Unrest: Part Four
The world seemed to wrench around them. Dethrin felt his stomach twist, as if he'd been punched. Twinkling little stars flashed before his eyes and he almost collapsed. But when his vision cleared, he saw that they were now standing on another street. Raven had fallen to her knees and was shaking.
"That was terrible," she complained. "You could have warned me before you leeched off my strength. Gah." She rested her head against the a cool cobble in the road. "I feel like that time Jaina had me drugged. Besides, it would've been better to use Massie's power. At least that would stop her blasting us."
"I never quite got the hang of teleporting spells, so I used an object-transporting spell." Annette winced as pain lanced up her spine. "And Massie's power is too wild. I don't think it's possible to control it. Her power probably would have incinerated us."
"'Nette?" Massie's eyes fluttered open and struggled to focus on the Peophin.
"Sleep." Annette bent over her, her mane sliding down in a fiery curtain. "Get some rest."
Massie's eyes drifted closed. "They didn't follow us, 'Nette. They let us go. Isn't that weird?"
"Very." Annette agreed. "Now sleep."
"It's not... my... bed... time... ye..." her feeble protest wended its way into the slow rhythm of sleep and Annette heaved a sigh of relief.
"Why are you telling her to her rest?" demanded Raven. "That'll probably just replenish her power."
"She keeps on leaking power while she's awake, and the faeries are following that. We need to go somewhere the faeries can't follow—or better yet, find—us before she wakes up."
"How 'bout on a boat?" suggested Dethrin. "The seas are big enough to hide in."
"On, not in," grumbled Raven, lying down.
"If we can just get on a ship... it will buy us some time, at least..."
"It's a stupid plan," came Raven's muffled voice. "But there's no reason why it shouldn't work."
Massie watched as water, seeping through a crack high in the wall, gathered into a droplet, ran down the empty holder, then dove off to splatter on the hard floor. Looking up, she watched as another droplet formed.
There was a tentative pounding on the door, then it began to open. Smothering a twinge of apprehension, she rose and peered through the widening crack.
"We've got to go!" Dethrin said excitedly. "'Nette and Raven are waiting at the docks."
"What time does the ship leave?"
"Quarter past seven. Plenty of time. We can even stop for some gruel."
"What time is it now?"
"Seven-five, I think."
"But that only leaves ten minutes!"
"Huh? It's twenty."
"A quarter is only twenty-five when it's a quarter of a hundred!"
"Um, duh. I knew that. A hundred times one-fourth, you cancel out the four, and—"
"An hour is sixty minutes!"
"WHAT?! Why didn't you say so sooner, Mass? We've only got nine minutes left!"
"She's in Meridell, Fyora."
The Faerie Queen turned around sharply, her skirts swirling one whirlpool circuit and settling down with a silken sigh.
"I am Queen Fyora. You may be captain in this moonstruck venture, but—"
"Fyora." Jhudora stepped closer. "There's no time to bow to your love of grandeur. She's in Meridell. She's escaped us, and she's about to get on a ship and sail towards—"
"If you'd killed her the moment you touched her mind, this wouldn't have happened. There was no need to take her alive... we already know she's alone... or rather, not."
"I couldn't." Jhudora looked pained. "It could ruin everything. Her powers might have released themselves and fled for the Amulet... and that would have destroyed it."
"And with it..." Fyora mused, "...any chance of Her rebirth. That would be most r—"
"No!" the dark faerie appeared shocked Fyora would think of such a possibility. "If the Amulet shatters, She would be free once more."
"Would she?" Fyora looked up and met Jhudora's eyes. Purple and purple ground against each other, sparks flying, for five full minutes before Jhudora looked away and Fyora leapt from the window.
"Then let's go."
Alongside the quayside promenade, they dashed. With Massie close on his heels, Dethrin rushed blindly through groups of haggling merchants, scattering potatoes and bread everywhere.
"Come on, Massie. Run!" Dethrin shouted, then blinked in surprise as a green blur, streaked with white, shot past him. "Wow."
Then, "Uh, Massie!" he called, hoping that his voice would carry the fifty yards between them. "The jetty is THAT way!"
Massie slowed down as she heard Dethrin's shout, then froze completely as she realized that once again, she had been using magic to boost her speed.
Her eyes flickered from sky to sea, but she could see no murderous faeries rushing at her, so, with a heroic effort, she smothered her emotions and looked at Dethrin, pointing down a path at a right angle to the one she had taken.
"Let's go!" yelled Dethrin, oblivious to the stares he was attracting. "’Scuse me, pardon me, seriously urgent people coming through, move that crate ple—ow.
"Sorry," he called and glanced over his shoulder, skidded over tomato splatter, turned, jumped down seven stairs in one leap and pounded along the wooden platform.
