Agent of the Sway: Departure - Part Two
Considering the Faerieland Academy was home to some of the most magically skilled Faeries and Neopets on the planet, it was surprisingly easy to break into.
Clayton had once been a member of the Thieves Guild, of course, so he had something of an advantage. But even so, he had been expecting guards, alarms, that sort of thing.
Or at least a librarian.
The library was silent that late at night, as Clayton carefully eased open one of the ancient windows and deposited himself inside. Each of the books on the shelves were magically charged, Clayton could feel it.
He had no idea where to start, but he thought anything relating the the Haven was likely to be in the older books. If it had been designed for the Darkest Faerie, any mention of it would have been a thousand years ago.
Instinctively, Clayton made his way to the back of the library and began his search there. The books were falling apart, clearly not used to being read regularly. Clayton was as careful as he could be, but still some fell to pieces in his hands.
Eventually he came across an ancient map of Faerieland, clearly not accurate by modern standards, but still detailed for its time.
But there was one notable part missing. In a corner of the Underclouds, where the rest were adorned with illustrations and legends, there was nothing. Just blank clouds. Something was suspicious by its absence. A start, at least.
He started to cross-reference the Underclouds in the older books. Nothing by the Faeries, of course. They would be keeping it secret. But perhaps one of the elder Neopets who had passed through the Academy would have stumbled upon the Haven by accident.
A few hours of searching later, Clayton finally came across something. A mere mention in a graduate thesis some nine hundred years ago, but it was enough. There was, according to this particular wizard, an unexplained concentration of magic in the Underclouds, in roughly the position the map had indicated. He mentioned that he had passed on this information to his tutors at the Academy, but had yet to receive a reply.
Clayton made a note of the location from the map. It would require more searching, but a rough location was better than none.
He returned to the front of the library, only to find he was not alone.
Quizara was stood in the doorway leading back to the Academy, a speckled Xweetok behind her. Clayton thought he vaguely recognise the Xweetok - had she accompanied Lady Falmouth when they had investigated Neovia a few years earlier?
"Fancy seeing you here," Quizara said with a smirk. "What are you looking for?"
"That's my business," Clayton replied. "Who's she?"
"This is Xandra," Quizara said. "My personal assistant, the most promising student to come through these walls in centuries."
"She knows about the project?" Clayton said.
Quizara supplied a nod.
"We weren't informed that there were more people involved," Clayton said. "This changes our arrangement."
"It changes nothing," Quizara said. "I am still the only route you have into the Hidden Tower. My terms are not up for negotiation. Xandra, show this visitor out of the Academy, make sure he doesn't get into any more trouble on the way out."
With that, the elder sorceress turned and left.
"Follow me," Xandra instructed, gesturing to the door.
"I remember you," Clayton said as they walked. "You were in Neovia when it came back. You were working with Lady Falmouth back then. What's changed?"
"That was before I met Quizara," Xandra said. "She's opened my eyes. You know we were sent to Neovia initially just to see if your kind were involved? Not to save the town. Not to help anyone, just to observe. The Faeries, with all their combined powers, couldn't even lift a finger. Ilere did nothing and she lives in the woods. It was... disgusting. Quizara showed me the truth. The Faeries are greedy, keeping all the power to themselves when they could be helping people the world over. Quizara, when she takes the throne, will change all that."
She gave a ruthless little smirk.
"Or so she thinks," she added.
"Pardon?" Clayton asked.
"She knows you are planning on double crossing her," Xandra explained. "So she is planning on doing it first. One of Quizara's first lectures was on the nature of truth - everyone lies, don't you see? I've allied myself with Quizara because she's on a path to success, but the reasons for her quest are less than wholesome. She's angry at the Order of the Red Erisim, more than anything. I don't doubt for a moment that once Quizara takes Faerieland, the first thing she'll do is flatten the Order."
"And you don't agree with that," Clayton said.
