The Dark Faeries' Plot: Part Five
Sophia and Tommy stared at the Dark Faeries in disbelief.
"What do you mean, you were working to destroy an asteroid?" Sophia demanded. "That doesn’t make any sense."
"We don’t have to explain ourselves to you."
"But it literally doesn’t make any sense! Why would you have to sideline Fyora, keep her bedridden, to destroy an asteroid?"
"Pah! I don’t have time for this. Guards –"
"Why are there Angry Tax Beasts marching all around the streets of Faerie City stealing our Neopoints? Why are shops being ransacked? Why are you imprisoning people?"
"Guards!" At least, a small group of Faerie Draik guards came rushing over in the direction of the commotion. "Please take these two away to the cells. Sisters," she added, with a languid look at her fellow Dark Faeries, "let us prepare a spell to wipe these pets’ minds of all the nonsense they think they’ve been learning here in Faerieland. And workers!" she cried, raising her voice so everyone in the assembly room could hear. "Please do your best to repair the disintegrator. It’s the only chance we have to destroy the asteroid."
Tommy and Sophia were marched away.
Celia looked up as the door to the dungeon chamber was opened. To her surprise, and a sickening mixed feeling of relief and crushing disappointment, she saw her siblings Sophia and Tommy bustled into the room.
"Sophia! Tommy!" she cried, and she dashed over to them. "What happened?"
Tommy sighed. "It all got very confusing."
"What do you mean? Did you stop the Dark Faeries?"
Sophia and Tommy exchanged a glance.
"I think we did," Tommy said. "But I’m not sure any more that it was the right thing to do."
Sophia made a dismissive noise. "You don’t believe that balderdash they came up with about the asteroid, do you?"
"What asteroid?" asked Celia.
Tommy explained, "The Dark Faeries said that there’s an asteroid heading straight towards Neopia, and they’ve been trying to disintegrate it before it reaches us."
"And I think that’s nonsense," added Sophia, "because there was no reason for this, any of this, if that was their true objective."
Someone in the room cleared their throat.
Sophia, Celia and Tommy turned around, and saw a Fire Faerie sitting on one of the benches, having listened to their whole conversation.
"I think I might be able to shed some light on this business," she said.
The three Neopets drew closer. "Go on," said Tommy.
"Two weeks ago, in a Faerie Council meeting, there was something of a dispute. The Dark Faeries had been warning us for a week already about – they claimed – an approaching asteroid attack. They were arguing that they should be able to requisition funds from the treasury, and weapons from the armoury, in order to deal with the threat. However… there was no evidence of any asteroid approaching Neopia. Believe me, many of us faeries were trying to find evidence to confirm or deny their claim, using our own elemental magics. But there was no trace of any supposed asteroid."
"So, there is no asteroid?" Sophia asked.
The Fire Faerie sighed. "I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s true that we found no trace of it, but I would have considered it out of character for the Dark Faeries to simply invent something like this. At the very least, I’m sure they genuinely believe there is an asteroid."
"Well I don’t believe so," the impatient Air Faerie chimed in. "I think this was all a sorry excuse for a power grab. It’s a downright shame that Queen Fyora couldn’t see it for what it was."
"So what happened?" Tommy asked. "Fyora sided with the Dark Faeries? But then why did they sideline her?"
"Queen Fyora, as is her habit, tried to keep the peace," the Fire Faerie explained. "She encouraged us to continue our search. But neither could she authorise such a large requisition from the royal reserves when she herself could not perceive the threat’s existence. The Dark Faeries accused her of stalling, and perhaps she was, but it was out of prudence, not a belief that the Dark Faeries were deliberately being untruthful."
Tommy and Sophia waited for the Fire Faerie to continue, but she did not, appearing lost in her own thoughts. Finally, Sophia dared to ask, "And then what?"
"And then? Well, I’m not quite sure. Fyora fell ill, and then abruptly we members of the Faerie Council who are not Dark Faeries were rounded up and placed here."
"All right, but what do you think has happened? If you’ve been to all the meetings and seen everything that’s led up to this, surely you must have some idea?"
The Fire Faerie pulled a face, and glanced at her fellow prisoners. "I’m reluctant to comment," she began. "That said, personally, I don’t believe the Dark Faeries would do this unless they genuinely believed there was a threat large enough to warrant it."
The Air Faerie snorted her disagreement. "Well, I think that this is the exact kind of stunt that they would pull."
Wearily, the Fire Faerie sighed. To the Neopets, she said, "And you can see why our meetings made so little progress."
