In The Shadows: Part Two
Marx was baffled. This could not be real! How could his own sister claim she was someone else? And then just leave? Was it really possible that that wasn’t Katerina? Watching someone who looked exactly like his missing sister frantically headed to the opposite caravan was impossible to comprehend.
It was dark, yes, but anyone could see the single yellow eye of the Meowclops. It was without a doubt Sophie’s Petpet. And it was circling something. Marx jumped down from the stairs and carefully stepped towards it and picked up what seemed to be a long stick. No. It wasn’t a stick. It was... a staff. Sophie’s staff... the one she never went anywhere without. And what was that in the ground? Leaning in closer, Marx traced the outline in the dirt. H... E... L... P...
He started running.
“You know, next time, I’m picking the disguises.” Derain scowled, ripping off his gypsy disguise under a towering tree with long, bare branches that wove together.
“Hey, mine were fine! YOU had to go yell to Sophie about your arrival!” Zak flapped his arms angrily and tore off the headband. After the gypsies caught the two, they were ushered far, far away from the camp grounds and given a rather harsh scolding about stealing clothes and dressing up as girls.
“I was excited! It took us forever to catch her list.” Derain flashed the paper proudly. “You know, I wonder what it says on here...”
“Don’t read Sophie’s private writings!” Zak snatched the list. “Now come on, we have to find her and give it to her.”
“You’re right,” Derain started heading off in a direction.
“Derain, wrong way.”
“No, we came from this way.”
“No, we came completely opposite of that.”
“Trust me, we came in THAT DIRECTION!”
“I don’t even know anymore!”
“You... mean to tell me... that we’re LOST?!”
“Oh... you know, now that you mention it...”
“GREAT! This is just GREAT,” Zak said sarcastically. “We’re LOST, in the HAUNTED WOODS, probably MILES away from the Gypsy Camp!”
“Yeah, I understand how that can be a problem.”
“Look, we just gotta keep on walking until we find a place that can give us directions! Yeah, I bet someone knows how to get back to the camp! Come on, Derain, let’s go.”
The Techo and Korbat buddies cautiously made their way through the woods, trying not to trip over any roots or rocks. It took some aimlessly wandering around, but they ended up stumbling upon a stone path.
“OW!” Derain howled. “I just stubbed my foot on this rock!”
But Zak didn’t hear him. He was gazing up the stone path and was mesmerized by what it led to. Derain followed his friend’s scrutiny, and when he saw it, his mouth was agape .
Towering over them, surrounded by shadows and the darkness of the Haunted Woods, was the Castle of Eliv Thade...
Thank goodness Meowclops were fast runners.
Marx’s senses told him that they weren’t that far away. Instead of trying to come up with a rescue plan, he instinctively snatched Sophie’s staff with his mouth and darted off, making sure Sophie’s Meowclops was following him close behind. Maybe that wasn’t Katerina. It was probably just another red Acara... if it really was Marx’s sister, she would have embraced him with open arms.
Someone stepped in his path. Marx halted, almost tripping over the Meowclops. In the nighttime, he could see the towering figure gaze down upon him. It took a second, but Marx finally realized that the mutant blue Gelert he was staring at in awe was Bruno, Sophie‘s brother.
“You! What’s the rush? What’s that in your mouth?” Bruno crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes, waiting for Marx to snap out of his amazement and talk. The Meowclops then immediately trotted over and pawed at Bruno. He picked it up, scrutinizing the playfully Petpet carefully. “And this is Sophie’s Meowclops! WHAT are you doing with him?!”
Marx let the staff fall onto the dried patch of grass. “It’s your sister’s staff, and yes, that‘s Sophie‘s Meowclops. Sophie was... kidnapped....”
Bruno’s face told three different expressions in ten seconds. First, a wave of disbelief crashed over him. Then anger. Then worry.
“WHO kidnapped Sophie?”
“I’m not sure... but that’s what I’m trying to find out-”
“Your scent tracking is probably stronger than mine,” Bruno huffed. “Just run, and I’ll follow. I‘m not letting ANYONE harm my sister.”
That reminded Marx of Katerina, but he quickly tossed that thought aside and ran.
They had only taken five wrong turns in the enormous castle, lost the Meowclops once, and dropped Sophie‘s staff twice, but Marx was sure he found the right room.
“The scent leads right up to this door.” The Lupe tried to turn the door knob, but it was locked.
“Watch out,” Bruno ordered. In five tries, he used his left shoulder as a battering ram, knocking the wooden door down off its hinges. They both saw Farah, who was in the corner of what seemed to be a small dungeon, tied up and blindfolded.
“Farah, are you ok?” Marx quickly untied her blindfold and wrists.
“I think so,” Farah sighed, but then perked up at the startling sight of Sophie’s well-known brother, Bruno.
“Where’s Sophie?!” he demanded, frustrated that she wasn’t in the room.
“I... I’m not sure... Eliv took her out, but that’s all I know...”
“Hey there! Do you guys-”
In a flash, Bruno whirled around, grabbed the T-shirt collars of a Korbat and Techo so they dangled in mid air. “Who... ARE YOU?!”
