Storm of Fortunes: Part Five
It was hard to concentrate. Tyson recalled that there was some amount of urgency in his current situation, however, and forced his eyes to blearily open.
A strange creature stood over him. She seemed to be part Acara, part Korbat. When she saw that Tyson was awake, she smiled. Tyson observed that she was actually rather pretty.
"Who are you?" he asked, aware that his words were a little slurred.
"My name is Vira. But more to the point, my dear; who are you?"
He knew that name should have been familiar.
"You have ties to the wraith, don't you?"
"Wraith?" Tyson struggled to remember. "You mean... Wolf?"
"Yes. Wolf." Vira's eyes glimmered. "Tell me more."
Alarm bells resounded, albeit rather foggily, in Tyson's mind. He slapped himself, tried to clear his head. Why was it so hard to think?
"Jeremy, what do you know about him?"
Of course! Vira doesn't...
"I don't," Tyson said.
The creature narrowed her eyes.
"Don't play dumb with me, Mr, Tyson, although I'm sure it's very easy for you. Where can we find the wraith?"
"I don't know."
"Meske, put him out."
A Grarrl stepped up with a syringe and moved out of Tyson's line of sight. The Ogrin felt something sink into his arm, and the world swam out of focus and faded to black.
"Who're "they", Mister Wolf?"
"You don't want to know, Tyson."
Wolf paused to compose herself.
There were more guards at the entrance to the estate than previously, as they had expected. Accepting this, Wolf moved away and around the corner, putting a cluster of rose bushes between herself and the guards.
Up ahead, a large pipe protruded from the earth. Crouching down, Wolf made her way towards it and peered inside. From what she could tell, it was part of a storm water drain.
Wolf looked up, scanned her surroundings for any way to discretely enter the castle grounds. Then, having confirmed that there was no-one watching, she lay down by the entrance to the pipe. By contracting the mists more densely about her core, she was just able to wriggle inside.
The tunnel was dark. She could see no light by which to navigate. Encouraged by the distant sound of dripping water, Wolf struggled onward through the damp, mossy pipe.
After maybe ten minutes, she heard muffled voices overhead. Wolf ceased moving, turning her head slightly to better hear.
"It's not fair," one voice grumbled. It was male.
"Well, what would you do?"
This second voice sounded impatient and was higher pitched than the first, but it was hard to determine the gender of the speaker.
"I'd buy some new shoes."
A laugh. "Yeah, well, I suppose you do need some."
Concluding that she was unlikely to get any useful information out of that particular conversation, Wolf crawled onward. By now, she thought she could detect a faint glow up ahead.
The light came from the slits in a drain cover, which protruded from the castle wall and into the courtyard. Wolf contorted her body and twisted up the short slope leading to the exit. She couldn't see anyone inside the courtyard, but her range of view was limited to what she could see through the drain covering. It was still quite possible that there was someone there.
Wolf butted her head against the cover. It didn't budge. With a muffled grunt, she rolled over onto her stomach and extended her hands towards them. With slender fingers, the wraith probed the bars of the cover, feeling around for any bolts that could be holding it in place. When she encountered none she drew back, and threw herself against the bars.
They came away and clattered against the paving stones below. Wolf slid out of the opening, poised for action, but the area seemed to be deserted. After a moment of observation, she drew back into the shadow of the wall and darted towards the entrance to the main castle.
The Pteri touched his shoulder.
"Jeremy, please. We won't hurt you. Tell us what you know."
Thoughts and feelings drifted like fog through Tyson's mind. He didn't speak. The Bori clung to one thought above all, clung to it like a lifeline: it would be bad to speak.
Two Kougras stood to the left of the room, watching him in silence. They had been standing there for a while, moving only occasionally; but now they came forward a few steps. The taller of the two looked at the Pteri and tilted her head to the side.
The Pteri sighed. "He won't listen, Hanni. We may have drugged him too deeply. Go and find the mistress."
The tall Kougra nodded and both girls turned away, leaving Tyson to his grogginess and scattered thoughts.
The Eyrie stared down at the wraith, visibly shocked. The wraith coolly returned her gaze.
"Moltara. Or, should I say, Lady Eischelswa?"
The Eyrie climbed down from the ledge, to join Anubis in the shadowy alcove.
"Yes. But please keep calling me Moltara."
