The Book: Part Eight
“...It’s blank,” the Grand Master said, a hint of anger quivering in his voice.
“Praise be to the Crimson Circle!” the members of the Circle of the Crimson Circle chanted.
“No, you idiots!” the Grand Master snapped. “That wasn’t something I read, the book is actually blank!”
“There’s no need to call us idiots,” Clive the Beacon Bearer replied. “You only got to be Grand Master because you’re the only one the Grand Master robes fit.”
“Someone, get the lights!” the Grand Master shouted, ignoring Clive.
At the corners of the room, two robed figures lit torches and began depositing them in the cave’s brackets. They flooded the cave with light, illuminating the small group of robed figures in front of the red circle. John the Lupe stood near the back, glancing at the door.
The Grand Master held the book open, high in the air so the others could see.
“This book has no words in!” he shouted. “Grab the heretic!”
John knew he wouldn’t be able to unbolt the door and escape in time, so he didn’t bother. He let two of the robed Neopets grab him by the arms.
“You dare to sell us a fake?” the Grand Master questioned him.
“It’s not a fake; that’s the book you asked for, the Book of the Crimson Circle,” John replied calmly.
“But it’s got no words in!” the Grand Master shouted. “We need to read from it! We can’t read from a wordless book!”
“That’s not my problem,” John told him. “You asked for a book, I got you a book. If you’d asked for a different book, I’d have got you a different book. Maybe you should have done some research?”
“Research!?” the Grand Master shouted, almost exploding with rage beneath his hood.
“Yes, research,” John replied.
He knew he was pushing his luck, but he really didn’t care any more. It had been a long week and the last thing he wanted was a jumped-up stockbroker giving him attitude.
The Grand Master stood there, the book grasped tightly in his hand. If anyone had been able to see under the hood, they might have seen his eye twitching.
“Fine,” he said at last. “We’ll just carry on. I can write the words into the book... it’s the same difference, really.”
“No!” John shouted. “That book is priceless!”
That wasn’t the reason he was shouting. It was a book of magic, the essence of a Faerie captured within it. Writing on such paper was not a good idea.
“Silence him and tie him up,” the Grand Master commanded, “and then turn out the lights again. I’m reading from this book one way or another.”
The witches reunited with each other near the Money Tree. They were all scowling. Dawn was fast approaching, and they hadn’t seen a single trace of the book.
“We’ve been searching all night,” Sophie complained. “Maybe he was lying, and he took the book to Kiko Lake.”
“Possible,” Jerdana agreed. “This secret society might be meeting in the woods near there. It’s more fitting really.”
“No,” Morguss told her. “It’s here somewhere... I can feel it. Almost like its right under our noses...”
The witches looked around. There were only the main shops, and they were all deserted.
“Of course!” Kauvara shouted, her eyes widening in realisation. “The Catacombs!”
“Under the city?” Lisha asked.
“They’re full of old nooks and crannies! It’d be the perfect place to meet secretly!” Kauvara explained.
“Ladies...” Maria said, trying to attract the attention of the witches.
She was staring into the distance.
“It’s a big place, though,” Kayla continued. “We’d have to be lucky to find them before the Coffee Shop opens and the place is flooded with shoppers.”
“Ladies...” Maria repeated.
“We’ll just have to hope we’re lucky then!” Sophie said, rolling up her sleeves.
“Ladies!” Maria shouted.
“We are not ladies!” the Fortune Teller snapped, rounding on Maria. “We are witches!”
“What’s the matter?” Edna asked.
“What’s that glow?” Maria asked.
She pointed towards the plaza; an ominous orange glow was growing on the horizon.
“It’s just dawn,” Edna said reassuringly.
“The sun rises on the other side,” Maria told her.
One by one, the witches turned to face the bazaar as hundreds of Neopets crested the top of the hill. They were brandishing burning torches, pitchforks, rolling pins and the odd feather duster. It was a mob, and they didn’t look happy.
“The village militia,” Morguss pointed out.
“I don’t think they’re that happy about our spot of vandalism,” Jerdana said worriedly.
From the bazaar, a solitary figure was also approaching the scene. She didn’t look all that frightening, but for one feature... her wings. It was the Soup Faerie, yellow wings shining in the early morning light, soup ladle in hand, and a look of curiosity on her face.
“The Soup Faerie!? That’s the last thing we need! If she finds out about the book, we’re done for!” the Fortune Teller hissed.