The Korbat flailed his wings. “OW! I’m ZAK, and this is DERAIN! We kind of got lost and we were wondering if you knew-”
“Do YOU know anything about Sophie?”
“YES! Well, no,” Derain chuckled nervously, but that glare Bruno was giving him made him sweat. “You see... well... we saw Sophie in the woods, and um... she had a list that got lost in the wind... and she asked us to get it... and bring it to the gypsy camp...”
“Hold that thought,” Marx was sniffing around the cramped dungeon. “I got a scent. I’m sure it’s Sophie‘s. Come on!”
He sprinted out and down a hall, followed by Bruno, who immediately loosened his grasp and let Zak and Derain crash to the floor. Farah dashed out as well, scooping up the Meowclops along the way, and the weary Korbat and Techo groaned in pain and slowly made their way up and out.
Eliv watched with interest at a blindfolded Sophie, struggling to loosen the ropes that bound her to a chair. “Sophie dear, please... you might hurt yourself.”
“Let me go!”
“I’m sorry, but either way you’re going to be the lab rat of my little experiment. Now tell me... what are the ingredients to your imprisonment potion?”
“It’s twenty ingredients, and they’re all written on paper that I lost in the woods.”
“Of course you lost it,” Eliv sighed. “Look, I don’t want to make this difficult, but that imprisonment potion will be perfect for trapping Fyora in her tower for thousands of years. With her out of the way, my conquering will be a breeze.”
“I’m not telling you anything,” Sophie snapped. “Get that through your head.”
“Shame... well, we mustn’t waste any more time, though... it’s time to transform you ,“ Eliv slipped a pendant off of his neck and placed it around hers. Gingerly holding up her chin, he smirked as she thrashed about. “Now... the pendant is going to glow a deep violet. You’re going to start to feel a bit drowsy... then you’ll fall asleep, and when you wake up, the only thought on your mind will be to destroy all of the innocent. Understood?”
Sophie gripped the arms of the chair. “Don’t... do this!”
“But I am. And there’s nothing you’re going to do about it-”
The door was torn down, and Bruno stormed in. Seeing Eliv Thade near Sophie sent the Gelert into full on attack mode. He tackled the villain, wrapping his huge paws around the deranged Kacheek’s throat and throwing him into the stone wall. Eliv gasped for air, but Bruno left him trapped under the pile of fallen stones.
“What was that?” Sophie asked, once everything grew silent except for Bruno‘s heavy breathing.
Bruno ran to his sister, ripping off her blindfold. “Sophie! Sophie... are you ok? Did he hurt you? Because if he did-”
“Bruno, I’m fine.” She smiled weakly as her brother untied her bindings and lifted her out of the chair, hugging her tightly. Marx, Farah, the Meowclops Derain, and Zak all snuck in, staring bewildered at Eliv Thade, who looked like he was on the verge of slipping into a coma.
“Glad you’re ok, Sophie. But we should leave,” Marx piped up. “Who knows what else will happen, and besides, I think I saw a shadow follow us. Oh, and here’s your staff.”
Sophie beamed, thankful that her staff was still intact. “Thank you for bringing it, Marx.”
“WE FOUND THE LIST TOO!” Derain exclaimed in a rather peppy tone. Bruno gave him a “you’re really pathetic” stare as the red Techo handed Sophie her list.
“And...” Farah grinned. “Your Meowclops.”
“Aw, I thought I‘d never see him again.!” Sophie beamed. The Meowclops purred happily as Sophie held him.
As the group began to file out, they each turned back once to look at Eliv Thade. They expected to feel some sort of pity, but there was absolutely no sense of it whatsoever.
Even Sophie’s Meowclops stuck its tongue out at the defeated Kacheek.
“Thank you, guys.” Sophie smiled. “Even you two freaks.”
Zak and Derain took that as an extremely nice compliment.
“No problem, Sophie,” Farah responded. “You really are a nice person.”
“You need to get to know her,” Bruno agreed. “Now we best be on our way.”
“Yeah, I should start the potion. Might as well test it on Eliv Thade. See you guys another time.” Sophie waved. “Oh, and Marx... I hope you find your sister.”
“So do I. Thanks, Sophie,” Marx said meekly.
“Wait,” Zak shouted. “You do know you’re wearing a rather odd looking necklace, right?”
The witch knew exactly what he was talking about, and she held the pendant in her palm. “I know. I’ll take good care of this.”
Sophie, her Meowclops, and Bruno headed off, as well as Derain and Zak, who had to get back to Tyrannia for another upcoming concert. It was now just Marx and Farah in the deep woods, with Eliv Thade’s castle far behind them.
“Some day,” Marx murmured.
“I’m never forgetting this.” Farah sighed.
“I don’t care how long it takes me... I’m going to look for Katerina and use every ounce of my strength until I find her,” Marx promised. “I won’t stop.” Farah didn’t want to argue, so they proceeded out of the Haunted Woods and back home.
Not far away, a shadow watched. She tried to recall any of her past memories, but that failed. The shadow didn’t have any other purpose in life, other than to serve her leader. She headed back to the castle by herself... the forever lonely shadow named Katerina.