The three Neopets glanced from one to another and silently agreed to confer.
"What do we think is going on?" asked Celia.
Tommy sighed. "Well… I think that we’ve made a big mistake."
"Do elaborate," said Sophia.
"There are two main possibilities here," he said. "Firstly, there’s the possibility that there is an asteroid, headed straight towards Neopia. Secondly, there’s the possibility that there isn’t an asteroid, or that there is but it’s not headed towards Neopia."
"I don’t suppose you need me to point out that technically, that is three possibilities?"
"Hush," said Tommy. "If the first scenario is correct, then the Dark Faeries actually do need to complete their vaporiser before the planet is destroyed. If the second scenario is correct, they obviously don’t need to complete it, but neither would any harm be done if they did. And seeing as, at this stage, we have no way of knowing which one is the true situation…"
"I think you’re forgetting the harm that could be done if you’re wrong, and the Dark Faeries actually do have a nefarious purpose," objected Sophia. "Why go to these lengths – imprisoning your opponents in a dungeon, ransacking stores – if your cause is actually good? What if it’s a cover for something else?"
Tommy shrugged. "Maybe it is. But I just don’t think we can take the chance when the fate of Neopia is at stake. What do you think, Celia?"
The Baby Aisha trembled. "I agree with you, Tommy. We caused this mess, and now we have to fix it."
Tommy nodded. "So now we just need an escape route."
The three Neopets looked all around the chamber, trying to identify a point of weakness. Something, anything, that could be used to break them out of the dungeon.
Then, they heard a faerie clear her throat. All three turned around and found an Earth Faerie standing behind them.
"You must understand that the entire palace, this dungeon included, has many security charms cast upon it," she began. "Even if I do get you out of here, the alarms will begin to ring within a moment. You’ll have very little time to actually make your escape."
"But you can do it?" Sophia asked.
The Earth Faerie smiled. "I helped to enchant this dungeon in the first place. Yes, I can do it. My blessings go with you."
She began to wave her arms, and the three Neopets felt boosted by a little extra confidence, an extra edge of speed. Then the faerie turned towards the door to their cell, or more specifically to a section of stone wall next to it. As she continued to move in an enchanting, haunted way, the smooth purple masonry began to crumble.
A deafening alarm began to blare.
The Earth Faerie’s arms moved faster and faster, working against time. A hole began to emerge in the wall until, at last, it was just large enough for the three Neopets to clamber through, one at a time.
"Go quickly!" she yelled.
They didn’t need to be told twice. Sophia leapt through first, followed by Celia with a leg up from her brother, and Tommy brought up the rear. Almost the instant the tip of his tail had passed through, the hole magically resealed itself, but the alarms continued to blare.
"Which way?!" cried Sophia, scarcely able to be heard above the din.
"Whichever!" cried Tommy, and he broke into a sprint heading right. Sophia helped Celia onto her back, and followed.
The trio darted through corridor after corridor, the terrifying alarm seeming to follow them all the way. They searched desperately for an exit, but every door just led to yet another cell, and every new corridor led them to greater numbers of cells and new turn-offs for further corridors.
Suffering a stitch, Sophia stopped suddenly. "This is ridiculous!" she yelled. "There’s no way out!"
"There has to be – hurry up!" retorted Tommy, pausing only for a moment before he raced off again.
Groaning in pain, Sophia set off again after him. They continued to sprint down corridor after corridor, Tommy seeming to turn left and right at complete random, and yet every new corridor looked identical to the ones before. Celia began to fear that Sophia was right, and that there was no way out, even though she knew that there clearly had been a way in. The blaring of the alarms felt like it was drilling into her head, and then she suddenly became aware of a horrid feeling of dread sneaking up behind them.
Tommy made his final turn; they had thrown themselves into a dead end. The trio stopped abruptly – Celia started to slip and had to grab Sophia tighter so as not to fall – and whirled around, but it was too late. Blocking the way out was a row of Dark Faeries, smirks adorning their faces. The one at the far end raised her hand, and the alarm faded to silence.
"You fools," hissed the one in the centre. "Did you think you would be able to sabotage us again? That we wouldn’t be prepared?"
"The project is now almost complete," chimed in a second. "We will repair the damage you’ve done. We will succeed."
"Your meddling has caused us enough trouble," said a third. "We are used to being disbelieved, but not to being disrespected in this way."
The first continued, "I think it’s time we wiped your memories clean of this debacle, and returned you to your cosy, quiet Neohome, where you belong."
To be continued…