Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Three
The Thieves Guild had been fighting all night - the Bringer himself seemed largely impervious to his efforts, and certainly Hopesmeade was not capable of downing such a creature. His minions, as well, seemed to regenerate. As soon as one was destroyed, another took its place. The Guild had been forced back, out of their camp and towards the mountainside where the digging efforts had begun the previous day.
Sunlight proved an unlikely ally - dawn broke, and seemed to melt the Bringer's minions. Hopesmeade at last understood the purpose of the title, Bringer of Night. His powers were clearly only at their greatest in darkness.
The Bringer himself would still have proved a formidable opponent even for the entire Guild, but Galem saw his chance to end it.
"Stop!" he called out to it. "I know what you are! You want to get into the mountain. We can help you find a way in."
The Bringer considered the Grarrl's words. Slowly, he lowered his stance, sloping off towards the drilling machines to await his prize.
With the danger abated, the Guild turned inwards on itself. It wasn't long until Galem located the culprit, the one who had freed the Bringer - Kanrik. Masila, the traitorous Acara, once more stood by Galem's side. All thoughts of siding with Kanrik were now gone from her mind. As Hopesmeade had thought, she would side with the strongest player at any one time, and could turn on a Neopoint.
For her part, though, she showed Kanrik some small mercy, convincing Galem to spare his life instead of killing him. Banishment from the Guild, she argued, was a fate far worse.
It was her that administered the dark inky potion, forcing open Kanrik's mouth to make sure he swallowed. It knocked him out cold.
"Get rid of him," Masila commanded mercilessly. "We never want to see or hear of this traitor again."
Kanrik's body was thrown in a snowdrift not far from the camp. The digging was continuing, and the Thieves Guild slowly disappeared into the hole they were carving.
When the coast was clear, Hopesmeade emerged from his hiding place to reclaim Kanrik's body. He was alive, and that meant that the Sway's plan to have him ascend to Galem's position was still possible - but now, Hopesmeade reasoned, that hinged on him making contact and a truce with Hannah. United with the Bori, they would form a force that could counter the Guild, and perhaps, he hoped, the Bringer.
With difficult, Hopesmeade slung the sleeping form of Kanrik over his shoulders and set off towards the coordinates Clayton had supplied. If Kanrik woke near the cave, he would stumble upon it, without a doubt.
Clayton waited in the darkness of the cave as Armin and Clayton slept. Another Crokabek arrived to inform him of Kanrik's impending arrival, courtesy of Hopesmeade. Thankfully, neither of the sleeping Neopets roused as Clayton made his way to recover the letter and back to his hiding place.
Clayton made sure to retreat even further into the shadows. Kanrik was an old friend, and one of the few that knew Clayton was involved in a secret organisation, though of course he didn't know exactly what the Sway was. If Clayton was spotted here, it could throw everything into disarray.
Sure enough, a few hours later, he reached the mouth of the cave. He must still have been feeling the effects of Masila's potion, as he made more noise than he normally would - enough to rouse both Hannah and Armin from their sleep.
"Kanrik!" Hannah shouted, rage curing her exhaustion for the time being.
She launched herself at the Gelert.
"Stop! Hannah, listen to me!" he shouted back, trying to avoid her blows as best he could.
"Never!" Armin shouted, prodding him with a stick.
Hannah charged at him as he tried to apologise, causing both to fall backwards into the ice wall at the back of the cave - and through it.
The impact appeared to have knocked what little fight Hannah had left out of her.
"I can't fight you anymore, Kanrik," she spluttered as she struggled to get to her feet. "I don't have the strength..."
"I didn't want to fight you anyway, Hannah," he replied, offering her a hand.
"And you," he added to Armin, who was fruitlessly trying to attack his leg. "Knock it off."
This seemed to broker an uneasy truce as Kanrik told them his story. He claimed not to have known that the tomb held the curse that now blighted Hannah. He explained that the Thieves Guild had ordered the theft of the Bringer, and that he now was an exile - this aligned their purposes. Hannah quickly understood that it was Galem who had ordered her intended fate - Kanrik was merely the tool he had selected for the task. Both now wanted Galem to pay. When Kanrik mentioned that the Guild was tunnelling with the aid of the Bringer though, Armin's eyes went wide with shock.
"The Bringer is loose?" he gasped, old horrors replaying themselves across his eyes. "The others, we must warn them!"
With that, he shot off down the tunnel behind the ice wall, claiming it would lead to the other Bori. Kanrik helped Hannah up, the two of them following behind. When he was sure they were gone, Clayton emerged from his hiding place and followed them down the tunnel.
