Agent of the Sway: Isolation - Part Three
311 Years Ago...
There was a brief white flash, as is customary, and the sense of movement abruptly stopped. Clayton struggled to keep himself from throwing up as the world refocused into new colours and arrangements. The ruined castle was gone, replaced instead with halls of gleaming white. Ahead of the Kougra and Zylphia, the small group of schoolchildren had also materialised.
Clayton quickly grabbed Zylphia and pulled the Lupe back out of eyeline around a corner. She was gasping excitedly.
"Did you feel that?" she whispered like a child. "We've done it! It really worked!"
"No sign of your machine, I see," Clayton whispered back. "It really was a one way trip."
"The return journey is up to you," Zylphia said. "Your leader didn't tell you?"
"Yes, I know," Clayton said, edging back towards the corner of the wall. "Stop a war, save three kingdoms, and we'll all go right back home."
"Where are we?" the red Zafara dressed as Kauvara was saying.
A pair of patrolling guards overheard her, heading down towards the group of friends.
"You're not going to help them?" Zylphia asked.
"How?" Clayton replied. "I'm just as much an intruder here as they are. Going around killing guards is hardly going to help matters either."
Lisha had launched into a tale of how they came to be there, which the Draik guards were clearly not buying. When at last she finished, they began to escort them away.
"We follow from a distance," Clayton instructed. "I'll free them from the dungeons once the guards have left. Sorry, I'll help you get out of the castle soon enough, but for now it is better if we stick together."
Zylphia nodded, silently falling into step behind Clayton as they trailed the group.
As they passed a row of stained glass windows, however, the group was suddenly halted. The windows burst inwards, showering them all with glass for a few moments before they could react to the new arrivals.
If Clayton had to guess, he would say that they were a Techo, a Skeith, and a Scorchio. But not ones he had ever seen before. They seemed horribly mutated, like one of Dr. Sloth's experiments. Covered in scales and claws. The gathered guards and schoolchildren were clearly shocked. Clayton, not so much. He had seen the sketches of Darigan Neopets in the documents stolen from the Seekers - this was the curse that befell them after the orb was stolen. They had become twisted versions of themselves. Even prepared though, the sight of one in the flesh was something else.
The guards were unprepared, so the Darigan invaders made short work of them. The schoolchildren dumbly tried to fight with their cardboard weapons. They would be beaten in seconds.
Quickly, Clayton took his crossbow from under his cloak and readied it. Once, he had been an awful shot with the thing, but years of practice had made him into a decent shot, if nothing else.
He fired off one bolt at the Skeith, who crumpled back towards the floor. Lisha, who had been challenging it with her wand, looked down at it as if it had fired off a magical blast.
Clayton hastily reloaded, firing another bolt at the Scorchio just as Kayla, the one dressed as Kauvara, threw a mock potion at it. The Scorchio stumbled backwards out of the shattered window.
A third bolt sailed into the Techo as Boris, the Blumaroo dressed as Von Roo bounced on top of it. The invaders had been beaten, and Clayton quickly disappeared back behind the corner as the Draik guards regained consciousness.
"It seems we judged you wrongly..." one of them ventured.
Together, they decided it would be best to tell King Skarl about the invaders, and made their way off down one of the side corridors towards the throne room.
"You think that will be enough?" Zylphia asked.
"For now," Clayton nodded. "Let's focus on getting ourselves out of here."
Zylphia nodded in agreement to this. Together, they made their way out of one of the smashed windows and onto the castle battlements. From there they were able to use to rope Clayton had brought along to abseil down the wall and creep back into Meridell town.
It was night, so the buildings were quiet. Still though, one of the local taverns was open and they were able to get lodgings. Clayton didn't sleep for most of the night, instead pouring over the maps and histories he had obtained from the Seekers. If these were right, the Darigan Citadel would be arriving very soon. War was on the horizon.
Clayton's worst suspicions were confirmed when they had breakfast the following morning. There there rumours of the attack on the castle of course, as well as ones about some new relatives of Sir Jeran that were staying at the castle. But the main whispers were about a mysterious floating castle that had appeared on the horizon.
