Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 197,818,570 Issue: 1006 | 19th day of Eating, Y26
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Salem of the Sway


by skittleskit09

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Those miscreants that failed to keep your apprentice in line will be dealt with accordingly. That’s for sure. Now, if there are no more interruptions to our plans, it is time for us to get things taken care of.”

      The Duchess and the Nimmo at her side made their way through a large wooden door, in which a massive chancery decorated with a desk and mountains of papers was kept. Chains and art pieces decorated the walls, the biggest of the art pieces being a large portrait of the duchess herself hanging just over the desk. There was a cold aura about the room, even colder than the rest of the mansion to the point that Lambert half expected frozen particles to build up around the Duchess’s beak.

     “Come. Sit.” The Duchess waved her feathery fingers at the professor, prompting the Sway members that held onto his arms to pull him into the room and sit him at a chair just in front of the desk. Though they released their grip on his arms, they remained around him like a pack of feral Werehonds, eyeing him and waiting for him to make an escape so they could pull him back. The Duchess sat at the desk, now seeming even more imposing in her massive chamber, and the Nimmo stood at her side and mirrored her look of interest and disappointment.

     “I assume you know Lord Norheim. I recall that you both have likely done battle together. Am I correct?” the Duchess purred and folded her hands together. Lord Norheim stood proudly next to her with his hands behind his back in a cocky and insulting smile.

     “A pleasure as always,” he said with a chuckle.

     Lambert half lidded his eyes. “Charmed.” His voice came out in a sarcastic bleat. “What do you have up your sleeve Duchess? What is this about?”

     “Everything is up my sleeve, Professor. The past, present, and future of Neopia is all. Under. My. Sleeve.” She leaned back in her chair, causing it to sway a bit. “You’ve been a thorn in my side for long enough, but you’re not just a thorn. You're a thorn of intrigue.”

     “What does that have to do with anything? What does that have to do with stealing King Hagan’s crown? With destroying a bookshop? With… With my son?” His fingers dug into the arms of the chair as his face went hot. “You… You took my son, Duchess! You made him a prisoner and raised him to do your bidding!”

     “Settle down, Professor,” the Duchess cooed, sending a signal to the Sway members to hold him back against the chair. “My, my. I’ve never seen you like this. How fascinating.” She let out an uncanny laugh that shook Lambert to his core. “Salem’s powers are a viable use to our cause. We saw the Fountain Faerie bestow the orb to him. And we saw you take him in with no knowledge of his gifts. He was chosen, before you even knew him.” The Duchess cast a glance to Lord Norheim, who read her gaze and hurried out the door to fetch just what was on her mind. Within moments, he returned with King Hagan’s shimmering crown, seated comfortably on a velvet pillow to ensure no damage came to it. Lambert’s eyes went wide as it was placed in his sight, upon the Lenny’s desk. “As for the crown, it was all simply a system of maneuvers to lead you to my headquarters. When King Hagan’s knowledge fails even his own brilliant mind, you’re his asset. When an anomaly occurs within the castle, such as a crown disappearing with little evidence of a thief, for example, he comes straight to you.” She blinked slowly. “The bookstore was destroyed because you would soon be out of books and would be bound to send your apprentice to get more, and a devastating situation would need to occur in order for your apprentice to link Salem’s actions to the crime in the castle. You are prone to brushing off Mr. Bite’s claims of Sway activity, so a third party was needed to give you acute information. In this case, Mr. Cloven. And, most importantly, no Seeker would even think to step foot into an unknown and possibly dangerous location without first alerting King Hagan and having him send his guards in. Not even Professor Lambert, the leader of the Seekers. Unless, of course…” She blinked even slower. “…his son was involved.”

     Lambert pulled his eyebrows together, taken aback with questions. “All of this to lead me to your headquarters and talk to me? Why didn’t you just send a Crokabek? Is that not how you send all of your messages?”

