Agent of the Sway: Rogue - Part Two
Falmouth left Clayton only briefly, though she made sure another Faerieland soldier was guarding him.
When she returned, the customary armour of a Faerieland knight was gone, replaced instead by dark clothes and a thick cloak. She looked every part the miscreant.
"I thought, if you are effectively a fugitive, that walking around with someone in pink armour might draw attention," she said. "I can always change back if you think it might help."
"No, that'll do fine," Clayton said. "I've been thinking... If we do encounter trouble, it would help if I had my dagger and crossbow back."
"Not a chance," Falmouth said. "You are my prisoner, not my colleague."
"Worth a try," Clayton said with a smirk. "You'll have to do the fighting for both of us then."
"I should hope there will not be any fighting," Falmouth said as she led him out of the castle.
Faerieland was busier than Clayton had ever seen it, though not in a good way. Neopets and Faeries alike were working together to repair their homes, and in some cases, build them anew. In time, the Faeries hoped that they would be able to lift Faerieland back into the sky, but Clayton couldn't see how destruction on this scale could ever be completely repaired.
"Our first step, I take it, will be the Order of the Red Erisim?" Falmouth asked as they moved through the construction.
"They are the closest," Clayton said. "Alshemar is the current Order head, he has a tower in their headquarters in the Haunted Woods."
Falmouth stifled a laugh.
"The world has changed a lot while you were in prison," she said. "The Faeries weren't the only ones to have their eyes opened by Xandra's actions. Alshemar believes that the Order needs to modernise. He has stepped down."
"Who is the head now?" Clayton asked.
"Alshemar's former apprentice," Falmouth replied. "A young Bori mage named Rasala."
Clayton smiled. He'd met Rasala twice before. Once, when she had just escaped from her frozen tomb on Terror Mountain, and again during the return of Neovia. He'd even been instrumental in helping her gain her apprenticeship with Alshemar.
"Good," he said. "That makes things easier. Alshemar would have been difficult, but Rasala will be a piece of cake."
Falmouth gave him a curious look, but didn't say anything. The two of them left the outskirts of Faerieland, heading west towards the Haunted Woods.
The Order of the Red Erisim had their headquarters deep in the woods in an old castle. Most of the members did their work in towers spread across the face of Neopia, but the Order maintained a library in the headquarters that most of the wizards frequented regularly.
The last time that Clayton had visited the Order, he had broken in through the universal weakness of any fortress - the kitchens. He made for it again, but this time found the door bolted tightly shut from the inside. When Clayton tried to force it, he found himself repelled by a magical force.
Falmouth gave a little sigh.
"Might I point out that you are travelling with a Faerieland Knight, not a fugitive?" she said. "You don't need to sneak about all the time."
"Your suggestion on getting inside, then?" Clayton asked.
"Normally, I find knocking on the front door gets results," she said with a smirk.
She made her way back round to the great oak doors at the front of the castle, with Clayton following in her wake. Every inch of his body was telling him they shouldn't be doing this - years of Sway training was hard to shake.
Falmouth knocked only once on the brass knocker, but with force. There was silence for a few moments before hasty shuffling came from within, and the great door opened a crack.
"Lady Isobel Falmouth," Falmouth stated. "I am here on business from Queen Fyora herself. I must speak with Rasala the Bright immediately."
A wizard who could barely be seen from beneath his wide brimmed hat and long bushy beard squeaked something in reply.
"Pardon?" Falmouth asked.
The squeak went slightly higher pitched.
"Proof!?" Clayton thought he recognised as one of the words.
Falmouth sighed, charging a brief blast of pink magic into her hands and forcing them hard against the door.
Whatever magic was shielding it failed instantly, forcing the door wide open and causing the little wizard inside to fall backwards on the floor.
"That should be proof enough," she told him. "Now, show me to Rasala. She will be expecting us, I should think."
The little wizard nodded, dashing off down a corridor and beckoning them to follow.
"She's expecting us?" Clayton asked.
"I just broke a shield spell of Bori origin," Falmouth explained. "Well, it felt Bori, I can tell you that. If Rasala's any kind of competent mage she'll sense when her own magic is undone, and should recognise my brand of magic as the one who broke it."
"You have a signature to your magic?" Clayton asked.
"Everyone does," Falmouth replied. "You don't know? I thought you Sway people knew everything."
"We have people who deal with our magical needs," Clayton said. "I've never been any good at it, myself."
The little wizard led them to a door, gave another little squeak, and then scuttled off. The door, meanwhile, opened by itself.
"Come in," a voice said from inside.