The witches were trapped between a rock and a hard place, or to be more specific, between impending doom and impending doom. They stood there, their eyes switching between the mob and the Soup Faerie as both marched ever closer.
It was Edna who took the lead.
“We have to hold them off till we find the book,” she said as she turned to the other witches, “Jerdana, Sophie, you have experience with Faeries. Distract the Soup Faerie somehow; tell her we lost our hats or something, anything to buy us time. Morguss, you take everyone else and make sure that mob doesn’t reach the catacombs. I’ll take Maria with me to find the book.”
“I can’t curse half the population of Neopia Central!” Morguss complained as Jerdana and Sophie ran off to greet the Soup Faerie.
“Just think of something!” Edna shouted.
She didn’t wait for further protests. She grabbed Maria by the arm and dragged her off towards the catacombs entrance at a surprising speed.
“Just what is going on?” the Soup Faerie asked. “I’ve been hearing screams and smashes all night, and I come out to find a group of witches in the middle of Neopia Central. Not to mention that violent looking group of Neopets I just saw.”
“It was... a mix up with deliveries,” Sophie lied convincingly as she and Jerdana led her away from the marketplace and back to her kitchen, “Some Bog Berries from the Haunted Woods were delivered to the city yesterday. It turns out that they were contaminated with Zombie Root.”
“You mean that mob back there was a mob of zombies?” the Soup Faerie asked.
“Yes, we found out about the mix up yesterday evening, and came to sort it out,” Jerdana confirmed.
“I think I have something to help with Zombie Root poisoning,” the Soup Faerie told them. “I could help.”
“Oh no!” the witches said together. “That won’t be necessary!”
“I’m sure these Neopets would like some soup when they are cured, though,” Sophie said, pushing open the door to the Soup Kitchen. “We could help you brew some if you like.”
Jerdana led the Faerie inside and Sophie closed the door firmly behind them.
“Yes,” the Soup Faerie said in slightly bewildered tones. “Yes, a little help never goes amiss.”
Morguss stood alone under the Money Tree. She held a small length of pipe in her hand; the mob surrounded her completely. They’d captured a witch, but they weren’t entirely sure what they were supposed to do next. Slowly, the circle closed, and the evil grin Morguss wore increased. As the circle leapt forward, Kauvara zoomed down out of the sky on her broomstick. She picked up the Darigan witch by the length of pipe and hoisted her onto the back of the broomstick. Witches were always stronger than you thought they would be. The mob looked in horror as the broomstick zoomed away, coming to a rest on the top floor of the Neolodge.
“They’re trapped now! Let’s get them!” a nameless voice said from the crowd.
It was met with cheers and agreement, and the mob began to march once more.
Morguss and Kauvara jumped lightly off the broomstick on the Neolodge’s roof. The other witches were already gathered there, waiting.
“What now?” the Fortune Teller asked.
“We wait for them to get up here,” Morguss said, rolling up her sleeves.
“It may have escaped your attention, but we had to do shuttle runs to get up here,” the Fortune Teller pointed out. “We don’t have enough broomsticks to run away once they get up here.”
“We’re not running away,” Morguss said as she stared at the exit to the stair well. “Doors make excellent bottlenecks to curse people in.”
Edna led Maria down the steps to the catacombs. She held a small twig in her hands, which she promptly lit with magic. There were burning torches in the habitable parts of the under-city, but they would be heading into some of the darker corners.
“You’re going to go up against an entire group of Neopets by yourself?” Maria asked the Zafara. “It could be dangerous!”
“Of course it could be, for them,” Edna said, stopping to turn around. “Don’t know much about witches, do you?”
“Only what I heard the pirates say back home,” Maria told her.
Edna nodded. “Tell me what the flare spell is again, would you?”
Maria wrinkled her brow.
“Astus Meraray, Clostus Inferno,” she said, letting her memory do the talking. “It’s no good without the book, though... I guess I’m not cut out to be a witch after all...”
Edna didn’t reply; she just sighed and continued her walk into the gloom.
She doesn’t think I should be a witch either, Maria thought to herself, She won’t take me in and I’ll have to go back to working in the Rusty Dubloon all my life.
She couldn’t let that happen, she simply couldn’t go back to the island. She needed to be a witch. She hurried on behind Edna, keen not to get lost in the dark.
To be continued...