They blindfolded her and led her up some more stairs,
then down some hallways. She knew nothing but the steady pressure of a hand
on her shoulder, guiding her along, and the stifling blackness of the cloth
tied over her eyes. She had tried to ask what was going on just once, but the
hand on her shoulder dug into the bone, pinching the nerves, and she quickly
silenced herself lest the pain get any worse. He had relaxed his grip then,
and they had continued on in silence. When they stopped, she heard a door open,
then she was shoved through, and the door was shut and locked behind her. She
was shoved into a chair and her hands and ankles bound with rope. Whoever had
done it was nervous, and made the bonds too tight. They bit into her wrists
but she remained silent, enduring this. They had Mia.
"What do you want?" she finally ventured, and
this time no one stopped her, "Is it ransom? They'll catch you for this. They
"It's not ransom," someone replied, a female
voice, "it's for the League of Rain. We'll release you after our job is done."
"No! Wait, please. Let Mia go. I… I haven't
done anything to you."
"Be quiet," the girl replied, her tone harsh,
"In all honesty, this is for your own protection. Our original orders were to
kill you. Don't try to get loose or we will have to carry them out."
More footsteps, then the door being opened and
shut again. Then silence. Payne sat there, utterly still, listening to her rapid
"Hello?" she whispered. "Is anyone there? Am
There was no answer and Payne wept silently
into the darkness. She was alone then, with Mia elsewhere, also a prisoner.
She wept, in the depths of the building, and it was as if she could hear the
rain even there.
"Think he'll ask for proof?" someone whispered
out in the hallway as Eric checked the locks.
"Nah. He's too confident that we're all his
"Think anyone will find them?" someone else
"No. You saw the dust up here -- these rooms
haven't been used for years. Plus, I have the one and only key, thanks to Jessica."
"You're welcome," she said demurely, "but it
was all my friend. She works here, you know."
"And she'll be keeping an eye on our two prisoners
until after the campus floods," Eric finished, pocketing the key and heading
down the hallway for the stairwell. "Then we can let them go. And we'll have
"Yeah, about that," someone from the back of
the group ventured. "How do we keep Grievm from getting his grubby little paws
"We crack him on top the head when he comes
to take it. That simple."
"We're sure getting good at backstabbing," a
Lupe muttered, waiting for them at the door to the stairs, "First Mia. Now Grievm."
"Chin up VerdeVer," the girl named Jessica replied,
holding the door for the group to pass through, "Just wait for the flood and
this will all be over. And instead of those rich Grays holding the power of
the Sword of Wind and Rain, we will."
"It doesn't feel right," VerdeVer muttered.
"They don't even know what it is!" someone else
retorted. "They've forgotten or ignored the legend. Why shouldn't someone from
the League hold it? We're the ones who have passed down the secrets of Jerome
for all these years, we're the ones who have protected this campus. Not them.
They just show up, take the thing, and save the day and reap the benefits of
such a powerful weapon."
"Anyways, we're not the ones who betrayed the
Grays to begin with," Eric continued, "Grievm is. We're just backstabbing the
"Two wrongs don't make a right," the Lupe muttered.
"Two lefts don't make a right, but three do,"
a girl near the front said brightly.
"Okay, you're not allowed to talk anymore,"
Eric said with a roll of his eyes. "Now let's head over to Kriescher quadrangle.
They've got Shadows, that late-night eating place. I want food."
There was muttered agreement as the group of
about eight students and assorted pets reached the ground floor and together,
they went out to brave the rain once more.
Back in the dorms, two pets waited in silence,
listening to the steady tap tap of the rain on the window and the brief footsteps
in the hallway. None of them stopped at their door though, and that was the
reason for the heavy atmosphere of worry.
"The library closed half an hour ago," the mutant
Ixi finally said, hooves crossed before her on the bed.
"Should we notify campus security?"
"No. Students stay out very late all the time
-- they won't care unless she goes missing for a longer length of time."
"She's a Gray. They'll take that seriously."
Maria lapsed back into tense silence, not wanting
to say that her reluctance to call them was because of that, because she understood
Payne's reluctance to draw attention to herself as a Gray. Instead, she watched
the clock and listened for footsteps outside her door.
"We'll wait until one am. Then we'll start searching
for her ourselves," Maria declared.
"Alright. But… wasn't Mia talking with that
VerdeVer pet earlier? She mentioned him once. He might know where they're at."
