Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 197,778,219 Issue: 1003 | 8th day of Running, Y26
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Salem of the Sway

by skittleskit09


Morning soon arrived, and I was heading towards the Brightvale Bookstore. During Professor Lambert’s quest for knowledge the previous night, he caused many books to disappear into a colourful puff of smoke, so it was my duty to replace them.

      With a pawful of Neopoints shoved in my bag, I placed my hand on the shop door and pushed it open. “Excuse me, sir? I need a few books. I was wondering if you had-”

      I froze in my place. The entire shop was destroyed. Shelves were knocked over. Books were scattered about. Pages had been ripped out and chewed up. For a book lover like myself, it was a sight worthy of tears. But there was no time for them, at that moment.

      In one of the corners of the shop, a thin, cloaked Neopet with chains around his ankles had pulled the Brown Ixi shopkeeper into the air by the front of his shirt and was holding him right in front of his threatening face. But, as soon as my voice was heard, he slowly turned his head to face me. The first things that I saw were his yellow eyes, a drooling mouth full of nasty, sharp teeth, and the orb around his neck.

      He dropped the shopkeeper, giving him time to crawl to another corner. Before I even had time to blink, I was on the ground and his clawed foot was on my tail, forbidding my escape.

      “You are not part of our plan. Nobody should be here, yet,” he growled in a menacing voice that made my clouded fur quiver.

      Then something odd happened; the orb began to glow.

      It glowed a dark purple colour that engulfed him and transformed him from his regular Blue form to a Darigan Krawk that looked over me and prepared its claws to attack. “Perhaps THIS will teach you to interfere with the plans of the Duchess and the SWAY!”

      I shut my eyes tight and covered my head, anticipating the strike. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t hurt me!”

      Then there was a slight tapping sound. The Krawk turned his head towards the noise and stared out the window next to him. There was a single Crokabek, tapping its beak against the glass. In its talons was a note, and the Krawk was near enough to the window that he could open it, grab the note, and read it all without pulling his foot off of my tail. He stayed still as he read, as though studying every word upon the parchment. He finally looked back down at me with an irritated look and, to my surprise, pulled his foot away. “Get out of here before the Duchess changes her mind,” he hissed, and with the Darigan wings now sprouting from his back, he used his new power of flight to shoot through the open window and out of sight.

      I sat there, still as a relic, hearing the beat of my heart in my oversized ears. That Krawk almost ripped me to shreds! And die he… change colour at will?

      I snapped out of my clouding thoughts when I noticed the shopkeeper, weakly pulling himself to his hooves. “Oh my goodness! Are you okay?” I asked worriedly and made my way over to him.

      He let out a weak smile. “Yes, yes. I am fine. But are you?” He placed his hand on my shoulder as I nodded in response.

      “Yes, sir.” I gazed around. “But your shop isn’t.”

      The shopkeeper followed my gaze. “Do not worry about that. You’d best get out of here, in case he comes back!” the Ixi said with a shudder to his body and quickly led me to the door.

      As soon as it closed behind me, I shot back to the headquarters as quickly as I could. I may not have gotten the replacement books, but I had something that was much more important.


     “Professor! Professor Lambert!” I called as I burst through the doors of the library. He was nowhere else to be found, so he had to be in there.

     Luckily, he was. The Gnorbu was at the very top of the ladder, looking through all of the books that he could reach and switching to the next book when it poofed. “Ah, there you are, Chainlitz! Have you got the book replacements?” he yelled down to me when he heard my voice.

     I shook my head even though he wasn’t looking at me. “No, sir! I’m sorry, but I found something much more important than books!” I began to climb up to him using the shelve, but he slid down the ladder as soon as I got up to his height.

     “More important than books? Ha! I never thought that I would hear those words come from your mouth!” He placed more books on the table before him. “What could be more important than books, in your eyes?”

     “There was a Blue Krawk at the bookstore! He had this orb around his neck that let him change colours!”

