The Return: Part Nine
There was a crowd gathered outside the Defenders Headquarters when Jennings arrived. They weren't rioting, but Jennings could tell by the looks on their faces that they weren't happy. A spark was all it would need to start something – Chaos's influence was clearly spreading fast with the help of the magical cane.
The Judge was waiting in the lobby when Jennings entered.
"We let Hanso go," the Judge announced. "Didn't seem much point in keeping him with what happened. Explained as best I could to the Faerie, but I don't think she got it. Either way, you'll be glad to know that both have left the city – Kanrik's position in the Guild is safe. Now would you care to explain just what is going on?"
Jennings nodded. "I will, follow me. We have to get to the blue lamp's room."
"The lamp? What's that got to do with this?" the Judge asked, falling into step beside Jennings.
"Guillotine wasn't working under her own accord, but rather as a tool of a magical being known as Chaos, a creature with the ability to incite riots and disorder in normal Neopets," Jennings said. "He is seeking to attack a symbol of order in the city – your blue lamp."
The pair came at last to the chamber, devoid of the usual natural light of the building and instead filled with the blue shadows cast by the street light in the centre. Chaos was leaning against it, absently tapping the magic cane against his head, until he saw them enter.
"At last!" he declared. "I've been waiting for you since this afternoon, I thought you'd come here straight after I disappeared. To be honest, I was beginning to think you weren't going to come."
Jennings stepped forward. "Brodman summoned you to deal with me, it would seem."
"Summoned?" Chaos cackled. "Summoned!? I'm not just some bloodhound you can dispatch to do your business. Brodman is my puppet, not the other way around. Just like Guillotine, and just like you, Mr. Jennings."
"...or should I say, Mr. Frobisher?" Chaos smirked. "Since that's the name you served me under."
"Frobisher?" Judge gasped. "How does he know?"
A few years ago, Mr. Jennings had found himself thrown into the past, and under the alias of Frobisher, had caused the Night of the Flaming Torches – an event that had ended with the removal of Judge Irons from office and the succession of Judge Hog.
"Know about the trip Mr. Jennings took into the past?" Chaos asked. "Thirty years into the past? You're asking a magical creature, my dear Judge – I can see a lot more than you."
"Regardless of what you know, I am not your servant," Jennings stated.
"Oh really?" Chaos laughed. "You don't remember the feeling? The exhilaration of throwing the city into a riot that ultimately usurped the power of the Defenders? You don't remember the rage? The self-righteous fury you felt, deep within? That was me, Mr. Jennings, guiding you towards my goal – the destruction of the Defenders. You caused the Night of the Flaming Torches, but I masterminded it. I was there, in the eyes of each and every rioter as they tore through the ranks of the corrupt. I was so close to manifesting my physical form."
Chaos's smiled faltered as he remembered other events.
"But then you left," he said sadly. "Whisked back to your own time. And good old Judge Hog came to office, proving much more alarmingly good at the job than Irons ever was. I was banished, order was restored, and it stayed that way for... decades. I had to sustain myself with wars in Meridell and the desert, but nothing good, nothing solid. But then you died."
Chaos brightened again. "The city began to tear itself apart, like a feast opening up for me. Again I was so close, but then you came back and things returned, somewhat, to normal. But then you showed me this, Mr. Jennings."
He held the cane aloft. "With this, I can manifest my form without the need for mass riots, though of course, I'll be causing one soon enough."
"So you're going to destroy the lamp?" Jennings asked.
"I was... but things have changed in this city," Chaos admitted. "This thing, it isn't as much of a symbol to the public any longer. It's hidden away. Besides dear Judge Hog, who would even notice if I smashed it? It would do nothing. No, law and order has another representative in this city now – I came here to wait for it, for you."
"So you do intend to kill me?" Jennings asked.
Chaos gave an annoyed little scoff. "You? Not everything is about you, you know? Like I said, Mr. Jennings, you are just a puppet, like Guillotine before you. No, I'm here for the big boss. The Judge is the symbol now. I've come here for the cowl."
