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Salem of the Sway

by skittleskit09


I was thankful for my speed as I crouched and ran on all fours through the maze of corridors that lay before me, but it was only just quick enough. At every corner I could hear the Darigan-coloured Salem just behind me, slamming into walls and clawing at the cobblestone just to keep up with me. His jaws were barely out of reach of the tip of my tail at every second and turn. His roars were deafening, and he was right behind me even when I took the most unexpected of turns. Left, right, left, right would not stop him, but I had to keep going. Fae held onto my fur for dear life as I begged my adrenaline to carry me farther. It had started to wind down, but it wasn’t until I was just starting to slow down that I caught sight of an opening above. Perhaps a system of chambers to let air within the tunnels or even a secret tunnel system above this one. Whatever it was, it looked like I could fit, so I used the remainder of my energy to take a flying leap and slip inside.

      It was just big enough for me to fit, and just small enough for Salem not to, within his current form. He didn’t have time to shift before slamming almost comically against the opening and bonking his head in the process. It left him in a daze so powerful that he fell back onto the ground as stars spun around his head.

      Though exhausted and with my tongue rolled out in a pant like a Snow pet in the Lost Desert, I took the opportunity to make more ground within the small compartments. It was structured almost like a cobblestone system of vents that made even more twists and turns than the hallways below. There were a few other openings leading to different spots in the mansion including rooms that almost appeared to be inaccessible from the outside.

      Eventually I stumbled upon what appeared to be a chamber of some sort, dressed in suits of armour as far as the eye could see. It was empty of life sans one lone figure, dressed in the usual ritualistic attire and inspecting each armour set. They almost seemed somewhat bored as they did so, as if they were simply buying time in this room and waiting for a cue. At first, I thought it was just another Sway member on patrol of the castle, but they had their hood down. I knew that black hair. I knew those furry ears. I knew that Schnelly that sat so calmly upon their shoulders, especially when Fae peeked her head out from my hood and shivered at the sight of it.

      I had a moment of relief for a second, and just as I was about to scurry up to the opening and get his attention, another cloaked figure shot through the door in a hurry. It was the initiate. I quickly backed back into the shadows, but remained close enough that I could listen.

      “The ceremony has concluded. Lord Bartholemew instructed me to find you and let you know.” She pulled herself to a halt just before him, still swaying her flytrap-like tail behind her like she was searching to give it something to eat.

      Mr. Bite nodded his head to her, his furry ears bobbing alongside his movement. “Good. I trust everything went according to plan.”

     The initiate lowered her head a bit, allowing two tentacle ears to slightly poke out beneath her hood. “Well, the Xweetok escaped. She’s somewhere in the mansion. But Salem was sent to find her while the Duchess talks to the professor.”

     “Oh, good.” Mr. Bite’s slight expression of worry immediately faded into relief. “She won’t get far, with Salem tracking her down. He could catch a Surzard in the water, especially with those powers of his.”

     “Dr. Bartholomew said she was fast.”

     “Oh, she’s fast. Chainlitz is lightning-fast. But Salem is fast too. I don’t think he’ll have a problem keeping pace.” Mr. Bite spewed a chuckle out from behind his fangs. “Her and Lambert’s qualities are both valuable to the Sway in their own ways.”

     My ears dropped, not only from this vague and accursed knowledge, but from who’s lips it was spoken. I had trusted his loyalty and harmlessness just as much as Lambert did, but I did have my few suspicions answered.

     “Excuse me, Ms. Bee. I will go and keep an eye out for them.” He nodded his head once more to her before strolling out, calm and collected and without a worry in the world. The initiate started to follow after him. I was furious with the betrayal of whom I thought was my ally, but as I shifted up to make sure that the room was emptying out, the initiate froze and my stomach turned. Her ravenous tail was pointing directly at me, seemingly sniffing in my direction with some invisible nose. She spun on her heel almost with the grace of a ballet dancer and all three eyes locked onto mine, causing my heart to nearly stop.

     “Ah, there you are.” The initiate took a few steps closer, sending me into a panic. She reached up slowly and slipped her hood off to reveal a Mutant Ogrin beneath the black fabric, sporting a blue-furred head with horns protruding on the sides and top. “I suppose Mr. Bite was wrong. You did manage to outrun Salem.” She clapped her hands together and tapped the suction cups beneath her fingers atop her newly received “S” ring. “I don’t think that you have anywhere else to go. You’d better come on down here.”