     Lambert froze and the book in his hooves poofed into a cloud of yellow smoke.

     “A… A Blue Krawk?”

     I nodded as I reached the floor again. “Yes, sir! He destroyed the place and kept talking about the Duchess and the Sway.” I pulled my notepad out of my bag. “All of the facts add up! He had chains on his ankles and must have used his ability to change colours to get into the king’s room! Plus, the Sway is aristocratic, right? They’re bound to have a bit of money! And…” I paused when I noticed that Lambert was no longer responding. He was just staring at the wall in front of him, acting like he had seen a ghost. I took a step closer to him. “Professor? Are you alright?”

     He shook his head and buried his face in his hands. “No, I can’t believe it! I refuse to believe this!”

     I heard a sob or two come from his throat, so I hurriedly walked to the other side of the table. “What can you not believe, Professor? What’s wrong?” I inquired quietly.

     Lambert sighed and uncovered his face, revealing a pair of puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks. “The Krawk that you saw in the Brightvale Bookstore is named Salem. He’s…” The Gnorbu turned his face away so that I couldn’t look him in the eye. “...He’s my son.”

     I used every sliver of self-control that I had to hold in a gasp while Lambert continued. “I found him with a baby with that orb around his neck. We couldn’t take it off, so we let it be. When it finally showed its power, the Brute Squad chased him back to Brightvale in hopes of using him to destroy their enemies. We tried to find him first, but the Duchess got there before all of us. She somehow gained his trust and took him away, and I haven’t seen him since.” He began to rock back and forth on his feet. “I spent years searching for the Sway’s headquarters, but I was unsuccessful. I feared for his safety. I feared that they would lock him up as a prisoner or hurt him. Clearly, I wasn’t far off.” He leaned over the table and looked down at the notepad that was still in my hands. “Being in chains, I’d say that he is a prisoner, but due to him talking about the Sway and being let out to do her bidding, he may not even know that he is a prisoner. If I know that Duchess well, I can see her initiating him into the Sway and locking him in chains, anyway. Perhaps for her own safety.” Another sob rose from his throat, and he crossed his arms in front of his chest in an attempt to stifle them. “My poor son has been brainwashed into their service!” He gasped some air into his lungs and looked up at me. My ears drooped when I got a better look at his tears. “We have to do something, Chainlitz. I can’t stand by and let her manipulate Salem, any longer!”


     Lambert and I both threw our gaze to the entrance of the library, where Gyro was standing and looking at us with concern. Lambert stood up straighter and quickly wiped his eyes. “Yes, Gyro? What is it?” he asked.

     The Shoyru, who took note that Lambert was hiding his emotions and did not want to be asked about it, cleared his throat. “King Hagan has requested to know if you have any leads on the current situation,” he said rather quietly.

     Lambert bit his lip and nodded slowly. “Alright. Give me a few minutes and I’ll head over to the castle,” he said, doing his best to subdue the shakiness in his voice.

     Gyro began fidgeting with his fingers. “Um… About that…” he mumbled, his voice growing higher in pitch.

     Just behind the Shoyru arrived two Draik guards, one Blue and one Orange, clad in silver armour and gripping spears in their claws. “Make way for his royal highness, King Hagan! RUler of Brightvale!” the Blue one bellowed as a bearded Green Skeith revealed himself behind them.

      King Hagan nodded to the two of us as we subconsciously threw ourselves into a respectful bow. “I’m sorry if this is a bad time, Professor. I have just come to see if you have any leads on the current investigation.

      My eyes darted back over to Lambert with concern. He looked down at my notepad again and stared silently at it for quite a few seconds. His head was swimming with copious emotions, but after producing a deep sigh to clear his head and calm down, he turned back to the king.

      “Yes, Your Majesty. We have a lead.”


      “I’m very sorry to hear about your son, Professor Lambert.”