Jennings turned, the Judge had been standing behind.
"I wouldn't bother calling for help, by the way," Chaos remarked. "Your friends in the Defenders are about to be very busy indeed."
The gem on the tip of the cane glowed briefly, and a few moments later, sirens of the Defenders could be heard from the lobby.
"Another Night of the Flaming Torches," Chaos said with delight. "The people of this city will rise up against the Defenders, whether they want to or not, and I will take care of the man himself. Order will be destroyed, once and for all, in this city. And I... I will feast!"
The Judge straightened out his gloves. "Today is quite busy."
The two ran at each other, leaving Jennings as a powerless bystander. There was a clash of might and magic, and the Judge flew backwards against the wall, impacting hard. Chaos gave a shrill, elated laugh.
"You can't harm me, silly Judge," he declared. "I am a creature of magic, and what are you? Flesh and bone. Nothing."
Chaos approached the fallen Judge, readying the magic cane.
At once, Madame Guillotine was stood between them, her ghostly form appearing out of nowhere.
"What are you doing here?!" Chaos demanded.
Guillotine gave a grim smile. "Evening the score."
Her form faded, her aura moving backwards and surrounding the Judge. She seemed to be lending him the last of her power, giving the Judge the magical edge he would need to challenge Chaos. The Judge got to his feet, blue ethereal fire now coursing along the edges of his costume.
The two ran at each other again, and this time there was the satisfying crackle of magic on both sides.
Mr. Black steered the carriage down the streets of Neopia Central as fast as he dared, his passenger was barely conscious, and the Grarrl took the attitude that launching him across the interior at high speeds probably would do him no favours.
After the time and effort Jennings had expended in capturing and punishing the Shaman, it didn't make much sense to Black to suddenly release him – but Black was paid to follow orders, and he would, even if they seemed silly. The last time Black had disobeyed an order from Jennings, the Krawk had almost died and the entire chain of sorry events had been set in motion.
The carriage was brought to a stop however, when they came across a crowd of citizens heading towards the marketplace from the Docklands. They were carrying flaming torches, and Black immediately thought of his dim childhood memories of the Night of the Flaming Torches. It appeared that Chaos's plan was accelerating. Worse still, the rioters appeared to be heading to the Defenders building, blocking their way.
"I've been waiting for you," a voice said as she climbed up to sit next to Black.
Mistress Morag, the seer Hissi, eyed the crowd heading off in front of them suspiciously.
"What are you doing here?" Black asked.
"I just told you," Morag replied irritably. "I've been waiting for you."
"But why?" Black pressed.
"You're going to need to avoid these rioters," Morag explained. "There's another way round, but you'll need my help, my gift, to know what's coming down the road. I'll help you get the Shaman to the building, don't worry."
"Why are you helping me?" Black asked.
Morag gave a sigh, with a little glance down to the compartment below where the Shaman was still unconscious. "Because I have to."
Black nodded, not entirely happy with the explanation he had been given but happy for the help. On Morag's directions, Black turned the carriage around and headed back into the Docklands instead of heading into the Marketplace. They were forced back down Trawler's Parade and down the Old Shambles, coming across other groups of citizens heading towards the Marketplace as they went.
Morag continued to press Black on as they proceeded, stressing that it wouldn't be long until Bracegirdle Yard was completely surrounded and the Defenders building became inaccessible.
Crossing over High Gate and returning to the Marketplace past Rydall Park, the gleaming white building finally came into view – but it was illuminated in the night sky by the flickering of burning torches. Clearly some rioters had reached the Headquarters already.
As they grew closer, Black could see that members of the Defenders were out in the crowd, trying to arrest people, but they were gradually being forced back.
"Bring us around the back of the building," Morag instructed. "There'll be a fire exit open."
"That seems convenient," Black observed.
"I arranged it earlier," she revealed. "I knew we'd need it."
Black nodded, bringing the carriage round the back of the building. He just hoped they weren't too late.
To be continued...