Witches in the Shadows: Part Five
The collision between Maria and the witches sent all four of them to the floor. A lot of cursing from the witches followed, and Maria stared at them, slightly dazed.
Her brain kicked in and her face lit up.
“It’s you!” she shouted, rushing forward to hug Edna. “It’s really you! You’re here, and not dead!”
Edna pushed Maria away awkwardly.
“Not dead is a state I’ve got quite used to being in,” she replied, dusting herself off.
“This is great... you’re here to stop these shadow creatures, right? You’re going to save the day, right?” Maria asked. “The Soup Faerie’s on the verge of death, and the Shop Wizard’s lost his memories... I tried to find Kauvara, but her shop’s just disappeared.”
The witches glanced at each other.
“She used magic to make it bigger on the inside,” Sophie said. “When the magic went, it must have collapsed in on itself.”
“You think she’ll be alright?” Morguss asked.
“Probably,” Edna chuckled. “She’ll just be very angry when she gets back.”
Maria cleared her throat.
“I don’t want to interrupt or anything... but people are in danger,” she told them.
The witches looked at each other again. Edna opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t find the words. None of them wanted to admit to anyone else that their powers were gone.
Maria’s face fell as she came to understand what wasn’t being said.
“Not you as well?” she sighed. “What did this?”
“They did,” Edna told her. “You remember the tales about Neovia? How when the people were cursed, strange living shadows started to appear? These are the same ones. They want Neopia Central as their own city, and they’ve stolen our magic so we can’t stop them.”
“But you have a plan, right? You have a way to stop them?” Maria asked.
“In a manner of speaking...” Morguss said.
“We are going to get our magic back,” Sophie told her.
“How? Is it here?” Maria asked.
“We were hoping you could tell us actually...” Edna explained.
Maria glared at the witches.
“You want me to find your magic for you?” she asked.
The witches nodded.
“It wasn’t that long ago that you told me I could never be a witch!” she shouted. “How am I supposed to find your magic?”
“You followed the book all the way across Neopia, remember?” Edna pointed out. “You knew where it was, you knew where to find us. You found us in the Lost Desert when we were there... you can find the magic. I know you can.”
“How?” Maria demanded. “It’s not as if I can just point that way and say ‘There it is’!”
She pointed off down a side street, seemingly at random. The witches glanced at each other.
“It’s as good a suggestion as any other.” Edna shrugged.
Together, the witches and Maria set off down the street.
The shadows encircled the Kougra, gathering in such numbers that he had difficulty seeing the buildings of Neopia Central through the mesh. Their evil eyes watched him, unblinking.
He is nothing! A mere wisp of a soul, clinging to existence! the shadows told each other.
Quietly, the Kougra unleashed another blast from his homemade weapon. More shadows evaporated under the glare of the Lightmites.
Yet he can harm us! the darkness rasped.
The Kougra smiled beneath his hood.
Then we will destroy him! the shadows concluded.
They tore forward, swarming over the Kougra. He unleashed another blast from his weapon, and the shadows were sent reeling back in pain and terror.
“You can’t harm me anymore. I’m not alive like the people of this city. You cannot claim my body,” the Kougra laughed.
He breathed in deeply, and then paused. There was something in the air that he hadn’t felt before. From the stench of the city, to the choking smell of the smoke from the fires, the scents of Neopia Central exploded within his nostrils.
“I can smell again,” he muttered.
There was no joy in his voice. He knew what it meant. If his senses were returning fully, then he was becoming more real.
If he was gaining more existence, then so were the shadows.
Yes! the darkness cried with joy. We can feel it! At last! We have form!
The endless spiralling of the shadows stopped, and the eyes all moved to fix the Kougra with their malevolent glares.
We can strike! they rasped.
Then, as one, they lunged forward.
Maria paused as they ran, as if an idea had just occurred to her.
“What’s the matter?” Morguss asked.
“The shadows?” Edna asked warily.
The three witches readied their salvaged drainpipes like swords.
“No... I don’t think so,” Maria answered.
It felt strange, like there was something just on the edge of her vision that eluded her. When she turned to see it, nothing was there. There was a sense of familiarity with whatever it was, like it was something she’d grown up with.
“I think it’s that way,” Maria said, pointing in the direction that her senses told her.
“You can feel it?” Sophie asked.
“I can feel something... it’s weak, but there’s something there,” the barmaid answered.
“A spark of magic is better than no magic, let’s go!” Edna commanded.
The four of them set off down yet another side street. Even Maria, who had grown used to the city streets, was beginning to feel lost in the complex web of buildings they were running past.
They emerged into a wide open space in the Bazaar. The Health Food shop was on fire in the distance, giving the remaining buildings an eerie red glow. In front of the Battle Magic shop, more of the shadows spiralled.
They seemed to coil like Cobralls, and they struck down towards the ground. Through the smoke, the witches could see that there was a figure at the heart of the battle. It was a blue Kougra that cried out in pain as the shadows struck him.
“They can hurt people now,” Sophie whispered.
The drainpipes were readied once more.