Massie struggled down the docks, her eyes scanning for Annette and Raven. And yes, twelve, or possibly thirteen jetties down, she could see Annette waving frantically at her...
Then a large brown somebody stepped forcibly into her path.
She was taken roughly by the shoulders, and suddenly her feet were no longer on the ground. Which wouldn't have been so strange, except her wings weren't flapping. The splotchy face of a brown Tonu was inches from her own.
"Ye know what I want?" he snarled. As she looked into his eyes, she could see that the splotchy-ness was more than his skin and fur, it was in his head, too. He's crazy, she thought. He's gonna eat me.
"No!" His foul breath struck her face and Massie winced, it was like he gargled with Dung Jelly. "I... want... me... tomatoes."
"I'm not a tomato farmer!"
"No." The Tonu glared at her with an intensity that she was sure was drilling holes in her forehead. "Yeh're a t'mato trampler."
For a moment, an image of herself in boots and a nice pink raincoat squashing tomatoes in a large vat and making tomato sauce then drizzling them with delicate herbs and other sauces, like mushroom paste, presented itself to her, then—
"That other kid yer with knocked over me crates an' the two of ye crushed 'em with yer filthy little paws. Thas nearabouts a whole year's work, 'tis. I want me tomatoes."
Massie bobbed her head up and down. Slowly.
"An' I want money, to make me feel better."
"You mean compensation," piped up Dethrin, who had come running back. "Raven taught me that word when I ripped all of her posters when I was practicing swashbuckling."
Massie inclined her head, her windpipe shrinking. Or maybe her breath was just solidifying. "Okay!" she choked, wishing Dethrin would empty the contents of his pockets into the Tonu's free paw, foot, or whatever they called the thing.
And then he did loosen his grip to stare at Dethrin.
"An' you know what I wan' from ye?" he directed viciously at the Zafara.
"Should ye?! SHOULD YOU?! OH YES, YOU DARN WELL SHOULD!"
"Wow." Dethrin blinked. "Mouthwash?"
"I want my job back." The Tonu snarled. "You ruined me—you caused this—" here he gestured at his body, and suddenly Massie could see that the splotches weren't acne, or any sort of mutant Neopox—they were the pitiful remnants of a once glorious pink hide, and that the white patches in his mane weren't the signs of time's passage—but the signs that this Tonu had once possessed a beautiful silky white mane... which had probably been connected to a Faerie Tonu's body.
Obviously someone had tried to paint him brown and done it sloppily.
"You know what I want as compensation for my life? I want my life back."
"Actually, I think everybody who has a life that's not a good life anymore wants their life back. But I can't give you your life back, 'cause I haven't got it."
"I know you don't!" the Tonu growled. "But you ruined it. She had all of us punished... and now I'm unemployed, disillusioned, ugly and poor! Look at me!"
"I don't think you're so ugly," Dethrin said, backing slowly away. "You're just sorta disgusting."
The Tonu bellowed in rage, and Massie flailed around like a beached Goldy, punching and kicking at whatever she could reach, which wasn't a lot at all, since he was holding her at arm's length and her arms were shorter than his.
However, he shifted his grip slightly, and she twisted free, hearing a faint yelling passing by her... and then past her.
"Dethrin! Massie!" screamed Annette. "JUMP!"
As the sailors on the highest deck (which Massie really couldn't remember what the name of was) braced long poles against the quay to add speed, Dethrin jumped. His paws snatched at a dangling rope, and then his feet found support on the crude wooden rungs nailed to the side of the boat.
Winded, he could only cling and pray that the boat would be fast enough to get away from the shore before the Tonu wrapped his grubby hoof-feet around his neck.
"Up," Massie whispered. Dethrin made a face. It would probably be a lot more dramatic to pretend to be slipping and have someone haul him up right before his fingers let go.
"JUST YOU WAIT, YOU LITTLE STREET RAT! I WILL GET YOU!!!!!!!!" But then again... being safe on deck wasn't that bad, either.
Meanwhile, deep down within the belly of the boat, a faerie made her way into the cabin, observing the assembled pets from the depths of her cowl. There were some who turned away, some who snorted, seemingly unimpressed, and some who decided to pretend that they hadn't seen her.
"We ought to push them overboard straightaway," an Ogrin growled. "They have the look of spies."
"Low-down magic-user scum," the Kougra sitting beside him agreed. "Ye can't trust any of those types. They're nature's failures, they are."
Calmly, the faerie turned around and tossed a pale lightning bolt at the two offending pets, allowing herself half an amused smile to grace her lips as the two pets fell to the floor, insensate.
Then—"Who?" Her voice was cool, soft, like freshly fallen snow. It feathered around the room, eliciting flinches from many of the occupants.