He nodded. "Fair enough."
Moltara scrutinised him with growing anxiety. "Why are you here? You won't hurt them, will you? You promised."
"They will be fine. Do you know where the green Bori is being held?"
"Jeremy?" She nodded. "In the throne room. That's..."
"I know where it is." The wraith gave a curt nod. "Goodbye."
"Good luck, Anubis."
Wolf entered the building unopposed. But once inside, she almost immediately sensed that something was wrong. It was too quiet.
The wraith spun about. Vira regarded her from a corner, dagger lying flat across her palm. She was smiling.
"Vira," the wraith hissed.
Vira murmured something, before moving to close and bolt the doors. Wolf lunged, but the dagger swooped towards her of its own accord, and she had to twist away to avoid the blade. It caught her arm as it passed, cutting deep. Poison glimmered in the wound. Wolf hissed, swiped at it with lightning speed, seizing hold of the handle. The dagger tried to break free of her grip, but Wold held it in place with grim determination.
Vira came closer. She was still wearing that cruel, joyful smile. She toyed with the mirror as she walked.
"Wolf, would you like to be beautiful?"
"I won't fall for your tricks," Wolf gasped, still struggling with the dagger.
Vira slowly blinked. "Really?"
She held the mirror, face first, out towards the wraith. At first Wolf resisted. She concentrated on the dagger, which struggled against her like a fearsome spirit. But she had to know what the mirror would present. Was it beautiful? How much did it look like her? Whatever it was, she was strong enough to deal with it.
Wolf risked a glance. A handsome male Korbat, with wavy black locks and dark purple skin. Wolf couldn't help it. She laughed.
"You don't know me at all."
Vira's countenance darkened. She gestured roughly, and the dagger tore free of Wolf's grip. It turned, slashed at her, forcing her backwards into an adjoining room.
The door slammed shut. Vira glared at Wolf through the narrow bars.
"Right. We have you. That'll teach you to snoop, kid."
Tyson was finally alone.
He forced his legs into action, tottered around a bit, before finally managing to reach the throne to the rear of the room. Here Tyson caught himself against one of its ornate arms, and focused on stopping the world from spinning. It was difficult, with the effort making him even more nauseous.
Why was he even trying? For the life of him, Tyson couldn't remember. His hosts had been civil to him. Or had... he couldn't remember. His recent memories had fused together into a colourful, noisy mess. It was hard to select individual thoughts and notions.
He needed someone. He needed... Vira.
No! Lights flashed before his eyes. He needed... streaks of colour played across his vision, while an image of a dark figure drifted at the edge of his mind. Who was it that he needed?
Tyson turned towards the door. Where was she? She would be able to help him remember.
Hanni timidly put a paw to the grate.
The creature whirled, lips curled.
"What?" it growled.
"I can..." Hanni swallowed. "I have a key."
The wraith held out its hand. Hanni hesitated.
"What?" it asked.
"Well..." Hanni wrung her paws, and looked around her in anguish.
"What is it?"
Wolf sounded impatient, but there was no hint of a threat in his voice. Hanni looked back at him.
"She'll punish me," she murmured.
"I won't let that happen."
Wolf forced a paw through the narrow bars, extending it towards the Kougra. "I'm here to help you,"
Hanni hesitated, before shaking her head. Much to her own disgust, there was fear in her voice.
"She'll get to you, Mister Wolf. She'll use that mirror. It makes you... see things, and you'll do anything to see them again."
"Hmm," Wolf withdrew his paw, and seemed to smile. "She can't affect me."
"She doesn't understand me. Trust me, please."
Hanni shifted. "Why?"
"I made a promise, Hanni. I don't break them. You'll be safe."
The Darigan Kougra hesitated. After a moment, she held out the key. Suddenly a scream rent the air. It was shrill- full of horror and despair.
Hanni turned, deaf to the voice of the wraith beside her.
"Unlock the door. I'll do my best to help Amaira. Girl!"
He seized Hanni's arm as she went to flee. Hanni struggled, clawing at the limb with her free hand.
"I need to help her!"
"Give me the key, then."
Hanniala threw it at the bars, and then pulled free as the wraith's grip slackened. Without so much as a backwards glance, Hanni broke into a sprint, headed in the direction of the cry.
To be continued...