A bright spark of light erupted from the Kougra, and the shadows were momentarily repelled away. The Kougra collapsed to his knees. In front of him, a complex array of clockwork gears lay broken on the floor. A dozen Lightmites were quickly fluttering away into the perpetual night.
You have lost! the shadows taunted the Kougra. Your only defence is gone! Your pitiful defiance ends now! We will curse you back to the darkness you never should have escaped from!
“No!” the Kougra pleaded.
“I know that voice...” Sophie muttered to herself.
Around the Kougra, fresh darkness began to appear, like smoke covering him, obscuring his frame.
“It’s a portal! Like the one up there!” Morguss guessed, gesturing up to the black hole in the sky from which shadows were still pouring downwards.
Maria felt something wash over her. It was a familiar feeling, and one she’d missed dearly. She knew what it was now, though she’d never been able to give it a name before. It was the familiar feeling of magic, a mental fizz that bubbled on her senses.
“There’s magic there!” she shouted excitedly.
“Where?” Edna demanded.
“Wherever they are sending him! There’s magic, a whole load of magic!” Maria explained.
She didn’t wait for further orders from Edna or the other witches. She ran forward, towards the portal that was spiriting away the Kougra.
“Wait! We don’t know where it goes!” Edna called after her.
Maria didn’t look back; she dived headfirst into the black smoke, and disappeared from view.
Edna’s nostrils flared.
“That girl!” she shouted. “Always getting us into trouble, she is!”
She hitched up her robes and ran after her. Sophie and Morguss glanced at each other and followed suit.
The shadows noticed them as they ran.
Flesh! Witches! they screamed. You cannot stop us! You are powerless!
“I’ll powerless you in a minute!” Morguss shouted back, throwing her drainpipe at the nearest set of red eyes.
The pipe went straight through the creature, but it slowed as it did so, as if it was passing through water. The shadows were becoming more solid.
The witches reached the dark portal, and jumped into the unknown without looking back.
“Edna?” Morguss asked.
“Yes,” Edna replied.
“Sophie?” Morguss tried again.
“I’m here,” the swamp witch told her.
“Why can’t I see anything?” Morguss asked.
Pure darkness unfolded in front of the Moehog’s eyes. There was nothing, not even the hint of light; Morguss was completely blind. It was if she was floating. Morguss wasn’t exactly sure which direction she was floating in, but she was fairly confident there was floating happening.
“I know this place,” Edna said gravely.
“Maria?” Sophie called out.
“I’m here too,” the frail voice of the barmaid came back. “I can’t see anything either.”
“This is the Void,” Edna explained. “There’s nothing to see in the Void. This is where the darkness lives. This is where the darkness is born.”
“We can’t be in the Void,” Morguss snorted. “Everyone knows only magical matter can exist there, and we don’t have any magic. I can still feel my extremities, so I’m pretty sure I still exist.”
“Maria, where is the magic now?” Edna asked.
Maria closed her eyes to focus, but she needn’t have bothered. It was still exactly as dark.
“Everywhere,” she said after a brief pause.
“Everywhere?” Edna asked sceptically.
“You can’t feel it?” Maria questioned. “It’s like it’s wrapped around us!”
Edna flared her nostrils in the dark. There did seem to be something, some kind of magical tingling that was making her fur stand on end... but it was so hard to focus on without being filled up to the brim with magic herself.
“The sneaky buggers!” Morguss declared. “They’ve hidden our magic in the Void, the one place they knew we’d never look because there’s nothing here!”
“But if there’s nothing here... how are we here? And how is the magic here?” Maria asked, her brain having difficulty following.
“Magic bends the rules,” Sophie explained vaguely.
The witches paused as they heard whispering on the edge of earshot. The voices steadily grew louder, and harsher. Screams and cries of pain echoed throughout the eternal darkness.
Flesh! Witches! the darkness rasped.
“Oh great, it’s you lot again,” Sophie sighed.
“Quick, if the magic’s here then we can get it back and end this!” Edna hissed to the others.
“How do we do that?” Morguss asked.
The witches were temporarily silenced. Their minds had been filled with thoughts of finding their magic. They hadn’t stopped to think how exactly they’d get the magic back once they found it.
Your efforts are in vain! the shadows broke the silence. We control your magic now! You cannot use it unless we allow you do to so! You have lost! Now, you will witness our victory!
“Your victory?” Edna asked.
Witness as we achieve true form! the darkness screamed.
The red eyes opened in the darkness, and above the witches, a hole seemed to rip open in the Void. Faint twilight poured in from the other side, illuminating the forms of the four Neopets. On the other side of the hole, far above them, they could see Neopia Central, quietly burning.
“This is the other side of the portal in the sky!” Morguss gasped.
The twilight was illuminating more than the witches. All around them, dark buildings with spires that rose high into the endless abyss were etched out in the gloom. Blurry figures moved between the buildings, some of which seemed almost Neopet-shaped.
“What is this?” Maria asked.
The transfer is almost complete! the shadows cackled.
“This is Neopia Central,” Edna gasped. “They’ve moved the entire city into the Void!”
To be continued...