It was only a dot in the sky at the moment, but people said it was moving closer. There was disquiet and suspicion on all sides. Something was coming, and it wasn't something good.
Zylphia had long since ventured out into town, making good on her promise not to take part in whatever schemes Clayton was planning. This left him on his own - for now.
He was certainly going to get nowhere without making contact with local members of the Sway. The castle was where he was going to find them.
Thankfully it was only the main castle areas that were guarded, the courtyard was open to the public and had a variety of local food stalls set up within. It appeared the magic of the orb was doing its job - crops were bountiful in Meridell, the memories of the famine long forgotten.
Clayton busied himself pretending to examine the local vegetables while silently appraising the people in the courtyard. There was a way agents of the Sway moved, he had learned. You had to be one to notice another, the way they melted into shadows. It wasn't like the Thieves Guild at all, somehow more subtle. There, but at the same time, not there at all.
A flicker of something on the edge of his vision caught his attention. No one there, but a moment ago Clayton had sworn he had seen someone. Slowly, he made his way over to the passageways that led to the castle kitchens, slipping past the guards as he went.
There. A grey Cybunny was disappearing into one of the store cupboards. He followed silently, pausing outside the door.
"You stomp around any louder and they'll hear you on Kreludor," her voice came casually from within. "What do you want?"
Clayton was momentarily stunned, before he gathered himself and strode casually into the storeroom, closing the door behind him.
"We have mutual friends, I believe," he said, flashing the signet ring, calling card of the Sway.
It was a triangle surrounding a stylised S, one only a fully fledged member possessed. The Cybunny had one on her finger as well.
"That didn't answer my question," she replied sharply. "I wasn't informed that any other agents would be in the castle. You are unexpected. Explain yourself."
"I am a member of the Sway and I require your assistance. That should be enough," Clayton said.
"If you are not meant to be here, you are not a member of the Sway," she replied cooly.
Clayton noticed her hand moving behind her back. Reaching for a dagger stowed on her person, no doubt.
"My story is not likely to be one you believe," Clayton explained. "But, if you are in contact with our organisation's leader, they will vouch for me if you send them this."
He offered the scroll. Skeptically she took it and greedily broke the seal. She read the contents once, before looking at him with a deep frown.
"Is this some kind of joke?" she asked. "This is blank."
She showed him the document. As she claimed, there was nothing written on it.
"Humour me. Our leader will understand," Clayton insisted.
It was a bluff. In truth, he had no idea why the Duchess would equip him with a blank scroll.
"Follow me," she said eventually.
She led him out of the storeroom and down the corridors until they emerged into a small courtyard with a number of cages in. Each one contained a different flying Petpet - the King's aviary.
She made her way towards a small Crokabek and tied the note to its leg. The creature crowed and took flight, heading for a new destination. Clayton had to suppress a laugh - even centuries in the past, some of the Sway's traditions persisted.
It was only a few minutes until the reply arrived, as if it had already been in the air before the original message had been sent. Carefully, the Cybunny read it over.
"It seems you are correct," she said carefully. "I am to help you in your mission however you can. So... What exactly is your mission, Mr...?"
"Moore," he said. "Clayton Moore. You are?"
"Lady Elizabeth Mayflower," she said with a brief curtsy. "I require an answer to my question."
"Well, Lady Mayflower," Clayton said with a grin. "If you must know, I am from the future. And I have come to stop a war."
Her face was a picture of incredulity, but gradually as Clayton related his tale, and the details of Skarl's orb theft which a mere outsider would have no idea of, she began to soften in her expression. When at last he was finished, she had only one question.
"Then the darkening cloud on the horizon really is the Darigan Citadel?"
"Skarl is already preparing for war after the attack on the castle last night, but it is a slow process he often gets into whenever he is angry at a particular ruler - I thought nothing of it," she said.
"Rest assured it will be the largest war this realm has ever fought," Clayton said. "Darigan is singularly prepared for war."
"Then we must be as well."
To be continued...