Hannah, Kanrik, and Armin emerged into the central chamber of the Bori about half an hour later. The Heart of the Mountain gem, a brilliantly glowing red crystal, was in the centre. Behind it, at least a dozen Bori stood frozen in ice. One, clearly their leader, was sat on a throne, a magic staff in one hand. Further tunnels branched off, no doubt leading to other chambers filled with frozen Bori.
Clayton quickly concealed himself behind one of the frozen Bori as a strange rumbling filled the chamber. Kanrik, Hannah, and Armin also took cover behind the Bori throne as one of the walls began to crack before finally giving way, revealing the digging machine behind.
The Thieves Guild and the Bring emerged into the chamber.
"Spread out and surround the cavern!" Galem ordered.
The Grarrl's eyes went wide with greed as he saw the Heart of the Mountain.
"Look at that. What a beauty!" he gasped, years of work finally realised as he laid eyes on his prize.
Everything, his butchery of the Guild, his obsessive collection of Bori artifacts, moving the Guild to the Mountain - it had all been for this gem. The treasure of treasures. Galem's goal for near enough the last twenty years.
Hopesmeade emerged from the tunnel behind the last of the thieves, quickly joining Clayton in his hiding place.
"It is going dark outside," he whispered. "The Bringer's power is about to increase. Things should become very interesting quite soon."
Galem was making his way towards the Heart, but so was the Bringer. Both locked eyes over it. Galem may have been after it for twenty years, but the Bringer had been waiting for five thousand. He wasn't about to let it go to a mere mortal.
Again, he lifted his hands and Hopesmeade felt the magic kick in. From the ice floor of the cavern, the icy skeleton horde rose once more.
"What are you doing!?" Galem gasped, before turning to his men. "Kill them! Kill them all!"
The two sides ran forwards at each other, clashing in a horrible mix of steel on ice.
"The Bori are the key," Hopesmeade said. "They must be awakened. I have an idea."
Hopesmeade edged across the battlefield, avoiding conflict wherever possible, before he perched in front of the Bori throne.
"You have the keystone..." Hopesmeade whispered, making his voice sound as haggard as possible.
Hannah, hiding behind the throne, appeared to think the elderly Bori was talking to her. He glanced down at the gemstone around her neck.
"Unite it with the Heart," Hopesmeade added. "Hurry!"
With that, the Wocky slinked off to join Clayton. Hannah appeared to have got the message, she was asking Kanrik and Armin for help. Together, the three of them rushed headlong into battle.
Kanrik ran straight for Galem, challenging him to direct combat and drawing him away from the Heart.
"I'll make sure Kanrik wins," Hopesmeade instructed Clayton. "You make sure Hannah restores the heart."
"I notice I get the ancient demi-god," Clayton said, gesturing towards the Bringer that was currently barring Hannah's path.
"A coincidence," Hopesmeade smirked.
Clayton claimed a crossbow bolt from a fallen thief and loaded his own, firing off a round at the Bringer to get its attention. The beast seemed to think it came from the little Armin's slingshot, so moved towards him, allowing Hannah past. She slotted the keystone in place, finding a hole in the top of the crystal where it had once been shattered.
This appeared to be all the magic that was needed. A red swirling mist seemed to emanate from the Heart, reaching all corners of the chamber and snaking off down the side tunnels. The frozen Bori immediately thawed, returning to life once more. The Bori on the throne, the one known as the Keeper of Time, at once took up a horn and blew it - a battle cry, signalling all the Bori in the caves to join the fray.
Out of the corner of his eye, Clayton caught sight of Masila retreating from battle. With Galem outmatched, the Guild outnumbered, and Kanrik now forever against her, she was cutting her losses.
The Bringer had tired of Armin, and was now swinging down his staff towards Hannah. The Usul dodged just in time, and the staff connected with the Heart, shattering it.
The winter magic of the Heart was unleashed, coursing up and down the Moehog's body. Instantly, he was turned to ice. Armin took up his slingshot and fired a pellet at the Moehog's forehead, which splintered slightly.
With a sigh, Clayton fired a crossbow through the monster's back for good measure. The ice statue shattered completely - ending the threat of the Bringer.
With the master gone, the icy skeletons melted back into the cavern floor. The sudden departure seemed to allow silence to spread across the chamber - or perhaps it was something else. Galem had fallen, Kanrik stood over him victoriously.
A new leader, the Bringer dead, and surrounded by Bori, the remaining thieves decided to cut their losses, disappearing back into the tunnel.
Clayton and Hopesmeade both hid themselves again as Hannah once more collapsed.
The Keeper of Time was with her in moments.
"This is the Mark of Ta-Kutep," he said, revealing the curse on her arm. "Only Taelia has the power to lift this curse. Quick! To Taelia now!"
To be continued...