Out of the Shadows: Part Five
"I..." Adele whispered, for once lost for words.
Her eyes were wide in shock, and the purple nimbus of power had disappeared. The room was lit by the flickering light of hundreds of faeries, all trapped in one of the bottles that were lined along the wall opposite, stacked up neatly until they almost touched the ceiling. Cobolt finally tore his gaze away from his friend's stricken face and strode forward, intending to break each and every bottle open to set the faeries free.
He hadn't gone more than two steps before he collided with an invisible barrier. His whole body tingled for moment, an extremely unpleasant sensation, and then he was flung back into the wall. He hit the hard stone with a crunch and slid to the floor, disorientated.
He had at least managed to drag Adele back out from her haze of fear and she snapped her head around to stare at him in astonishment.
"There's some sort of magical barrier," he rasped, slowly stretching his muscles and standing up, using the wall to lean on for support. His skin was still tingling slightly, and he could see wisps of purple peeling away from his fur and fading from sight.
Adele snarled. "I'm going to find whoever did this and..." her voice faded away menacingly and Cobolt could just imagine what would happen next. Whenever she made a threat her hands would glow an ominous purple and she would summon a ball of Darkness. But to his surprise her hands merely let out a few black sparks, and she glared at them, then at the bottle faeries.
"The barrier is interfering with my magic. It stinks of that ward Karl cast on his window. I can't get any magic to work!" She took a step forward and kicked at the wall, and Cobolt saw a shiver go down her spine, then she slowly backed away. It wasn't quite as spectacular as his collision, but it was a lot more of a reaction than he expected.
He had finally managed to stop his legs shaking, and he tried to summon a light with his wand. The end of the dark wood began to smoke and it made a pitiful hissing sound.
"How did Karl get so powerful?" he growled.
Adele had been stalking back and forth in front of the barrier, every so often glancing at her trapped sisters. The faeries in the bottles looked quite listless, and they didn't seem to be able to see past the glass. Now the Dark Faerie stopped near one side of the room and squinted at a shard of crystal attached to the wall.
"Those jewels we found on his desk. He's using them to maintain this spell," she said. "And we can't break through with magic..." She looked thoughtful, then looked appraisingly at Cobolt before shaking her head. He wondered what she could be thinking, but then she peeled off one of her black gloves and tossed it at the barrier.
There was a loud buzzing sound, and the air in front of them vibrated, then the glove dissolved into dust. Cobolt edged away from the barrier slowly.
"I guess throwing your wand at it is out of the question," Adele murmured.
"You can say it is!" Cobolt snapped, hugging the wooden rod to his chest.
"But we can't get through this barrier by ourselves. We need to get some help."
She went to the door and beckoned Cobolt to follow her. He looked back and saw her casting a regretful glance at the bottled faeries. Even a Dark faerie would never wish that on another one of their kind. Then the door closed and they were left in complete darkness again.
"But why?" Cobolt growled. "Why would Karl be doing this?" Then his mind drifted back and made a connection. "The book!" In response to Adele's raised eyebrow he continued. "The book on Karl's desk was about Balthazar. It probably had details on how Balthazar manages to capture faeries."
Adele nodded curtly, then looked down the passage that they had not yet gone down, indecision on her face. Finally she came to a decision. "There's no point following Karl. If he's going to capture more Faeries, we're better off finding someone to release the ones already caught." She shivered slightly, then pretended it had never happened by shooting Cobolt a look of steel. "There's some reason he's been doing this, and we need to stop it. Now."
She glided back up the way they had come, summoning a magical cloud to usher her forward. Cobolt had to jog beside her to keep up, but in half the time they managed to reach the door. Cobolt quickly dismantled the lock, as it had been of his own making, then replaced it with an even shoddier job than before in his haste to find some help.
"Where to now?" he asked as he dashed up the stairs beside Adele.
"We need to find one of the teachers," Adele said. "Preferably a faerie."
"Right, second level then," Cobolt said, reaching the landing on the ground floor then executing a sharp turn to bound up the second flight of stairs. Adele glided after him. They reached the first floor containing student's rooms, and here he paused, frowning, then quickly faded into the nearest shadow. Adele passed him, then looked back, saw he had disappeared, and came to join him.
"What is it?" she whispered.
"Look," he whispered back. He indicated down the corridor. The first doors they were about to pass were hanging wide open. "Even if that many students were out at this time of night, they wouldn't be stupid enough to just leave their doors like that."
Adele frowned and followed his gaze. Her door was the fourth one down, and it was still closed.
