Witches!: Part Three
The dungeons of Meridell Castle were not the best in the world; it is widely known that the citadel dungeons kept by Master Vex are far superior. Given half a chance and a nail file, you could whittle your way out through the soft and damp rocks of Meridell in only a matter of weeks. It was therefore quite a surprise for Sophie to see the rabble of magic practitioners lining the cells. Though she didn’t know all of them, she picked out the faces of Lisha and Kayla. Any one of them should have had enough power to break open the cell doors and level half of the castle in their rage, yet they all sat patiently, not even daring to try the strength of the bars.
“Just what is going on? Why has the magic stopped working?” Sophie asked the other witches after they were deposited in the large cell containing Meridell’s magical inhabitants.
“Someone must have sold us out. When I find out whom, there is going to be trouble,” Morguss replied, eying some of the cell's other occupants.
“Excuse me, Madame Morguss?” Lisha asked from a corner.
The small Aisha looked positively frail in the dim dungeon light. Her face was covered in grime.
“Yes dear?” the witch replied in sweet tones.
“We’ve started to narrow it down. Now that you are here we can say it wasn’t someone from the Haunted Woods or the Citadel, or Brightvale now that Roberta is here,” Lisha explained, gesturing to Roberta in an opposite corner.
“You mean Roberta of Brightvale? Goodness, they’ve got Hagan as well?” asked Edna.
“I am afraid so. King Hagan fell under the same trance as Skarl some weeks ago. The fact that you are here, Morguss, suggests that Lord Darigan is also under the control of this Belton character,” Roberta explained.
“How long has he been in control here?” Morguss asked.
“For about a month,” Kayla piped up, “He’d been paying a diplomatic visit to Neopia Central, and came back with all kinds of strange ideas. Soon after, Skarl simply gave into his wishes for no apparent reason, and we were all herded down here.”
Her cloak and hat were tattered; she and Lisha had clearly been there the longest.
“Would someone please explain why we can't do magic!?” Sophie shouted.
Morguss and Edna turned to face the swamp witch.
“Sorry, sorry... it’s a secret not normally given out, you see? Why, I haven’t even told my own daughter... I hope she’s alright...” Morguss mumbled.
“The truth is, that magic, all magic, is linked,” Edna stated simply, as if it was basic maths.
“What?” Sophie questioned.
“The magic you practice and the magic Fyora the Faerie Queen does are the same; the only difference is the method and container,” Roberta added.
“What difference does that make?” Sophie asked, angry at being referred to as a container.
“Every difference,” Morguss explained, “If all magic is the same; it is possible to capture it and distil it. You weed out all the parts put in by the caster until you are left with raw magic.”
“And why does this affect us?” Sophie asked, putting her hands on her hips.
“If you have raw magic, it’s then relatively simple to test things that magic is immune to,” Edna explained haphazardly.
“So Belton distilled raw magic?” Sophie asked.
Roberta shook her head.
“No, magic is closely guarded; only someone with really strong magical powers could do it. Belton can’t even cast a spell to darn his socks,” she explained.
“So it had to be someone else...” Edna mused. “Let’s see, a rogue Faerie perhaps?”
“After the Darkest Faerie incident, Fyora has been keeping tight watch on her sisters,” Roberta told them.
“Well, if it wasn’t a Faerie, that leaves Jerdana in Altador... and Kauvara in Neopia Central,” Sophie explained, getting a grasp of the situation quickly.
“Hang on a minute; didn’t you say Belton went to Neopia Central?” Edna asked.
Kayla nodded, her large magic hat almost falling off in the process. Morguss and Edna exchanged glances.
“Kauvara,” they muttered in unison.
“You can’t seriously be suggesting Kauvara would want to take over Meridell, can you?” Kayla asked.
Kauvara had been one of Kayla’s role models before she and her friends had been teleported to Meridell.
“Oh, I don’t know about take over... but that Kau has always been up to no good if you ask me,” Edna said scathingly.
It was a well known fact that Kauvara didn’t get on well with other witches. While those like Edna and Morguss toiled away on their potions for months on end in backwater places, Kauvara had set up shop in the middle of Neopia Central and started churning out potions like they were going out of fashion. The other witches had never forgiven her for it.
