Agent of the Sway: Discovery - Part Six
The Darkest Faerie clawed her way up out of the water, her hands touching the yellow sands of the Meridell coast. Her face contorted into a snarl, so much had changed - the world wasn't the bitter and broken shell it once had been.
But she was back - returned to take her revenge on Fyora, Altador, and anyone else who got in her way.
"Hello, dear," a voice greeted her.
There was an elderly Lenny stood patiently in front of her, dressed entirely in black.
"Who are you?" the Darkest Faerie asked.
"You don't know me," the Duchess said. "Nor will you. But I know a great deal about you. You may recall this symbol."
She held out her hand, presenting the Sway ring on her finger.
"You!" the Darkest Faerie shouted. "You promised me your aid, and then abandoned me as soon as Altador's armies rallied against me! You're the entire reason my takeover failed!"
The Faerie began to charge a blast of dark magic, but the Duchess held out her hand to stop her.
"I don't think that would be a very good idea," she said calmly. "I took the precaution of setting up some very powerful counter spells on my person before I came here. Any magic aimed against me is likely to be reflected back at you."
"What do you want then!?" the Darkest Faerie demanded. "Come to offer your traitorous services again!?"
"Not on this occasion, no," the Duchess replied. "I have come to tell you that we will not be working together. I am offering to stay out of your way. It would be wonderful if you return the favour."
Lies, of course. The Sway never stayed out of anything. Not completely.
With that, the Duchess turned and left the beach. A Crokabek that had settled in a dead tree nearby fluttered down onto her shoulder and delivered a note.
Markus, one of the best agents in Meridell. Apparently the Altadorian councilors, long in hiding, had sensed the release of the Darkest Faerie. Several had been sighted in Meridell.
Once she was in her waiting carriage, she sent of a quick note back, instructing Markus to be on guard for the Darkest Faerie's arrival.
Clayton and Hopesmeade's carriage rattled on through the night, towards the gypsy camp in the heart of the Haunted Woods.
"So what exactly is the Wand of Wishing?" Clayton asked.
"A creation of unimaginable power," Hopesmeade explained. "Created by the joint powers of a light and dark Faerie eons ago - it has the power to grant one wish every one thousand years."
"That seems like something the Sway could find a use for," Clayton said.
Hopesmeade gave a little laugh.
"If only," he said. "That would solve a lot of our problems. The presence of the dark Faerie's magic, however, makes using the wand a little tricky. It grants your wish, but not in the form you were expecting. The last time it was used, a Mynci wished to rule the world. The wand granted his wish - it created an entire alternate universe for him to rule over populated by Petpets. It has become known as Petaria. As you can see, the Sway using the wand would not be practical - we need exact outcomes, and it cannot guarantee that."
"So we have to keep the wand from falling into the wrong hands," Clayton agreed.
"There is a gypsy family we have left the wand in the care of," Hopesmeade said. "Their latest, Megan, is to be our contact."
The gypsy camp was in the northwest of the woods, towards the mountains. The wagons were parked in a circle around a campfire, where they danced and told stories.
Hopesmeade noticed that the Kau fortune teller was in one of the wagons - he steered well clear of her, instead guiding Clayton to another. He knocked once, and an Aisha with long brown hair answered it.
"Megan?" Hopesmeade asked.
"Come in," she said, gesturing them in quickly. "I've been expecting you."
She closed the door behind them, offering them seats.
"It is best the other gypsies don't know you are here," she said. "We welcome outsiders, but we rarely trust them with such information as the location of the Wand."
"Other gypsies know?" Hopesmeade said. "We understood it was a secret to be kept in your family."
"That was a thousand years ago," Megan said. "My family is a lot bigger than it was when you made the deal with my ancestors. Most of us gypsies are related somehow. The wand has already been activated. I'll guide you to the crypt we hid it in and you can make a meaningless wish to discharge its power."
She gathered a few things and gestured for her Petpet to follow as she opened the door, only to hold on to the doorframe as the wagon was rocked by a vicious roar from outside.
"What was that!?" Clayton asked.
"I don't know!" Megan replied, heading outside.