     If I had the voice to protest, I would have. I attempted to continue on in the secret canals, but I found myself at the very end, blocked off with the very same stones that lined the wall. There was no going forward, and as I debated on going back, I heard the roar of a now-conscious Salem echo through the tunnels. I had no choice. As quickly as I had slipped into the previous opening, I used my hind legs to catapult myself down, half expecting Salem to round the corner in the tunnels and charge after me at full speed. I landed on a red carpet with a quiet thump, barely missing a suit of armour nearby.

     The initiate watched me with intrigue, having the nerve to even laugh as I nearly fell into the armour. “How'd you get up there? I’m impressed!” she giggled, red and green neck floof puffing out with enjoyment. “But, never mind. The Duchess is looking for you. We’d best not keep her waiting.”

     My cloudy fur stood on end and I dropped back down to all fours to further heighten my agility. I didn’t like fighting, but if I needed to for the sake of defence and getting around the initiate, so be it.

     As soon as I got down and puffed out my fur to look bigger and intimidating, the initiate took another step forward and swayed her hungry tail. She snorted like an angry Kau. “Oh my. You want to fight it out, eh?” She grinned her sharp teeth at me. “That’s alright with me.”

      The Ogrin was rushing at me in an instant. She aimed several strikes in my direction, but I was lucky to shift my head in every direction one could think of to jump out of their way. Attacks kept flying, and at one point she ducked and managed to trip me to the ground, where her tail was waiting to lunge and snap at me. I barely managed to hop out of the way, only to just dodge a left hook that she sent towards me, as soon as I was back on my feet. “Wow, you ARE quick!” the initiate growled and wrinkled up her snout as I let a few attacks of my own fly, and even managed to knock her onto her back. She used her tail to push herself back up. “But I assure you, you aren’t quick enough! Let’s see if you can dodge thi-”

      Just as she was bringing her tail back to swipe it at me, I ducked down, jumped behind her, and bucked against her back, all within the blink of an eye. It sent her tumbling to the other side of the room, where she was unable to stop herself from bumping right into a suit of armour that she brought down with her. The suit swayed to the side, knocking into another, and another, and another until a domino effect was in play with every set of armour on that side of the room.

      The initiate was unharmed from the attack, only dazed and a bit dizzy from the fall, but she instantly snapped out of it when she heard the massive explosion of crashing metal screeching from all over the room. Her heart dropped into her stomach, and neither she nor I took a breath until the chaotic symphony came to a gradual, spinning halt. The silence felt even louder than the explosion. There was no way that the entire mansion didn’t hear that, and a few if not EVERY member would probably be on their way to investigate the noise. I had to get into hiding quickly, but I looked over at the initiate before scoping out a quick escape route. She had been talking to Mr. Bite. She knew what was going on. She had answers.

      I hurried across the room, to where the Ogrin was just emerging from her dizzy state. I swallowed hard. “Hey,” I called out, loud enough for her to hear but quiet enough that the echoes wouldn’t carry the sound out of that room. “That Buzz from earlier. How did you know him?”

      The initiate rubbed her head as an ache started to settle in. “I’m not telling you anything, Seeker. Wearing this ring means that I am sworn to secrecy.” She glared at me with irritation but visible amusement, but it melted like butter as she looked around at the metal carnage. “Oh, sweet Fyora,” she choked out in genuine fear as guilt crept up her back. “I’m going to be in so much trouble. No, no, no, the Duchess won’t take this lightly! I’ll be hypnotized and stripped of my ring or worse! A worse punishment than that!”

      My breath quickened as I heard footsteps approaching from a distance. I didn’t have time to converse with her anymore. I had to hide as soon as possible. But, almost instinctively, my paw fell down in front of her. “If you don’t want to get in trouble or lose your position in the Sway…” I felt like I wasn’t even speaking the words that came out of my mouth. “...just come with me. We’ll hide.”

      Her three eyes blinked at me, just as astonished by my proposition than I was by the fact that I had even made it. She looked back and forth between my paw and my face a few times, but as the flurry of running footsteps drew close enough that she herself could hear, she swung her hand up and took mine.