      Lambert and Hagan both sat in the professor’s office to discuss the lead suspect in privacy. The professor was seated at his desk, flipping through and moving around my notes like a child playing with their food. Once in a while, he would look up at a framed picture of him and his son on his desk. It took everything he had to not bury his face in his arms and succumb to another fit of tears. “I’m not sure if I can do this, Your Majesty.” He looked at King Hagan, who was seated across from him in a nice chair reserved only for when the king visited. “Even if he is guilty, he’s my son and I love him. I can’t associate myself with arresting him. I’d never forgive myself.” He reached up and massaged his temples as a headache of stress started to settle in.

      King Hagan sat silently, observing the Gnorbu’s body language and the aura of grief that wafted off of him. Eventually, he spoke up. “I understand that this is hard for you, professor. If my dear niece, Roberta, were to be in Salem’s shoes, I would be devastated as well.” The king folded his hands together. “But you must remember that Salem has committed a crime. Multiple crimes, now. And, prisoner or not, he is part of the Sway. You know of their suspicious acts. He must be judged as a criminal and not as your son.” Hagan raised an eyebrow at Lambert, prompting him to nod with agreement.

      “Yes, Your Majesty. I suppose that you are right,” the professor mumbled under his breath. He slumped down in his chair, still weighted by the burden. “What must be done, must be done.”

      The Skeith began to stroke his blonde beard as he gazed up in thought. “However, there is no point in warranting an arrest as long as he remains in the Sway’s headquarters. We’ve spent countless time and energy searching for it, all for nought. If only we had access to one of the members, but it’s impossible to determine who is or isn’t part of the Sway. Though every member has a ring, not all of them wear it in public to keep a low profile.” He slowly stood up. “There has to be some way to find them. To do so, we must keep searching. Find any book depicting the Sway. Study everything you can. I will do the same,” he bellowed. Then he reached over the table, grabbed the Gnorbu’s hoof and shook it. “Soon, we will figure this out. I’m sure of it.

      With a final farewell, King Hagan and his guards exited the Seekers’ headquarters. Lambert slowly leaned his head down on his desk and let out a long, painful groan. He seemed mentally and emotionally drained from the stress of both situations. However, just as he was busying himself by taking deep breaths, his door opened.

      “Professor Lambert?”

      The voice was soft, deep, and distinctly monotone. As slowly as it had dropped, Lambert’s head rose off of his desk to glance up at the voice’s owner. Before him stood what looked to be a Green coloured Buzz at a glance, though graced with a pair of piercing yellow eyes. He was dressed in a nice blazer and his black hair was nicely gelled to perfection. But the main things that made it clear that he was not simply Green were his sharp claws, pointed ears, yellow fangs, and brown fur covering over his ears, hands, feet, and tail. He was clearly under the effects of a Haunted Woods curse.

      Around his neck was a ball of fluff which could easily be mistaken for a scarf, though it was making a loud purring noise and shifted once in a while to reveal itself as a Shnelly with a gemstone collar engraved with “Munkustrap” on the tag. He was as content as he could be upon his owner’s shoulders, who gave him a tender pat on the head, when he could.

      The Werebuzz adjusted his monocle and cleared his throat. “Sir, I could not help myself from listening in on your conversation with King Hagen,” he began with a curious smirk.

      Lambert sighed and rubbed his eyes with irritation. “I’ve asked you time and time again not to eavesdrop on my conversations, Mr. Bite,” he groaned.

      Mr. Bite stood up straighter. “I understand, sir, but I feel that what I have to say about the matter is important.” Before Lambert could even sit up and tell him to continue, the Werebuzz slammed a gigantic book onto his desk so hard that Munkustrap practically jumped out of his fur. “I have been travelling around Neopia and taking some light notes on whom I suspect to be part of the Sway. Perhaps they could be of use to you,” he chirped.

      Lambert covered his face in an effort to hide his frustration. “Please stop doing this. Not every one that seems slightly suspicious is a member,” he grumbled.

      Mr. Bite ignored his words and quickly flipped open the book. “Listen, I know that we’ve already discussed King Roo, but I really think that you should revisit my hypothesis. He is hiding behind a mask! Behind closed doors, he is giving information to the Duchess and I can prove it!”