Gypsies were scattering, running in all directions. Megan grabbed one by the arm.
"It's Archos!" the Wocky replied. "He read some magic book and transformed into a monster! He's heading towards the crypt, Megan!"
Megan exchanged a brief glance with Hopesmeade.
"We have to get there first - follow me," she instructed.
She led them away from the camp and into the woods, venturing off the path that normally gave some degree of safety.
Up ahead, they could make out a hulking mass making his way through the trees, pushing them to one side while a pair of Werhonds bounded ahead of him.
"Archos!" Megan called out.
The figure turned, the moonlight illuminating his face. It was a Skeith, big and lumbering, his skin stained a mouldy green with dark magic. His eyes glowed red, and dark armour covered his body.
"By Fyora, Archos, what did that book do to you?" Megan gasped.
"Get her!" the monster shouted.
His two Werhonds shot forwards, leaping towards Megan. Hopesmeade and Clayton moved in front of her, taking one Petpet each.
"Go!" Hopesmeade ordered. "We'll hold him off - you get to the wand!"
Megan nodded, the Aisha and her Petpet taking off into the deep woods.
Clayton and Hopesmeade fought back the Werhonds, but Archos weighed into the fight, effortlessly scattering the two and forcing them back against the trees hard. Laughing, Archos turned and lumbered off through the trees again.
Clayton helped Hopesmeade back to his feet.
"I am getting too old for this," the Wocky said, dusting himself off. "I hope we gave Megan enough of a head start."
There was another roar far off in the woods - Archos appeared to have found her.
The two followed the noise as best they could, coming across a ruined crypt sinking into the soil. Inside, Archos had Megan cornered, but she held the wand.
One of his Werhonds ran forwards, grabbing the wand from Megan's hand and jumping away. Some magic appeared to be taking effect, and the Petpet disappeared into a portal rapidly appearing in the crypt's wall. Megan's own Petpet followed suit, leaving the four Neopets alone and slightly nonplussed for a few moments.
Before any of them could do anything though, the portal reappeared, with Megan's Petpet returning with the wand. The Aisha picked it up, and as Archos advanced, she made her wish.
"Safety!" she shouted, holding the wand high in the air.
The magic was instant, a shockwave spreading out from the wand that Clayton suspected would have far reaching implications. Archos's monstrous form was dissipating, replaced instead with a slightly meek looking green Skeith - his normal form.
The magic done with, Megan placed the wand against the crypt wall, where it melted into a mural - it wouldn't be used again for a thousand years.
Markus watched from behind the pillars of the Meridell throne room, the Darigan Meerca hidden to all present. He had just witnessed two Neopets use Fyora's Rod, an ancient Meridell treasure, to defeat the Dark Faerie Sisters who had claimed Meridell in the Darkest Faerie's name.
Skarl was making a grand victory speech, despite the fact that only a few moments earlier he had been the Darkest Faerie's mindless servant.
"Thank you, King Skarl," the Acara was saying. "But I fear we cannot stay for the celebrations. We need to contact Queen Fyora immediately."
Markus recognised her - Princess Roberta, King Hagan's niece from Brightvale. The Lupe who had helped her was Sir Tormund, Meridell's newest knight.
Outside the window, there was a white Uni waiting - the Princess's steed. Together, the pair climbed onto the Uni's back, and they began their trip upwards to Faerieland.
When the coast was clear, Markus crept out of his hiding place and back out into Meridell town. There, he hastily wrote a letter to the Duchess.
'As per my previous report, Tor and Roberta have freed Meridell and Brightvale from the Darkest Faerie's curses. The Dark Faerie Sisters have been removed from their seat of power - Tor and Roberta are heading to Faerieland to speak with Fyora immediately. Aid from the Altadorian council continues to be present. Request further instructions.'
He did not have to wait long - the reply was almost instant.
'Remain in Meridell in case reinforcements attempt to retake the castle. Other agents will watch the situation in Faerieland.'
Markus was glad of that. He was a good agent, but he didn't think he could cope being assigned to a kingdom entirely filled with enemies.
To be continued...