      I yanked the initiate to her feet and pulled her to the very end of the room, where an unstocked and unlit fireplace sat nicely embedded into the wall. There was a chimney duct that was blocked off with stone, as any signs of smoke rising from the Sway headquarters would draw attention to themselves, but there was still a small cavity with space big enough for the two of us to hide. Adrenaline pushed the initiate to follow me as I climbed the brick interior, ignoring the old ash and soot that was caking onto my paws. She was breathing hard, questioning everything, and I begged that she would not change her mind and purposely give us away.

      In an instant, the door burst open and what sounded like at least a dozen Sway members made their way inside to see the damage.

      “Sweet Fyora, what happened in here?”

      “It’s going to take forever to put these back together.”

      “Must’ve been that Xweetok. Probably knocked over the lot while on the run.”

      “The Duchess will be displeased.”

      “Do you think she’s still hiding in here?”

     I sucked in my breath as the Sway members started picking up the armour and inspecting around the room. The flurry of voices began to draw nearer as they searched in every possible hiding spot beside the one I was perched up in. I could feel the initiate looking at me with a flurry of conflict. I met her gaze with pleading eyes each time I came up in the members’ conversation, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell what she had in mind.

     They searched closer and closer, drawing nearer and nearer to a simple glance up the chimney to catch us two in hiding. But just before that time came, a stampede of formless water came pouring down from the upper tunnels, followed by a heavy splash to the floor just where I had landed before. The whole room went quiet sans a few gasps as the recognizable magic sounds filled my eardrums.


     Salem’s deep voice huffed with anger as he emerged from his Water Krawk form. I pricked up my ears and detected it coming from the centre of the room.

     “WHERE IS SHE?”

     His voice was in a fatigued rage, but I could sense a hint of panic. No, there was way more than just a hint. It was nearly overcoming his voice, but he did his best to spark up his threatening behaviour to mask it. As the entire room seemed to step back with his roar, it was apparent that it worked.

     “Sh-She’s not in here,” one voice mumbled out, almost with shame.

     The Krawk snorted and stormed for the exit to the room, stomping with a slurry of power and anxiety. Even from my hiding spot, I could hear him charging down a nearby hallway, desperate to find me and bring me back to the Duchess or else face her wrath. The storm of footsteps following behind told me that the other members were beginning to file out behind him, and once the initiate and I heard no signs of movement from the room, I started to climb down. I scurried like a Spyder and only peeked an eye out of the opening first, then dropped down when the coast was clear. Soot puffed around my feet in clouds that I quickly shook off as the initiate dropped down, behind me.

     “Great. Just great. I’m REALLY going to be in trouble, now,” she huffed and brushed the ash from her robes.

     I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes at her. “Excuse you, but didn’t I just get you out of trouble?” My frustration started to boil up. “And you’re welcome, by the way.”

     The initiate whipped her head to me. “Are you kidding? Hiding with someone that the Duchess is actively looking for? I was practically stowing you away! I should have stayed and turned you in!”

     My ears went flat atop my head. “Hey, I didn’t make you do anything. It was just an offer.” The fur around my neck ruffled as Fae poked her head out to see what was going on. She released a tiny sneeze from the soot coating my disguise.

     “I… I didn’t have a choice!”

     “You did, though.”

     “UGH!” The initiate dragged her dull pink hands over her face. “Whatever! No matter what, my fate is sealed. The Duchess probably already knows of my actions and won’t be merciful.” She looked at her ring as her face melted into an expression of regret.

     I bit both of my lips inside my mouth. “Look, I don’t have any plans of getting you in trouble. I’m just trying to find the professor and get home. But if you’re right and the Duchess had bad consequences awaiting you, then going to her and turning me in will get you into a whirlwind of trouble.” I released a sigh to relax my brain. “I need help. I’m begging you.”

     The initiate’s eight-shaped pupils dug into my fur like she desired to yell at me. But she didn’t, and my sensitive ears were thankful for that. Instead, she too let out a sigh that sounded almost exactly like my own. “You won’t get any answers out of me.” Her eyes rolled to the side. “But I’ll get you to Lambert. After that, you’re on your own.”

     A wave of relief coated my fur. “Oh thank you! Thank you… um…”

     “Ms. Bee. Or just Bee. I really don’t care,” she grumbled out and pulled her hood up. “Think it. Don’t speak it.”

To be continued…

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