Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Four
Kanrik and Armin soon left the chamber, carrying Hannah in between them. The Keeper went with them, guiding them to a tunnel that would lead to the top of the mountain and Taelia's home.
Neither Hopesmeade nor Clayton went along. That close to Taelia was too much of a risk - they were sure that the Keeper would know the required spells to set the Faerie free.
Instead, they made their way back through the Bori tunnels. They had to be careful though, the Bori were sweeping them for any thieves remaining who happened to be loyal to Galem. Clayton had the hypnosis amulet, but given that it was of Bori design in the first place, he wasn't sure it would be effective against them.
As a result, the pair made slow progress, taking hours until they were anywhere near the Snowbeast cavern where Clayton had entered the system.
They finally, made it, only to find a figure stood in the mouth of the cave, staring out into the snow. The shattered ice from where Hannah and Kanrik had fallen through cracked under their boots - the Bori in the cave mouth was alerted to them.
She spun around, revealing a smirk on her pink face. She was decked out in ceremonial Bori robes, marking her as a mage of some sort.
"I knew it, as soon as I saw Armin, I knew it," she said. "Why would he suddenly thaw out instead of someone else? He was just a child, cowering in the dark when the Keeper of Time cast his spell. I knew someone else had to be involved."
"We are allies of Kanrik," Hopesmeade supplied. "We are helping him mop up those remaining thieves loyal to Galem. We mean you no harm, and certainly have no idea what you are on about."
"Pull the other one," she laughed. "You freed Armin, so I'd hardly call you my enemy, but you're creeping about in the Bori caves, so I wouldn't say you are my ally either. Just who are you?"
"Just who are you?" Hopesmeade asked her.
"I am Rasala," she answered. "The best mage the Bori have in training. You didn't answer my question."
"Yes, I did," Hopesmeade said firmly. "We are friends of Kanrik."
"I don't see any evidence of that," she said, putting her hands together and letting a ball of magical fire form between them. "I should warn you that as trainees, we learn to focus our power through the crystals of Terror Mountain, making us even stronger. This close to the Heart of the Mountain, I wouldn't like to comment on your fates."
"Stand down," a new voice said.
Kanrik was standing behind her, shielding himself from the falling snow outside.
"They are telling the truth," Kanrik said. "Clayton over there is one of my oldest friends. Unless you'd like for me to go and tell the Keeper of Time that one of his apprentices is blasting holes in the few allies the Bori have left?"
Rasala scowled, letting the magical fire fade.
"I will let you go this time," Rasala said. "But if I ever catch either of you in the Bori caves again, I will not show the same mercy."
Hopesmeade adopted a cheery stride past her.
"I assure you," he said. "You will never catch us here again."
She realised the hidden meaning too late, both of them were already disappearing into the snow with Kanrik before she had chance to muster a retort.
"How long have you known I was here?" Clayton asked Kanrik once they were a distance away.
"You? Since I spotted you hiding in that cave with Hannah and Armin," Kanrik chuckled. "You're not nearly as good at hiding as you think, Clayton. As for your friend, I spotted him following the Guild convoy out of Happy Valley a couple of days ago, but didn't realise he was part of your lot."
Hopesmeade shot Clayton a glance, intended to carry the message that Clayton should not have told him about the Sway. Clayton shot one back to say that he hadn't - all Kanrik knew was that he was involved in an organisation outside of the Guild.
"Not that I know who your lot is, exactly," Kanrik added, picking up on the hidden conversation and rushing to save his friend. "Though I have to say, the last time you were here you blew up the Ice Caves with plastic explosives. I don't suppose you had a hand in all this, as well?"
"We couldn't possibly comment," Hopesmeade said.
"Of course not," Kanrik said, suddenly stopping dead. "After the Ice Caves, I checked up on you, Clayton. Subtly, of course. But Tyrannia, the Space Station, Krawk Island, the Lost Desert, even Meridell... You sure seem to be getting about. And getting involved in a lot of trouble. I'm worried about you."
"You're the one releasing demi-gods from five millennia long sleeps and fighting wars on Terror Mountain," Clayton said. "And, I suspect, the one about to take over the Thieves Guild. Rules are rules, whoever takes down the guildmaster inherits the title."
"You two seem very happy about that," Kanrik said, starting to walk again.
"Many people have been less than in favour of Galem Darkhand's work," Hopesmeade said. "We - that is to say, if there was an entity to be called 'we' - have high hopes for your leadership."
"Well, with me in charge, it's a new chapter for the Guild," Kanrik said. "Masila's out, that much is sure, but Galem's old grudges are wiped off the slate as well. You're welcome back, Clayton. I could use a friendly face."
