The Sisters of Pillar Grove:Part Five
Earlier, Dimitri wished that he had gone with his housemates to Pillar Grove when Jacenty presented the offer to him. The spotted Draik wound up in the city anyways, but still with the regret that he didn’t come sooner. He thought that maybe – just maybe - he could have changed things for the better if only he was there to do something.
The sight of the Lyins-like robot told Dimitri everything that he needed to know: They were too late. Whatever Jacenty’s plan was and for whatever reason he really wanted Flicker to bring him to Pillar Grove, he already begun carrying it out. There was no sight of his friends, so all he could do was hope that they were still in one piece.
He walked up to Professor Frazer and stood next to him as they watched the robot Lyins. Dimitri didn't disbelieve Frazer's account of Jacenty's true nature, but he still had a hard time accepting it. Even seeing it directly didn’t dispel all of the doubt, as his perception of the botanist caused him to ask himself, “Is that really him?”
“Wha- Who are they?!” a voice snapped, belonging to someone that Dimitri didn't recognize. It came from the robot, but had the distinctive echo of a sound that was magnified by way of a speaker.
“Ugh… Nuisances, that’s who,” came the reply from a much more familiar source. Without a doubt, it was Jacenty. There was no longer any point trying to deny it.
Frazer narrowed his eyes. He too caught the manner that Jacenty delivered his words to his acquaintance. He knew that Frazer and Dimitri were listening. He just didn’t care.
The microphone squealed as Jacenty pulled it closer to himself. “Oh, Marshall... We used to get along so well. Just what happened to put such a rift between us?” he said, his resentful tone coated with a thin, transparent mask of affability.
“Don’t mock me, Jacenty. And you can drop the act! You’re not fooling anyone!” Frazer hissed.
Dimitri grit his teeth and growled. He couldn’t hold it in anymore. “We trusted you! I trusted you! I always thought that you helping out with a great cause! But you… You never believed in our values, did you?!” Dimitri shouted, his anger burning with the same intensity as the fire in his lungs.
Dimitri scowled as he tightened the bronze-colored cannon that was fastened onto his right arm. He could feel the fire preparing to rise in his throat as he yelled to Jacenty again, “Where are the others?! If you did anything to them-!”
He stopped once he felt Frazer’s hand briefly touch his shoulder as he walked a few steps in front of him. Dimitri's body cooled down a little, but he refused to ease his stance. If the robot made any sudden movements, he and his fireball cannon would be ready for it.
“You had such potential, Dimitri. It’s a shame to see the effects the Professor's indoctrination has had on you,” Jacenty replied far too casually for Dimitri’s tastes.
He didn’t care who it was, he was not going to allow such an attack on Frazer’s honor, especially one spoken so lightly. Dimitri aimed his cannon at the Lyins, but -once again- Frazer stopped him as he shot out his arm directly in front of the barrel.
Despite the insult that was just hurled at him, Frazer allowed Jacenty to continue, “Have you ever stopped to think what it is that you’re teaching your pupils? You tell them to explore. To discover. To learn. In the sciences, the arts, literature, history… You claim that knowledge is the most powerful force in civilization. And yet, you are so adamant in keeping this land a secret. You say that you want to enrich all of Neopia, but in reality you want to keep knowledge confined to a select few.”
Frazer’s response was immediate, “Isn’t that what your organization stands for? Locking up information as is convenient for a select group of people?”
“Sometimes it’s better that way. Sometimes, there are things out there in the world that the average person does not deserve to know,” Jacenty said. “But we’re not indiscriminate about what we keep in the dark from the public. The two of us agree on one thing: Knowledge is a powerful tool.”
A growl come from Jacenty as his words became more heated, “Think of what you’re keeping a secret, Frazer! This land is rich with resources and technology beyond the imagination of rest of the world! Yet these filthy Moltarans are too cowardly to step out of their caves! They’d rather hole themselves underground and keep this all to themselves, instead of allowing Neopia to move into a new age! And you side with them about it?! You're nothing more than a hypocrite!”
Dimitri kept himself from lashing out at Jacenty’s latest affront. Instead, he searched the area briefly, hoping that none of his Moltaran friends –especially Wingen- had to listen to such a tirade from someone they thought they could trust. All he found in the dark surroundings was the Eyrie warrior that was fighting the robot when they arrived. He looked for offense in his face and he found it. But it was overpowered by a pained expression, forcing Dimitri to notice the heavy breaths the Eyrie heaved as he wrapped an arm around his chest.
