkah said, frowning. “There could be many reasons she might have taken it, but I can't make an accurate guess without knowing what she and those she associates with are capable of.”
“That's going to be a problem,” Loraine said, her look also darkening. “We know nothing of her background. She appeared, wrought destruction, was captured, and hasn't said a word since about herself or her abilities, her time with Nefarious. Nothing useful. She's spent the past decade in isolation. She has no contacts.”
“She must have contacts,” Chloe protested. “She couldn't have disappeared the way she did without some form of contact. Even if she only established it after her escape, she must have someone helping her and sheltering her. She didn't go to Iniquitous or Veronica, so she must have found someone else. There has to be someone up on the Citadel helping her.”
Rebekkah stiffened at Chloe's words and looked over at her slowly. “Did you say the 'Citadel'? As in the Darigan Citadel?”
“Yes, that was where she disappeared,” Loraine said. “We lost her trail there and were unable to pick it up again. While she was sighted in Neopia Central only yesterday, we also failed to pick up her trail after her assault on the HQ. We are still searching the Citadel in hopes she returned there after the heist. I'm assuming that narrows things?”
Rebekkah's purple tinged face had lost the little bit of color it had.
“I might know what she is up to, and we are all in deep trouble if I am right,” Rebekkah said, reaching slowly for a book in the middle of her stack.
She pulled it out and flipped through it and set it down on the table. They all leaned in to see what she had opened it to. There was a shadowy illustration of three robed figures and above them the header read: The Three.
“If your Painted Lady is a dark mage, it is entirely possible she knows how to contact Morguss, which is why she went to the Citadel. Morguss is the only non-faerie sorceress who is capable of summoning the Three. The Three are capable of raising the dead, provided you have an item that the deceased left an imprint on, such as Nefarious' headcasing. Reviving Nefarious would suit their purposes, bringing war based on revenge to the world. Nefarious would be an even greater threat if revived under their power. He would gain their dark strength in addition to their own, and be subject to their whims. To date, Lord Darigan is the only known survivor of a pact with them. Very few people, and only under the most unlikely of circumstances can shake off the influence of the Three, especially if they were resurrected by their power. This is not something you can allow to come to pass.”
“The theft occurred almost twenty-four hours ago,” Chloe said, sitting down hard, feeling the world spinning under her. “Are we already too late?”
“Such a summoning and resurrection would take a good deal of time to complete, but fewer than forty-eight hours. If you're almost twenty-four hours out from the theft now, you're fast running out of time to stop them from completing the spell. I'm going to give a conservative estimate of ten hours left. They could be closer than that, or further, but that is my best guess,” Rebekkah told them, stammering slightly.
“I'm going to contact Lord Darigan, sir,” Loraine said, turning to Judge Hog for his approval. “We can't contain this ourselves any longer. We need his help to comb the Citadel from top to bottom if we're going to hope to find them in time to stop this.”
“Do so. It will be in Darigan's best interest to assist us in this matter, as Morguss is a fugitive wanted by the Citadel for war crimes, and as I'm sure Darigan would prefer that the Three do no more damage to his city,” Judge Hog said, nodding his approval.
Loraine hurried out, the sound of her heels clicking on the floor rapidly diminishing. Judge Hog rose and thanked Rebekkah for her help. He left her in Chloe's care, heading out after Loraine.
“So, are you sure there is no way to undo whatever spell the Three will cast if they succeed before we can arrive? As a backup plan?” Chloe asked.
“I would need to do far more research on that topic to know for certain that there isn't. Off the top of my head, I can only say that I do not believe there is. If I leave you an address, would you mail my books back to me? It would be too difficult to teleport back to Faerieland with all of these. I can do more good by returning now and alerting Dominica to what we suspect and trying to find a possible counterspell that could send Nefarious back to the grave should you fail to prevent his resurrection,” Rebekkah explained.
“Of course,” Chloe said, picking up a pad of paper from the table and writing down the address of Rebekkah's tower.
“Good luck to you,” Rebekkah said before chanting a spell which whisked her away.
Once alone, Chloe sagged back into her chair. She put her head in her hands and focused on her breathing, trying not to imagine what the world would become in the wake of the return of a darker Nefarious.
To be continued…