"You have Hannah," Clayton smirked.
"She'd never join," Kanrik laughed. "That wasn't answering my question."
"I'd love to, Kanrik, really," Clayton said. "But I'm doing important work here, things that the Guild can't hope to equal."
"Fair enough," Kanrik said. "But if you ever get bored of this lot, come and find me - I'm sure we can have some fun."
With that, he disappeared back off into the snow. They had reached the outskirts of Happy Valley.
"Odd, I expected him to be more curious as to our operation," Hopesmeade observed.
"I think he's got more important things on his plate right now," Clayton said. "He's just inherited the Guild, but it is in a bad state - Galem all but cannibalised it in his search for the Heart. It's going to take a lot of work to get it back to how it used to be."
"I'm sure he is up to the task," Hopesmeade said. "The Duchess would not have selected him if not. Speaking of which..."
A Crokabek fluttered down from a nearby rooftop, depositing a scroll in Hopesmeade's hands before flying off.
"It's from her?" Clayton asked.
Hopesmeade nodded, handing over the scroll. It read:
'Meet me on Krawk Island. Bring Mr. Moore. It is time we dealt with Captain Scarblade.'
9 Years Ago...
Krawk Island had been a successful enterprise for the Sway. After Clayton had helped deal with Captain Dread, his successor, Captain Scarblade, had proved much more co-operative. In exchange for his relative dominion over the five seas, Scarblade had happily become the Sway's lap dog, and King Kelpbeard had been free to rebuild Maraqua in secret.
But things were changing. Just like Dread before him, Scarblade was growing greedy with power. Reports had stopped coming in, protected convoys had been attacked. Scarblade was reading from his own script, and the Sway could not allow it.
The Duchess was waiting in the Golden Dubloon, critically inspecting their finest grog, when the pair found her.
"I am receiving positive reports on Kanrik's activities," she remarked as they sat down. "He is already consolidating the remaining members. I believe he will remain on Terror Mountain for the time being, but in time he will return to Neopia Central. I have my own plans for that particular matter though, and several pieces are yet to appear on the board. Masila may prove an issue if she attempts to enact some form of revenge - I am having her monitored to prevent this. The Bori are integrating well... Rasala, you mentioned her in your report, I recall? She has left the mountain to begin official training in the Order of the Red Erisim under Master Alshemar. We will watch her career with interest."
The Lenny cast her eyes over the bay.
"But that is not what we are here to talk about," she added. "Today's matter, is pirates. Captain Scarblade has outlived his usefulness. New Maraqua, King Kelpbeard informs me, is nearing completion. We have scheduled it to be 'rediscovered' by members of the Seekers. However, Scarblade's treachery means that any such discovery would likely lead to an all out assault against the city. Scarblade must be removed from his position - but this poses a new problem. Who will replace him?"
She turned, gesturing to a green Krawk at a nearby table who smiled and nodded back.
"That is Gavril McGill," the Duchess said. "He is not a pirate Captain, he lives in a shack on the outskirts of the town. But regardless, he had an interesting proposal - Krawk Island does not need to be governed by a pirate crew. It needs to be governed by a Governor."
"You intend to replace Scarblade with him?" Clayton asked.
Scarblade was an imposing Lupe. The Krawk looked old and boney.
"It is a long term project," she said. "Certainly not something I foresee being accomplished soon. It requires us to have another method of controlling the deep, for one thing. We no longer have the magical power we used to destroy Old Maraqua, and if we were to summon Chiazilla again, Captain Dread may well be freed from his watery prison. I believe only Fyora holds the power required, and obviously a Sway agent gaining access to the Hidden Tower is a major project in itself. No, the task I have for you is much more simple. Duke Hopesmeade, you will find passage to New Maraqua and help the army prepare for war as well as giving King Kelpbeard advance warning of Scarblade's movements. Mr. Moore, you will stow away on the Revenge, Scarblade's ship, and undermine his efforts."
"You are encouraging the two sides into a war?" Clayton asked. "I thought you just said you wanted to avoid that?"
The Duchess gave a little sigh, as if she was explaining something simple to a child.
"I don't wish for a war on Scarblade's terms," she said. "I instead will create one on mine. One where the deck is stacked towards King Kelpbeard. I believe the Black Pawkeet, a famous, if insignificant pirate ship, may be the key. It raided an island yesterday, and word has gotten back to Scarblade. The Revenge has already set sail - if you find the Black Pawkeet, you will find the Revenge."
To be continued...