      “That’s enough,” the professor grunted and put his hands up. “I understand that you want to help, but I can’t do anything with this information. These notes are not factual. They are exaggerated, opinionated, and prove nothing. I don’t mean to be rude, but I have a terrible headache. Unless you have anything that proves someone’s association with facts, then I will kindly ask you to leave my office and give me some alone time.”

      Without a moment of hesitation, Mr. Bite slammed his book shut. “Cloven,” he buzzed instantly.

      Lambert twitched one of his ears. “Excuse me?” he said.

      Mr. Bite leaned in closer to the professor and fell into a low hum. “Cloven is an aristocrat who owns his own volcanic gem-mining business in Moltara. He was just recently captured and enchained in the dungeons of Darigan Citadel. I talked with Vex about him over a game of Cellblock. He was arrested for throwing rocks at the guards. He’s gone mad, but that’s beside the point. He had this on his person.” The Werebuzz then reached into his blazer and pulled out a piece of folded parchment that he placed on top of his notebook. It had been clearly sealed with a wax print “S” before it was originally opened. With scepticism, Lambert grabbed the parchment, unfolded it, and ran his eyes over a coded message that he would not be able to understand, as an outsider.

      “How did you get this?” the Gnorbu asked as he read in disbelief.

      Mr. Bite smiled with pride. “You’re lucky that I’m good friends with Vex, otherwise he would not have given me the prisoner’s belongings. One would not have a note with that wax emblem unless they were part of the secret society. If that doesn’t prove anything, then I don’t know what does.”

      Finally, a smile came to Professor Lambert. A conflicted one, but a smile nonetheless. “You’re brilliant, Mr. Bite! Forgive my ignorance!” he said and jumped up with the note still in his hand. “We must head to Darigan Citadel, as soon as possible!”

      Mr. Bute grinned and grabbed his book. “Yes, sir!” he chirped as the professor flew out of his office to find me.


      Within the hour, Professor Lambert, Mr. Bite, Fae, and I had made our way to the citadel. Guards met us at the entrance of the castle and, upon the Werebuzz’s request, led us to the dungeons. It felt dark and clammy all around, so much so that Fae was too scared to fly next to me and opted to have me carry her. I did my best to calm her down, but it didn’t help when Munkustrap occasionally whipped around and emitted an ear-piercing hiss at my Faellie just for spite. I cradled her and covered her sensitive ears while she whimpered at me. The two had never gotten along when they saw each other at the headquarters, and especially not now.

     “Mr. Bite! Wonderful to see you again!” called a deep voice before us. I looked up to see Master Vex, the infamous prison warden, with his arms wide.

     Mr. Bite immediately smiled and gave the Mynci a friendly hug. “It’s always great to see you, my friend. Tell me, is there any way that you could do us a favour?” the Werebuzz asked.

     Vex nodded quickly. “Of course! What can I do for you?”

     Mr. Bite glanced back at us, then leaned down to Vex and whispered “We need to see Cloven. Lambert has a few questions to ask, regarding the Sway,” in his ear.

     The prison warden could not help but smirk. “Follow me,” he whispered back and motioned for us to follow.

     Vex led us down hallways of cells, each containing curious and dangerous creatures that reached out and begged to be released. A monstrous Tonu even grabbed at my leg and tripped me as I passed. Guards had to push him deeper into the cell, which gave me the chance to run closer to the front. Eventually, we arrived at the very farthest cell in the entire dungeon. There was a very dim red light, so dim that we had to squint just to see who was held inside the cell. It appeared to be a Draik dressed in a black coat with various rings on his fingers. His scales were stone, cracked with curls of molten lava shining from within, and the fiery webbing of his wings flickered, although faintly, against his back. Even though he was locked up, he seemed to be relatively calm. He was humming quietly to himself and messing with the chains that wrapped around his ankles. I don’t know why, but the fact that he was so much calmer than the other prisoners made me feel so much more intimidated by what he was capable of.