"No," Xandra replied. "I believe in the use of magic to help everyone. No one must die - the Question Curse will keep the Faeries alive, and if I were to take the throne, I could ensure that the magic is properly controlled and that all of Neopia benefits."
"So you are planning on turning against Quizara as well?" Clayton asked. "You want to make a deal with us?"
"You help me, I'll get you into the Hidden Tower," Xandra said. "You have my word on that. Continuing to help Quizara will only end in disappointment."
"I'll pass your offer on to my superiors," Clayton said.
Though he doubted Xandra's words had any more sincerity than Quizara's. After all, she'd just admitted to holding the philosophy that everyone lies.
"So, am I understanding the situation correctly?" Knight asked. "Quizara intends to betray the trust of Fyora with our help and that of Xandra. We intend to betray Quizara, who also intends to do the same to us. Xandra, meanwhile, also hopes to betray Quizara, and no doubt us. Quizara is no fool either so I would imagine at some point along the line she will also cut her losses with Xandra."
"Yes," Clayton replied.
"Is there anyone involved in this who is actually just playing the game normally?" Knight asked.
"Fyora, I suppose," Clayton said.
"Ah yes," Knight said with distaste. "How very predictable of her."
The pair of them were trekking through the Underclouds below the surface of Faerieland. Thick clouds blinded their immediate vision, whilst the pink and purple rock at the heart of the floating land jutted out here and there, making the area seem like a cave system.
"I think, for the time being, we shall throw our lot in with this Xandra," Knight considered. "She is the least experienced sorceress and therefore the least threat when we need to eliminate her."
Clayton nodded, glancing down to the ancient map.
"This is the rough area," he said.
Knight made a face at the use of the word 'rough'.
"When I suggested you research the Haven, I hoped for some more concrete results," he said.
"You'll have your results," Clayton replied, moving forwards through the clouds.
The Kougra was no wizard, but he'd been involved in enough magic during his years with the Sway to recognise the familiar tingle on the air that happened whenever you got near.
It was simply a matter of closing your eyes and letting your senses to the navigation. Reaching out, Clayton thought he could sense the right direction, and guided his feet through the gloom.
The sensation on the edge of a sensation began to grow, and Clayton knew he had picked the right direction. Slowly, he guided Knight forwards, until the vague suggestion of something became stronger.
Very strong, in fact. The tingle in the air became almost solid like a wall of magic, and Clayton could taste something like iron.
"That will be far enough," Knight said. "I can feel it as well - this is, without a doubt, Faerie Haven. I've never sensed such power before, and I can't think of anything else Fyora would wish to protect in such a way."
"You don't want to check my research?" Clayton asked mockingly.
"No," Knight replied, missing the sarcasm. "There will no doubt be magical seals we will break if we enter, which will alert Falmouth. No, we enter the Haven when we begin the operation. Contact Quizara when we return to the surface - tell her we are ready to begin."
Quizara had allowed them all to meet in her personal study within the Academy. Xandra was there, as well as the sorceress herself.
"We have located a secret area of Faerieland that Fyora will wish to protect," Knight announced. "We will trip the alarms there, and that should cause Falmouth to leave your side in the Hidden Tower. You will then be free to locate and use the Sceptre of Questions."
"A secret area of Faerieland?" Quizara asked. "Where? What purpose does it serve?"
"Our purposes," Knight replied bluntly. "However, should you fail, we cannot be found there by Falmouth."
"I will not fail," Quizara stated.
"Should you fail," Knight repeated. "We will require someone else to be found there by Lady Falmouth. Someone who has a plausible reason for being there."
"Such as?" Quizara asked.
"Xandra," Knight said. "As the highest graded student at the Academy, she can easily pass off the intrusion as her investigating an area of high magic on writings found in the library."
"I'll do it," Xandra said.
"Good," Knight said with a smile. "Then we begin as soon as possible. Tomorrow, perhaps?"
To be continued...