Maria considered this, trying to dredge up memories.
"VerdeVer. He's the roommate of that RA on the
third floor, right?"
"Yes. I'm assuming you want to go bother him?"
She leapt off the bed and stood up straight
in the middle of the floor.
"Yes," BlazeFast declared, "Payne and Mia are
our roommates. They're our friends. And I'm worried. The rain is getting dangerous
now and everyone's on edge. There's no telling what could have happened."
"Alright. Let's go see if he's up. It's late…
but not too late for the dorms."
She snagged her keys from the door and the two
made their way out into the hallway for the stairs. They were halfway up them
when someone came banging out of the third floor entrance, stumbling down the
stairs, her breath fast like she was either hysterical or crying. Or both. Maria
tried to get out of her way but she wasn't fast enough and the two collided,
an elbow catching her in the stomach and sending her smashing against the wall.
The other girl turned, started to mutter an apology, then froze, her eyes wide
and her face pale.
"You're… you're… her roommate," she whispered.
Maria massaged a rib and grimaced at her, taking
in the small yellow Aisha and the tears streaking her cheeks.
"Who's roommate?" BlazeFast asked.
"Payne's. The Gray's."
The Ixi and Moehog exchanged glances. Maria
then turned her attention back to the girl, shoving away from the wall to stand
up straight, rustling her wings closer to her back.
"Yes. I am. What do you know about her?"
The girl glanced up the stair, biting her lip
with worry. She seemed torn for a moment, then took a deep breath and wiped
her face with the back of her sleeve.
"I'm Jessica. Can we go to your room? This is
going to take some explaining."
The first thing Jessica had done upon reaching
the room was scribble down a list of names and room numbers.
"Ixi. Can you find all these people and tell
them the game is up?" she said, "Tell them to meet me under the overhang of
the library. They'll understand."
"Game? What game? And how does this involve
Payne?" BlazeFast interrupted.
Jessica took a deep breath.
"It's a long story and it's one I'm going to
explain to Maria while you gather the members of the League. But I'll tell you
this - we're all in grave danger. You, me, everyone. Now go."
The Ixi shot her one last suspicious glance
before making her way out the door. Jessica then turned to Maria who sat in
silence at the other chair.
"Okay. We don't have much time," she said, "So
I'm going to make this fast. We kidnapped Payne, mostly for her own protection.
There's someone who wants her dead, someone that controls a secret organization
on campus. I'm part of it and Eric is our leader. Anyways, we didn't want to
kill Payne, so we kidnapped her and hid her away in a place only a handful of
us know about. Those are the ones I sent BlazeFast after, they're the ones who
can be trusted."
"Kidnappers can be trusted?" Maria said in disgust.
"It's a long story! Just… please. Let me continue.
Well, we were planning to betray our head. We don't like how he's running things
and we don't want him to carry out his plan."
She took a deep breath, gazing up at the empty
air above Maria's head.
"Well. Someone snitched."
There was a long silence. Maria crossed and
uncrossed her arms while Jessica fought to control her emotions.
"I went up to Eric's room," she said, "Just
to talk. We're good friends and all. When I rounded the corner, I saw two NeoPets,
big burly ones, with Eric between them. I don't think he was going with them
willingly. And I caught his eye and he pretended to ignore me… but he dropped
a slip of paper that I grabbed as soon as they were out of sight."
She silently pulled it from her pocket and handed
it to Maria. It had two hastily scribbled words on it - 'Yvette betrayed.'
"That's the name of one of our members," she
said, "I'm guessing her and her friends within the League are in on it too.
But they don't know where we're hiding Payne and so now they're taking Eric.
We've got to get to Payne first and then go rescue Eric."
"You still haven't told me the whole story."
"No. But it's a long one, and I'd rather wait
until we had Payne. Now please, help me. I don't know how long we've got. Eric
is a strong person but… the sooner we save him the better."
She stood and waited for Maria to stand also,
a physical sign that the girl would trust her and would follow her to save Payne.
The Darigan Moehog was still for a couple more moments before she stood, sighing
heavily and removing the colorful accessories from her hair. The bandanna, the
faux glasses, the beads in her mane, all went on the table.
"Best to be inconspicuous. One question," she
said as the two moved out into the hallway. "What is the ultimate goal in all
Jessica hesitated only a moment before speaking.
"To chase away the rain. Rain Gray, for those
To be continued...