“ I know that the technology here could prove valuable to the surface. Unlike you, however, I know what's more important,” Frazer rebutted with an acidic tone. “You know as well as I do that Neopia is rife with conflict. There's war and destruction at every turn. And I am not going to expose the Moltarans to that!
“If Moltara is revealed to the world as it currently is, the result would be nothing more than a power-grab by the rest of Neopia! Whether Moltara defends itself or is conquered, the result would be the same!” Frazer glared at the robot and rose his voice to an even louder, more furious volume. “What you are suggesting is the sacrifice of thousands of innocent lives! Only so that power can fall into the hands of people that you approve of!”
There was silence for a moment. It was only broken by Jacenty’s quiet reply, “Sacrifice is necessary for the betterment of the world. What disappoints me the most about you is that you don’t understand that.”
Frazer was left breathless. His shoulders lowered, his pupils narrowed, and his mouth hung slightly open. They came to Pillar Grove to stop Jacenty, but Frazer held the hope that he could do so with words. What Dimitri had witnessed in Frazer was the realization that Jacenty was beyond hope.
As the rage flooded back to his face, Frazer’s voice slowly rose back to a roar, “You… have no right to lecture me about sacrifice!”
The instant Frazer and Dimitri began to move, the robot followed suit. Dimitri heard mumbling from Jacenty’s acquaintance –something about growing tired of listening to others talk- before it suddenly burst out into a run. Paired with every step from its many legs was the sound of rock splitting apart as each footprint punched holes into the ground.
The robot’s head followed Frazer as he ran across the walkways in hopes of finding a better position. In turn, Frazer kept a keen eye on how he was being watched. He reached one hand over his shoulders and hovered it near a crook handle sticking out of his backpack.
The robot's mandibles separated and launched a glowing green ball of energy at the Grarrl. Frazer grabbed a hold of the handle and whipped the umbrella out. It sprung open in a flash, protecting its wielder from the Lyins’ attack. The mechanical umbrella that doubled as a shield was wide enough to defend such a large species from the blast.
After the remnants of the energy ball fizzled out over his head, Frazer stood up from his kneeling position and examined the front of the umbrella. The shiny metal had turned dull and worn-out in mere seconds. Dimitri rushed to him once he noticed the aftermath of the attack. He doubted that the umbrella would be able to take another hit and was sure Frazer realized that.
Frazer folded up the umbrella and set it aside. He reached into his backpack and pulled something else out – something that Dimitri never imagined Frazer would use if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.
He had certainly seen Frazer use bow and arrows before. But the kind that he currently wielded looked strange and uncharacteristic in the hands of such a science-minded Neopet. The bow had a light-blue color, made from a material that was unknown to Dimitri. It was see-through to the point that he almost didn’t expect Frazer to be able to grip it. The tips of the limbs and the fletching on the arrow resembled cresting waves. The large arrowhead had a somewhat ice-like appearance; it was barely solid and shimmered from the light of the lanterns sparsely dotting the city.
Dimitri evaluated the bow with a spark of curiosity in his eyes. He awaited an explanation from Frazer, which he received with some reluctance, “I know. I’ve never been subtle about my dislike of magic. And I’ve certainly never been the one to make use of it. But today… I need to swallow my pride.” He notched the arrow and drew it back, as he added, “Besides, this was a gift from a friend.”
He released the arrow. It sliced through the air and appeared as a thin shot of water. Upon striking one of robot's limbs, the arrow instantly dissolved into a splash of liquid. The water seeped into the joints. Then, there was a loud crack as it froze into ice.
Frazer fired a few more arrows at the robot's joints, slowing down its movement. It struggled to walk as its legs refused to bend correctly, keeping it grounded in one spot. The coat of ice on its legs wasn’t thick enough to withstand too much pressure nor such a hot climate for long. But it would buy more than enough time for Dimitri and Frazer to find a way to get at the pilots.
Seeing the robot’s temporary immobility as his cue, Dimitri stood on the edge of the railing and spread his wings. He leapt and dove towards the robot.
Though the robot’s legs were rendered useless, its sinuous form still allowed it to alter its position. It twisted its neck and body around as it followed Dimitri's aerial movements and continued to fire blasts at him.