     “Paper messages, yes, but this is much more significant than a paper message. Think of it as a life message. A moral message. Besides, whether I threatened you with silence or not, the other Seekers would know. You would find it far too important to keep to yourself, and even if they had to decipher some code of your own, you would let them know. In the hurry of finding your son and finding the Sway, you were too scatterbrained to even tell a single Seeker in your headquarters where you were heading. Am I correct? Did you let anybody know where you were going?”

     After a moment of letting her words buzz around in his mind, Lambert slightly hung his head and sighed. “No.”

     “Foolish. It is foolish to let one’s emotions get the better of your decision making.”

     “What do you want, Duchess?” The Gnorbu bore his teeth in frustration.

     “To end this, and to end this civilly. I suggest a compromise. The merging of two halves, even.”

     The Professor shook his head, as though warding off unwanted thoughts. “What are you talking about?” he snapped.

     “You are brilliant, Professor Lambert. Your colleagues are brilliant. But don’t you want more knowledge? More or a grasp of what’s going on and who’s REALLY in control? Well, by opposing us in this war, you aren’t getting the chance.”

     Lambert’s stomach turned. “You want me to join the Sway.”

     “I do, but more than that.” The Duchess tinkered with the “S” ring on her finger. “I want you to lead your Seekers under my diction. I want you to bring them all with you and be my senses. That apprentice of yours, especially. She would be a valuable asset. It would be a merging of the Seekers into my society. Two halves making a whole, as I said before, and we would both benefit to no longer be at each other’s throats in the height of combat.”

     “Absolutely not!” Lambert puffed. “I’ll never join you, and you’re not gaining control of my Seekers, either. The Sway is-”

     “I AM THE SWAY!” Her long neck lunged forward so she was mere inches from his face. Lambert had to pull his neck back to keep her from poking his snout with her beak. “Every Neopet with my ring acts as my eyes, and I see everything. Nothing gets past me.”

     “The Obelisk got past you, when we first discovered it.”

     The Duchess fell back in her chair as she started to cool down. A strand of her grey hair had pulled itself loose from her hairdo, so she took a moment to fix it. “A conglomerate of insider mistakes and overconfidence, all of which have been dealt with in one way or another.” She glanced at the chains hooked to her wall. “And I can assure you that it will not happen again.” “You have been chosen to be my eyes to the Seekers, so you’d best make the right decision or I’ll make it for you.”

     Lord Norheim reached into his pocket to pull out a small timepiece chained to his cloak. “You have until noon to choose, Professor Lambert.”

     Lambert scoffed. “I said that I’m not-”

     “YOU HAVE UNTIL NOON.” The Duchess reached over and shut Norheim’s pocket watch for him. The loud click echoed through the entire chamber and bounced off the walls with piercing energy. “You’re gifted in your thoughts, Professor. You’re clever. You would not be the leader of the Seekers, if you weren’t.” She stood up once more to tower over the professor and cast a threatening shadow over his person. “You will make the right choice. But if you don’t, then Lord Norheim’s amulet of hypnosis would be happy to steer your decision making towards what is beneficial. But we’ll still give you some alone time to ponder.” She looked to the other members of the sway and gave them a shooing hand motion. “Take him to the dungeons. Find him a nice cell.”

     At the motion of his captors pulling him out of the room, Lambert once more began to put up a fight. “You’re not getting away with this, Duchess!” he shouted as his hooves were dragged out of the room. “I’ll never join you! The Seekers will never join you, you hear me? NEVER!”

     The Duchess chuckled under her breath as she listened to her adversity’s shouts down the passage, then turned to glare at Lord Norheim. “Where is Salem?”

     The Nimmo mirrored her displeasure. “I’m not sure, my Lady. He must have caught that Xweetok by now.”

     “Come, then.” She groaned calmly and made her way towards the door. “We will find him. Now.”

     “Yes, ma’am,” Lord Norheim nodded as he followed her out.

     To be continued…

 
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