Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 192,066,143 Issue: 629 | 24th day of Sleeping, Y16
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Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part One


by herdygerdy

--------

10 Years Ago...

It had been three years since Clayton Moore had stepped foot on Terror Mountain. He had not missed it.

     The brown Kougra was wrapped up warm against the snow flurry that was blowing in across the docks. There were few travellers to Terror Mountain in the lull before the Month of Giving began, making the dark-cloaked traveller stand out in the pier.

     Though not as much as the Wocky he was meeting.

     Duke Hopesmeade was decked out in a green travelling coat that matched the colour of his fur. A top hat and cane did nothing to offset the ostentatiousness of his outfit - but that was Hopesmeade down to a tee.

     "Good to see you again, Clayton," he greeted him gruffly. "Let's get out of the cold, shall we?"

     The Kougra nodded enthusiastically, and Hopesmeade led him away from the docks into the town of Happy Valley. Things there were quiet, as well. The locals knew better than to venture out in a storm, and were keeping inside.

     Hopesmeade guided Clayton to a tavern, where a warm fire and a loud atmosphere greeted them. Mountaineers were stranded there, unable to attempt the climb until the storm passed. Instead, they were telling each other stories of their various adventures. Clayton and Hopesmeade located a suitably quiet corner to sit and talk.

     "The last time I was here, we blew a hole in the ice sheet," Clayton said.

     "I should hope that will not be necessary," Hopesmeade replied, dusting the snow off his coat as he took it off. "Though, one never knows."

     "That's not funny," Clayton said.

     "It wasn't a joke," Hopesmeade replied lightly. "The Duchess has authorised us to use any and all means to bring down Galem Darkhand."

     That was the reason they were there - the pair of them, agents of the Sway - to remove Galem from his position as head of the Thieves Guild. It was a mission that bothered Clayton. Before he had joined the Sway, Clayton had been a member of the Guild in Neopia Central.

     "I'm surprised to have been selected," Clayton remarked. "When Faversham first recruited me, he said we avoided conflicts of interest like this."

     Hopesmeade paused.

     "What exactly did the Duchess tell you?"

     "That I was to meet you on Terror Mountain for further instructions, and that we were bringing down Galem."

     "Ah," Hopesmeade said. "Well, that is a half-truth. It is my mission to destroy Galem, and whilst we are to work together, your mission is somewhat different. You are tasked with awakening the Bori race."

     "The Bori?" Clayton gasped.

     The ancient race had been forced into a deep magical slumber beneath the ice sheet some five thousand years ago after a bitter war ended in stalemate. Their existence was known to only a few - the Sway of course, were in that circle.

     "It is the singular reason that the Duchess has allowed Galem Darkhand to hold his position as head of the Guild for so long," Hopesmeade said. "His desire for cursed Bori artifacts, particularly the Heart of the Mountain gemstone, could only end in the revival of the Bori race at some point. Effectively, he has been our unknowing agent for some time now, doing a lot of our work for us. But, his usefulness is at an end."

     "How so?"

     "He has discovered the location of the Bringer of Night, the powerful being that the Bori were fighting all those millennia ago," Hopesmeade said. "He is seeking the aid of the well known adventurer known as Hannah. If the Bringer is awakened and manages to destroy the sleeping Bori, it will hamper our plans. It is time for us to act - a successor to Galem has already been selected. It is your old friend, Kanrik."

     "What is the plan of action?" Clayton asked.

     "It is already in motion," Hopesmeade said. "Kanrik has been sent to recruit Hannah, and the two will locate the tomb in the Lost Desert. One of our agents has been embedded within the Thieves Guild, and is currently providing backup to Kanrik. When the time is right, he will plant this in the tomb for Hannah to find."

     Hopesmeade passed a scrap of parchment across the table. It looked like a ruby pendant.

     "This is a chip from the Heart of the Mountain gemstone. Reuniting it with the main crystal will break the spell the Bori are under and wake them all. Our agents found it while cataloguing the haul from Emperor Razul's stash - you remember? The one we had Sloth raid for us. We've been holding back for the right time to use the pendent, but it appears Galem is forcing our hand."