Dimitri stumbled onto a walkway in his effort to evade the attacks. He folded his wings and ran as he prepared to return fire. He blew into a tube on the cannon and aimed the resulting fireball towards the robot's head, making sure to avoid melting the ice on the legs. The flame hardly left the cannon before Dimitri found himself taking a deep breath. In just that short amount of time, his wings were already feeling the wear of his furious flapping while trying to dodge the blasts. Though the robot was stationary, it was still far too fast for him to outmaneuver for much longer.
As he ran, Dimitri focused his sight on the robot's head. He targeted it all along, but that was mainly because he figured that was where the pilots were. But he thought about it further. The mouth was where it fired those green blasts from. With the robot's limited mobility, Dimitri wondered if he could manage to get himself in front of the mouth fast enough to launch a fireball inside of it…
He shook his head. No, that was too risky. However, as long as the robot couldn’t move with any reasonable progress, the head served as its blind spot. If Dimitri could land on top of it, the robot would neither be able to fire upon him nor try to shake him off by running. If he could break through the glass looking through the control room, then that would be even better.
Dimitri jumped into the air again. He glided to the lower walkways, gradually inching closer to the robot while continuing to dodge its blasts. Once he was in the ideal position, he swooped down and landed on top of its head.
His feet hit the steel with a thump, alerting the pilots to his presence. But Dimitri’s intention was not to be stealthy. Once he began attacking from up-close, there would be no point in trying to remain hidden.
He hopped down from the forehead to the top of one of the mandibles resting just below the eyes. From that position, he could clearly see the two pilots: Jacenty and a clay Jubjub that looked partially robotic himself. Jacenty’s eyes widened as he noticed Dimitri’s glare and cannon.
“You didn’t answer my question!” Dimitri barked as he could taste the embers in his mouth. “Where are the others?!”
Jacenty remained silent; his refusal to answer only increased the temperature within Dimitri. But then the Jubjub broke the short pause, speaking out in a light-hearted tone, “Oh! You must mean those Fireflies that snuck into my lab! The big lout and the one with that freakish blue color!” The Jubjub chuckled. “They were pests, so I had them drowned.”
The fire within Dimitri died out.
His perception of time suddenly became warped. Seconds began to feel like hours, as the world around Dimitri froze. He couldn’t see the robot, Jacenty, or the Jubjub anymore. The mechanical workings of the robot no longer made a sound, nor did his own breathing.
All Dimitri could see and hear was Flicker barging into his workshop, begging to see his latest invention with the enthusiasm of a small child. Then came the vision of Lampyri, the hard and stand-offish warrior, softening up just long enough to give Dimitri a compliment after repairing a crack in her suit of armor.
The fog slowly began to lift from Dimitri’s consciousness. He returned to the scene in front of him and he still found himself staring at Jacenty and the Jubjub. The fire reignited in an instant. He spit it out onto the window directly, not even bothering to use the cannon.
When the next burst of flame rose up in his throat, Dimitri managed to get it into the cannon before it left his mouth. He did the same thing for the next round. And the next. Again, and again, and again.
He didn’t care about the fear in Jacenty’s eyes as he saw the Draik’s snout contort into a snarl. The nervous way in which the Jubjub shrunk back in his seat was of no concern. His own coughs and sputters as his breath wore thin didn’t bother him, nor did the constant stream of fire as it tested his limits. Dimitri wouldn’t be satisfied until that window melted down so he could set the rest of that wretched machine ablaze.
Suddenly, Dimitri’s balance was thrown off. He was knocked off his feet as the robot frantically shook its head and tossed him back to the ground. The impact kept him down as the robot continued to flail around, accented by the panicked shouts of the Jubjub from within.
When the fire subsided, the robot reared up above Dimitri – the ice on its legs having melted away. He looked straight into the opening between the two mandibles and saw a faint glow from within. Dimitri pointed his cannon at it. He had the perfect chance. But he didn’t take it.
The fury was gone. Whether it was from being thrown to the ground or his outburst expending his energy, he couldn’t find it within himself to fight back. He was immobile and empty. He let out a small laugh, devoid of humor. His own life was in danger and all he could think about was the loss of his friends.
The robot fired the blast at Dimitri.
Dimitri shut his eyes and ducked his head. He didn’t know how long it was, but to his surprise, he opened his eyes again. The first thing he saw upon his sight returning to him was fire. Not his own, but a pattern of yellow and orange on the tip of a black, furry tail. The second thing was the transparent blue shield that blocked the robot's attack, leaving both Dimitri and the wielder unscathed.
Dimitri lifted his head and coughed weakly, “Wingen…”
To be continued…