“I couldn’t imagine she’d want control over Meridell,” Roberta said reassuringly.
“Oh, maybe not control. But if Belton is making to be a dictator, he’s going to have to keep Skarl, Darigan and Hagan under whatever enchantment he’s using,” Morguss replied.
“So what?” Lisha asked.
“So I bet he’s using one of Kauvara’s potions. If he is, he’ll need fresh supplies constantly. I bet that sly woman is making a tidy profit out of all this,” Edna told them triumphantly.
“She probably supplied Belton and the guards with some kind of Anti-Magic Amulet; that’s why our magic doesn’t work anymore,” Morguss concluded.
The brief interlude of excitement that had filled the cell evaporated. They had discovered how Belton had seized control, but were still trapped inside the dungeons. Edna, Morguss and Sophie joined the other witches on the floor.
“Well, this is a pickle,” Roberta said in the kind of voice designed solely to break awkward silences.
There was a small croak from the corridor beyond the cell.
“They keep Mortogs down here?” Edna asked.
“No, they don’t come near the castle in case they are caught for Skarl’s banquets,” Lisha replied.
There was a clink of ancient metal as a small knight hobbled heavily down the corridor. There was a Mortog bouncing along in front of him. The old Lupe in the armour had considerably more beard than skin, if it could be called skin, as it was comprised mainly of wrinkles.
“Are you the witches?” the knight asked.
“Who wants to know?” Morguss asked, straightening herself up.
“I am Sir Bernard,” the knight replied.
His armour was severely tarnished; the witches doubted if it was still considered metal.
“What do you want?” Edna asked.
Sir Bernard bent down stiffly, cursing several times as he went, and scooped up the Mortog.
“Do you recognise him?” he asked as he brandished the green lump at the women.
“It’s a Mortog; I don’t stick around them long enough to get names,” Sophie said scathingly.
“He’s not a Mortog!” Sir Bernard said shakily. “He’s my brother!”
“I can see the family resemblance,” Edna cackled.
“He was called Hector Grimes,” Sir Bernard hinted.
“Nope, no clue,” Morguss replied.
“You made him this way!” Sir Bernard shrieked.
“Oh!” Sophie said brightly, “The farmer from the other night, remember?”
The three witches exchanged glances.
“I want you to put him right,” Sir Bernard told them.
“Well, you see, that might be a problem at the moment,” Edna said shyly.
“Why?” Bernard asked.
“You really think we haven’t got bigger problems?” Morguss asked, pointing to the bars across the cell.
“I’ll let you out if you do,” Bernard bargained.
“Done,” Morguss said quickly.
“Did Lord Belton give you any new equipment?” Roberta asked.
“New equipment... well, he is making us all wear these weird looking necklaces,” the knight replied.
He reached inside his tattered armour and pulled out a small necklace with a blue gemstone attached to it. It shone brightly in the gloom. Bernard handed it over in the hand that wasn’t holding his brother.
“So that’s it!” Edna cackled.
She dropped the necklace and danced on the stone, smashing it into dust.
“Right, fair’s fair, turn him back,” Morguss told Edna.
“Ah, well, I’ve never really been all that good at reversing it...” Edna muttered.
The Mortog croaked menacingly.
“Oh, alright,” Edna gave in.
She spread her arms out wide and muttered something inaudible. Green smoke starting bellowing out of the Mortog, and Sir Bernard dropped it on the floor. Out of the smoke, the figure of the farmer the witches had met rose.
“Thank you, madam. Maybe you are a witch after all,” he said politely.
“Now it’s your turn,” Morguss said to the old knight.
Bernard nodded and took a small band of ancient keys from around his waist. He took one experimentally and thrust it into the lock holding the bars. There was a small click, and the bars swung open, freeing the captives.
“Thank you. Now, can you tell us where to find Lord Belton?” Edna asked.
“He should be in the throne room,” Bernard informed them.
Edna looked around and surveyed her fellow witches.
“Right, sisters, it’s time to get even,” she sneered.
The cackle that followed could be heard throughout the castle. Lord Belton would soon realise it was not wise to interfere in the affairs of witches.
To be continued...