     “You have visitors, Cloven,” the Mynci said as he banged his fist against the cell bars. The Draik didn’t even flinch.

     “Ah, even more Seekers have come to pay their respects.” One of his crimson eyes examined every detail of us like a machine. The other seemed to be badly cracked around the stone and incapable of sight or movement. “Professor Lambert, too? The leader of the seekers? Boy, I sure am lucky.” He slowly pulled himself up and dragged himself over to the front of the cell, where he allowed his natural light to brighten and shine on his features. His face was so smug. “Tell me, what can I do for you?”

     Lambert took a moment to swallow hard before stepping forward. He was just as nervous in the dark dungeons as I was. “We are here to talk to you about your association with the Sway,” he said as bravely as he could.

     Cloven’s snooty look melted away and formed into an irritable expression, within an instant. “What makes you think that I would know anything about them?” the Draik growled in a vocal fry that practically vibrated the ground.

     The Gnorbu, in response, pulled the piece of parchment out of his pocket and held it in Cloven’s view. “Well, you had this on your person. You’re a member. There’s no other way to interpret this, so I advise that you cooperate with us,” he bleated out.

     Cloven glanced from the parchment to Lambert and, rather quickly, put his paws up in surrender. “Alright, I admit it. I’m a member of the Sway. You caught me. Congratulations, want a star sticker?”

     I knit my eyebrows together and looked down at Fae with confusion. She seemed just as lost as I was. That was… easy? He did not try to contradict or prove us wrong. In fact, he seemed rather pleased to let us know the truth. I couldn’t understand how he broke so fast. The professor, who was just as taken aback by his willingness to comply as I was, continued. “As a member of the Sway, you know where the main headquarters is. You know where the Duchess resides.”

     Cloven smirked again and leaned his head against one of the cell bars. “Oh, of course. It’s common knowledge,” he uttered with a Wocky-like purr. “But that is information held strictly between members. I’m not allowed to throw that out.” The Draik wrung his magma claws together and glared at the professor and I while allowing it to glance towards Mr. Bite every few seconds. “Unless, of course, you have something in it for me.”

     Lambert huffed and glanced at me for a moment. “Well, what do you want?” he asked nervously.

     The Draik’s eyelid dropped halfway and his lips curled back into his snooty, smug look. “Oh, I love hearing that. I could ask for the world and have it delivered on a silver platter! But I will keep it short and simple. I want you to drop out of the war.”

     The professor was so taken aback by the request that he had to hold his breath to keep from gasping. “W-What? Are you joking? That Obelisk will be a breakthrough for study and research!” he shouted, looking downright offended that the Draik would order such a thing.

     Cloven casually shrugged and produced a slow blink as he stared daggers into the professor. The lava within his rock foundation let out a series of hisses. “This is my demand, professor. Otherwise, you will get nothing from me.

     With a snort, Lambert suddenly grabbed Mr. Bite and I by the arms and pulled us back a few feet from the cell. He looked to us with genuine concern. “What do we do?” he asked nervously.

     Mr. Bite twitched his wings. “Professor, you are the head Seeker for a reason! Surely you can tell whether this is a good idea or not,” he chattered.

     The Gnorbu hung his head with a sign. “I’m not perfect, Mr. Bite. I know how determined I am to find the king’s crown, but my mind is still spinning with the information that my son is involved. I am conflicted and I need to know what you both think.”

     “Well, he’s still a prisoner, Professor. Even if we told him that we were dropping out, there would be nothing he could do,” I whispered and hugged my Faellie tighter. “I normally don’t condone lying, but if we did, he wouldn’t know that we weren’t sincere.”

     The Werebuzz loudly cleared his throat to gain our attention. “She’s right, and I’ll take it one step forward. If the Duchess somehow finds out that we have made such a claim, it will do nothing but help us, if she believes it. We can make battle plans, right under her beak.”