A red Kyrii stepped forward, face set. "Two pets, a Peophin and a Uni. They bought passage for four, but only two showed up. And right now they're huddled together up on deck, muttering to themselves about leaks and idiots and magic. And I'll not have you and the rest of your gang hurting my men, I won't, Lady Roshna."
The light faerie made a noise of contempt. "And who are you to stop me? I could blind all of you without lifting a finger, so just imagine what the eight of us could do... Captain Inman."
The Kyrii gave a roar of rage and strode over to her, curved sword held aloft. "Are you threatening us?"
"Hmm... why yes, I think I am. But put that toy down." Her fingers sketched a few symbols and the sword clattered to the ground as it suddenly burned white hot.
"Faerie filth!" another Kyrii emerged from the kitchen, holding a poker.
"Sit down!" the faerie's eyes flashed dangerously. "All of you, SIT DOWN!" a nimbus of light encompassed the room as various pets snarled and reached for their weapons, then continued to snarl (and only snarl) as they realized that they were all locked in place.
"My comrades and I have been scouring Neopia for the rogue apprentice, and we are certain that she is nearby. But her magic comes only in the briefest flashes... which makes it... difficult... to actually find her." Her lip curled.
"So, yer sayin' that ye can't even fin—"
"However," Roshna raised her voice, speaking over the mutters and snorts. "Only minutes ago, we felt her presence using magic, over a longer period of time than we had expected, so we managed to track her here... to the docks."
A silence followed her announcement, then Inman swore explosively. "Why didn't you tell us sooner?! We could have stopped the ship, found her. But now, we're on our way to sea, and by the time we get back, she could be on any barge in Meridell!"
Roshna shrugged. "She cannot hide from us... where are you headed?"
"Krawk Island." Inman grunted. "A week, if your friend gives us a wind."
"Yna has more important things to do than squander her power simply to earn you a few more Neopoints. Namely, finding the apprentice, which, might I remind you, is what you ought to be doing as well, not attempting to make a profit from... what is this?"
"Conkerberries," Inman snarled, snatching the tough berry away from the faerie and putting it back in its barrel. "You should know, you use them for your potions."
"We do?" Roshna made a face. "I wouldn't know about that; I never took Potions."
"It also makes a good grog—"
"Ugh." Roshna waved her hand. "Then shut up. I can't stand that filthy brew of yours. Anyway. Keep an eye out for the apprentice, and don't let her slip through your fingers again."
"We don't even know what she looks like!" shouted Inman. "If you'd given us a description, we would've found her by now! But nooo, all you tell us is that she'll look out of control! Half the people on the decks look dazed! Seasick or just plain fools! You—"
"We don't know what she looks like, either." Roshna shrugged. "All we know is that she's swiftly losing control of her magic, and that she isn't ordinary... we heard whispers about Jhudora taking an abnormal apprentice... just pay attention, would you? You'll be able to tell, so don't let her sail right past you without a struggle."
"'Without a struggle'? You're saying that she can defeat all fifty of my men? Untrained?"
"Oh, yes." Roshna smiled. "So struggle to buy us time. Life-and-death struggle."
Dethrin heaved himself up, swung his legs over the safety rail, and rolled over onto the deck. Beside him, Massie stood, having flown, appearing annoyingly un-tired.
"Now what?" Dethrin jumped up, ignoring his various bumps and bruises like he thought a true hero should. Strong and silent, the only way to become a great hero. Well, that, or the swashbuckling gallant cocky pirate type, which he couldn't be, since he couldn't speak Pirate and didn't want to lose his eyes, legs and paws.
"Do you know where 'Nette and Raven are?" Massie asked, breaking into his thoughts of salt air, gleaming jewels and no limbs.
"Hide!" he replied, diving into a pile of sacks.
Massie immediately looked around for a good place to conceal herself, and her eyes fell upon a pile of enormous barrels stacked on their sides. She rushed over and was just about to crouch down behind them when she saw why she was hiding.
The round lid of one of the barrels was open and a faerie was standing in the opening, and it was plain that the barrel was little more than the gate to the dark passageway beyond.
The faerie was tall, and satisfied every cherished idea of a faerie. Delicate, pale skin, smooth as china. Sunlight tresses. Finely chiselled features, more beautiful in their expression of hostility than the smiling face of the sun. And under her dark cloak, simple yet elegant raiment in... black?
I've never seen a faerie in black before, thought Dethrin. Neither had he ever seen a faerie with such a grim stance and such a... bellicose expression on her face. An assassin, I'll bet. Or maybe... he went cold. A faerie who's looking for Massie.
Eyes the color of warm honey rested on Massie's face. Dethrin flinched as Massie tensed, then watched in mingled incredulity, relief and disappointment as an amused smile played upon the faerie's lips and she launched herself off the ship, flying towards the shore.
To be continued...