"Only pets' doors are open," she observed after a few seconds. Cobolt took another look and realised she was right. They exchanged a look of silent communication, then ghosted forward, shifting in and out of the shadows until they reached the first room. Adele peered inside.
"It's empty," she whispered.
Then someone screamed.
Cobolt leapt visibly in the air, but Adele didn't look at all ruffled. She gazed in that direction, just as the door opposite them opened and a Light faerie stepped out. The student glanced down towards the sound, then frowned and floated down the corridor. She didn't even see them, lurking as they were in the shadows.
"We have to check it out," Adele said. She grabbed a decent handful of his mane and dragged him forward.
They emerged into one of the study halls on this floor, and found the room full of faeries, all surrounding one pet. Still hidden from view, Cobolt stared in confusion. The pet was their teacher Kaumina, except the Kau was standing placidly in the middle of the room, not moving a muscle. Behind her, completely against the laws of Light and the giant globe overheard, her shadow had stretched out to twice her size.
It looked vaguely familiar, and Cobolt recognised the shape as a Captive Shadow Wraith. Except it was distorted; the snout was longer, and its legs had combined together into a long black stream that attached it to Kaumina. Its empty eyes roved over the Faeries, the head twisting this way and that, and then a forked tongue flickered out. With every passing moment Cobolt could see a purple aura beginning to glow around it.
A Fire faerie that Cobolt recognised as one of the second year teachers stepped forwards and shot a ball of fire at the Wraith, but it grinned, teeth shining purple, and lashed out with its tail at her, one half of its 'body' dissolving for a few seconds to allow the fireball to pass straight through it.
Adele hissed. "What on Neopia is going on? I thought those things were tame?"
"Not anymore, it seems," Cobolt said. "And I think there's only one way to find out. We have to find Karl."
They left the Faeries behind to battle the Wraith and raced back down to the basement. This time Cobolt took a leaf out of Adele's book and merely blasted the door away. The stone shattered into shards, and Cobolt finally realised why the Dark faerie did it so often; it was just so satisfying! They bypassed the first door and went along the passage, making sure they were concealed in the shadows.
Cobolt turned another corner and almost tripped over another Wraith. It scampered out of the way, barely turning its head towards him, and then Adele rounded the corner.
The reaction this time was much different. The Wraith gave a shrill cry and launched itself at her. But she was ready, and she sent it flying backwards with a ball of dark purple. It tumbled head over heels, then scurried out of reach. After giving them what seemed like a reproachful look, it turned tail and bolted.
They followed, more cautiously now, until a flickering light appeared up ahead. A door appeared, and candlelight spilled out of it, bright compared to the darkness of the passage, but otherwise quite dim. Cobolt crept up to the door and glanced inside, making sure he was still concealed.
Inside was a small room containing a very messy desk, and shelves of bottles and artefacts. There were a number of strange-looking statues and lumps of metal, and most of the bottles were filled with some sort of liquid or powder. Bent over the desk was a large Halloween Chomby, skull-like face set in a satisfied grin. His shadow stretched impossibly large behind him, projected onto the wall behind despite the candles flickering at every corner of the room. A Shadow Wraith grinned there.
Cobolt pulled his head back and looked at Adele. Her hands were clenched into fists, and she moved forward before he could stop her. To his relief she merely shifted into the shadow cast by one of the shelves, disappearing from his sight.
Karl turned around and he tensed, but the Chomby merely walked over to the shelf and inspected the contents, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Cobolt waited with his whole body frozen in fear. What if Karl spotted Adele? Then he shook his head; Adele was much too good at this for anyone to spot her, especially if they weren't in the same shadow.
As soon this thought had crossed his mind Karl snatched up an empty glass jar from the shelf and held out one foot towards Adele's hiding place. There was a flash of bright light, and the whole room was lit up, revealing the very startled Dark faerie. She gave a scream of rage and darted forwards, a black mist creeping up the Chomby's legs where her hands pointed.
Karl completely ignored the mist and instead unscrewed the jar. He muttered under his breath, and a net of magically woven gold threads surrounded Adele. Her cry of rage turned to a cry of fear. She began to rapidly shrink, while Karl slowly made a fist, the net closing in around her. When she only a few centimetres tall he waved his fist and the net drifted towards the jar. The black mist puddled around his feet drifted upwards, sucked into the jar as Adele was lowered in, her face a mask of desperation. Within seconds she was trapped, and the lid was firmly screwed on top as the net melted away.
Karl smiled and let out a low chuckle, then turned to the doorway and looked directly at Cobolt.
"Why don't you join me?" he asked amiably.
Then there was darkness.
To be continued...