     Eventually, the three of us turned back to the imprisoned Draik. “Fine. The Seekers will drop out of the war,” Lambert scowled. “Now tell us what you know.”

     Cloven pressed his flaming cheek against one of the cell bars and, without even skipping a beat, opened his mouth to relay information. “One of the secret entrances that leads to the Sway headquarters is held under my mansion, believe it or not.”

     “One of them?”

     “Yes. You can’t expect us all to slip inside without being seen if we all have to congregate at one entrance. No, no, no. There are many entrances.” Cloven clicked his teeth together. “Go to Moltara City. Find the Town Hall. Walk north three hundred steps. Walk east two hundred steps. Look north and you will see my mansion. Don’t use the doorbell. Knock three times and my butler shall answer. When you enter, she will ask for your coats. Do not give them to her. She will then ask if you want anything to eat. Tell her that you want a Spaghetti Soup topped with Wasabi and Asparagus with a slice of Yeasty Bread. She will take you to the headquarters.”

     I lowered my ears as I pulled out my notebook and took down the detailed instructions. “Why can’t we just ask your butler to take us to the Sway Headquarters?” I asked, unable to keep my mouth shut.

     The prisoner pursed his lips at me. “It’s a code. Only members know the code. We have to have a code or else…” He clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “...the Seekers could just walk right in and steal all of our secrets.”

     Lambert adjusted his jacket and began asking more questions, only for the Draik to immediately blow him off. “I’m not an open book, sir. You wanted to know where the headquarters was located. I told you. You will get nothing more from me.”

     Finally, after the information was put to a halt, Lambert put his hooves up and gave up. “Fine. That will be enough, then. Thank you for your cooperation, though it was limited.” He turned to Mr. Bite and I. “I’ll head out in the morning.”

     “But sir,” I interrupted. “Shouldn’t you alert King Hagan first?”

     Lambert shuddered and cast his eyes to the floor. “I… I don’t think I can wait, Chainlitz. Not when my son is involved. I have to find him on my own.”

     I stood up a bit straighter. “Then I’m going with you, sir. You shouldn’t go by yourself.”

     Vex motioned everyone to follow him back out of the prison. I was quick to hurry behind him and Lambert, as I couldn’t stand to be in there for a moment longer. Mr. Bite, however, stayed where he was. He watched the group until they were completely out of sight before saying a word.

     “You know that they aren’t going to drop out of the war, right?”

     Cloven fell into a casual grin that seemed out of his character. “Of course, I do, Bite. If I did not give them such a decision, then they would wonder why I gave them the information so easily. It would only raise more suspicion than there already was,” he purred quietly.

     Mr. Bite lifted an eyebrow and stroked the Petpet that still lay comfortably on his shoulders. “Why is the Duchess giving away our position to the Seekers, anyways? It doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t give them a decoy spot or something.”

     With a hum, Cloven took a step to the right and slid down to sit with his back against the side wall. “The Duchess knows what she is doing. Getting caught and telling them what they needed to know is all part of her plan. You still know your place in this, don’t you?”

     The Werebuzz shoved his hand into his pockets. “It’s been in effect for years, Cloven. I am to gain their trust and learn their secrets, and it is going swimmingly. The bleating fool does not suspect a thing.”

     Cloven’s eye stared the Werebuzz down. It narrowed as it took in Mr. Bite’s composure and expression. After a moment, he blinked and let out a content sigh. “Your breathing and blinking rate remained constant. You are not lying. Good. It is important to make sure that your loyalty still lies with us. There are stories of spies that begin to side with the ones they are spying on. You are aware of what we do to traitors like that,” he crooned.

     A cringe formed on Mr. Bite’s face at the mere idea. He then slowly pulled one claw out of his pocket, bringing a golden ring with the Sway’s signature “S” into Cloven’s view. “I am loyal to the Duchess and I am loyal to the Sway. Don’t you dare think that I would ever run from my post and join the enemy.”

To be continued…

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