     "We're delivering it to Hannah because we intend for her to side with the Bori then?"

     "Galem will betray her, the orders have already been given to Kanrik and his support group," Hopesmeade said. "Mere opposition to Galem will ally her with the Bori, and us."

     "If you already have the mechanism for saving the Bori in motion, why am I needed at all?" Clayton asked.

     "Because Hannah will not find the Heart of the Mountain in time without help," Hopesmeade said. "It is up to you to arrange that help. Tunnels need clearing, people need bribing, and, we suspect, certain Bori near the fringes of the spell's effect can be liberated early. They could prove useful guides to Hannah."

     "And you?"

     "Monitoring the Guild's progress and stalling it wherever possible. Galem is beset by traitors within, both in our employ and not. It should not prove difficult to sabotage his efforts. Speaking of which..."

     A cloaked figure had entered the tavern, and purposely avoided eye contact with them. He walked past their table, silently depositing a scroll as he went.

     Hopesmeade read it.

     "Ah," he said with a smile. "This is one of Galem's schemes that we shall allow. It seems he has dispatched one of his most trusted thieves, Galem the Quick, the the peak of the mountain. His mission is to take the Snow Faerie, Taelia, out of action for the time being. With her out of the way, we are relatively free to move as we wish without threat of detection on the mountain's surface. Use caution in the tunnels though, Kari the Negg Faerie may not be as powerful, but she still answers to Queen Fyora."

     The Faeries, of course, had the influence and power to completely crush the Sway if ever they were discovered. Whenever a Faerie was nearby, caution was the name of the game for agents.

     Hopesmeade pocketed the message, he would dispose of it in a less public place - best not to raise attention.

     "We will of course stay in contact during the operation," Hopesmeade said. "But the Duchess trusts you enough, after your efforts in Meridell, to get the job done independently. Don't waste this trust."

     "I won't," Clayton said, standing up. "But don't think I haven't noticed."

     "Noticed what?"

     "You seem to have the mission that involves infiltrating an organisation in Happy Vally," Clayton said. "Whereas I have one that involves me scaling a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm."

     Hopesmeade smirked. "A coincidence, I assure you."

     ***

     Clayton left Happy Valley that night, and while the storm has settled slightly, it was still not the kind of conditions you would travel in. Hopesmeade has equipped him with a diagram of the Bori caves, stolen from the Seekers. It was based on information from five thousand years ago though. None of the Bori caves had been found since - it was unlikely all of them were still intact, as cave-ins within the Ice Caves were common.

     Clayton had picked out one of the closest cave entrances, and hoped he would be lucky. It was about a quarter of the way up the mountain, meaning Clayton would have to spend most of the night trekking through snow drifts to find it.

     ***

     Hopesmeade too, was busy. Carefully he watched from the shadows as the Bruce made his way through the streets of Happy Valley. The thief was being cautious, but he was in a rush. He wasn't checking behind him as often as he should. That made Hopesmeade's job easier, at least.

     Eventually, the Bruce disappeared down a side alleyway. There, a cloaked Acara was waiting. Hopesmeade recognised her - Masila. A relatively new recruit to the Guild, she had successfully bent the ear of Galem. Hopesmeade had learned, however, that she was secretly plotting to overthrow the Grarrl with Kanrik.

     Hopesmeade doubted if she really wanted either man in power - she was using them as tools for her own ends.

     "They have it," the Bruce said. "A message just arrived. Kanrik and his men are boarding a ship in the desert right now."

     "A coffin? As expected?" Masila asked.

     The Bruce nodded.

     "Excellent. I will tell Galem," Masila said. "What of the adventurer they employed?"

     "Kanrik's message says that she fell to her death within the tomb," the Bruce said. "She will not be an issue."

     Hopesmeade doubted that last part. Hannah had explored more tombs than most - a simple fall should not have stopped her. If the Guild believed her dead though, that would help the Sway's plan no end. He only hoped that the agent in Kanrik's gang had successfully planted the keystone necklace in a place where Hannah would find it. Without it, the entire plan would fall apart.

To be continued...

 
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