Rasala was hard at work studying a magic book at her desk, potions and spells laid out around her. She looked up as Falmouth entered.
"I knew it was a Faerieland guard, but you, Lady Falmouth?" she asked. "What have I done to get your attention?"
Her playful smile fell as she saw Clayton standing behind her.
"I must say, you are keeping strange company these days," she added. "Or has there been a regime change in Faerieland?"
"Mr. Moore is helping us with a little project," Falmouth said.
"Is that what he's let you think?" Rasala laughed. "Do you even know who he works for?"
"I'm no longer with them," Clayton said. "I work for Fyora now."
"You do not work for Fyora," Falmouth stressed. "Clayton, here, is my prisoner. However, he has a vendetta against his former employers, and we are seeing fit to allow his rage to play out."
"Which, somehow, has brought you to me," Rasala said. "Interesting. Tell me, what is it you want from me?"
"Your help," Falmouth said.
"I had guessed that," Rasala replied. "Specifically, what? Do get to the point quickly, I'm a very busy woman these days."
"We intend to uncover a precognitive spirit in Tyrannia in order to draw the Sway out of hiding," Clayton explained bluntly. "We need the Sway to have some competition in order to sweeten the honey pot. You are that competition."
"And why should I help you?" Rasala asked.
"Because I know how you became Alshemar's apprentice," Clayton said. "Just like my former employers do. And if you help us, the number of people who know your dirty little secret gets reduced to exactly one - me. And I'm sure I won't be that hard to find."
"You expect me to believe you are offering me your head on a plate?" Rasala laughed. "I know Sway tricks, this one will not work."
"Clayton is offering no such thing," Falmouth said with a firm glare at the Kougra. "Regardless of the outcome of this endeavor, he is a prisoner detained at the pleasure of Queen Fyora for the foreseeable future. I don't know what deal you had with him and the Sway, but rest assured, he won't be speaking to anyone. He'll be rotting in our cells for the rest of his life."
"That sounds like a delightful fate for him," Rasala said. "But I'm not sold on this."
"Then let me convince you," Clayton said. "You're a new leader for the Order. The youngest ever, I believe. And you've been elected entirely due to the uncertain times we live in. You are here because of Xandra. Now the old guard might have accepted you on the surface, but old wizards are old wizards - they don't accept new ideas easily. If you are to keep your position, you are going to have to show them you are doing what they put you here to do. The obelisk in Tyrannia will be uncovered regardless of your involvement. But if you aren't there, questions will be asked. A powerful magical being will be at the beck and call of another political force, and Rasala the Bright will have done nothing to protect the Order. To avoid another Xandra. You help us, the Sway are destroyed and your secret is safe. But also, your position is cemented. You help us, you help yourself."
Rasala considered his words.
"You have a deal," she said eventually. "How will I know when to move?"
"Keep an eye on the Tyrannian plain," Clayton suggested. "When the obelisk surfaces, it's going to cause quite a disturbance."
Falmouth waited until they had left the castle before she quizzed Clayton more.
"About uncovering the obelisk..." she ventured.
"I've already considered how," Clayton answered. "I had a lot of time to think in prison, remember? You have access to Neopoints, I take it?"
"Then that makes it easier," he added. "We're going to buy a large amount of explosives in Neopia Central - the stuff almost grows on trees there."
"You're going to plant explosives in Tyrannia?" Falmouth gasped.
"Yes," Clayton replied simply. "It worked last time - how ever did you think Tyrannia got discovered in the first place?"
Falmouth fell silent for only a moment, a new question springing to her lips.
"You mentioned Rasala getting her apprenticeship under Alshemar by less than desirable means," she said. "What did you mean?"
"She was part of Quizara's original plot to overthrow Fyora," Clayton explained. "She helped her gain the Question Curse from Alshemar. In order to get her apprenticeship, we allowed her to have the rings belonging to the undead Emperor Razul - they greatly increase her power."
"Rasala is in league with Quizara and Xandra?" Falmouth gasped.
"Don't get all strung up about it," Clayton said dismissively. "Pretty much every member of the Order is willing to double cross each other to get hold of more power. Green eyed monsters, the lot of them. Rasala was only helping Quizara to get herself into the Order. Once she was there, they more or less cut ties. I don't think Rasala ever agreed with Quizara's ideology."
Clayton watched with interest as Falmouth quietly seethed.
"There won't be any real evidence, either," Clayton said. "So don't think about going back there and arresting her. You have a lot to learn, Lady Falmouth - Neopia isn't a world filled with knights and noble Faeries. This is a planet filled with rogues and scoundrels."
To be continued...