Agent of the Sway: Resistance - Part Seven
The message came back from the Duchess a little while later, and Greyfang relayed the orders to Clayton. The Cyodrake's Gaze was already in the air and flying to Mystery Island - there was no way back.
"I've instructed Captain Tuan to try and keep Nuria aboard the ship once we make port," Greyfang said. "We can dive out of a porthole and swim ashore - hopefully avoiding her."
"No, you remain onboard the ship," Clayton said. "You must be my eyes and ears, in case Nuria changes her mind and decides to help take on Tura-Kepek."
"Very well," Greyfang said in the tone of a person who doesn't mean what they are saying. "My orders said to defer to your judgement. The Duchess appears to think that Jhuidah might be a more imminent threat, given her dual role as an island guardian. We have no reinforcements coming - if we are discovered, the Sway cannot be implicated."
"Very well, good luck to us both."
They arrived a few hours later, the Cyodrake's Gaze descending from the sky and kicking up the surf as it docked at the island's pier.
Jhuidah, as it happened, was already waiting, with a sizable number of island locals.
Clayton slipped himself into the water, swimming under the pier to avoid detection.
"Get back!" Jhuidah was saying. "Moltenus is rampaging across the island! It's not safe!"
"Never fear, sister," the voice of Nuria came from the ship. "We've come to offer assistance. We can offer shelter onboard the ship for those who need it."
"An evacuation is what is needed," Jhuidah replied. "Moltenus is burning the island step by step. This time, Tura-Kepek's magic is too strong."
"We'll see about that," one of the adventurers was saying as he marched down the pier. "Leave him to us."
"It's not that simple!" Jhuidah warned them. "The lava inside Techo Mountain heals Moltenus as soon as he is defeated."
"Then I suggest they go to the organ grinder instead," Tuan said. "Tura-Kepek will be on the mountain, I should think."
The adventurers were already setting off into the jungle. Clayton waited until both Nuria and Jhuidah were busy on the deck of the Cyodrake's Gaze organising an evacuation, then he paddled out from under the pier and disappeared into the jungle.
It was plainly evident the route that the adventurers had taken. If the broken undergrowth hadn't been clue enough, the shaman's minions had been waiting to ambush them, and now lay fallen on the floor. Witch doctors and tribesmen, all had fallen to the band of would-be Seekers.
A roar from up ahead signaled that they had encountered Moltenus. It would be a difficult battle, but Clayton suspected merely due to numbers they would prove victorious - as Jhuidah had warned though, Moltenus would quickly heal.
Clayton took his opportunity to get ahead of them, reaching the foot of Techo Mountain and beginning to climb the rocky path.
The six wards needed to be maintained at six alters scattered around the path that wound to the top of the volcano. Tura-Kepek would have to post one of his minions at each alter to keep it safe.
Clayton came upon the first alter soon enough, and its guardian - a fire Eyrie.
"The shaman said someone like you would be coming," the Eyrie said. "You're not like the ones I can see marching about in the jungle. You're one of them."
"I have no quarrel with you," Clayton said. "My business is with Tura-Kepek. Stand aside and you will not be harmed."
"Hah!" the Eyrie laughed. "You misunderstand why I am here - I love fire, in all its forms. I pledged to serve the shaman because he will make this world burn, and I can think of nothing finer."
Clayton gave a little snort. He reached for the Bori-made amulet around his neck and flicked it open. The Eyrie was bathed in a white light that seemed to calm him.
"You will let me pass," Clayton instructed.
The Eyrie silently nodded, before standing aside.
The next alter proved slightly harder to bypass. A Dark Faerie stood beside it.
"So you've come at last," she said sadly. "I knew it, deep down. That Duke Hopesmeade was not the end of your kind."
Instinctively, Clayton reached for his dagger.
"Don't worry," she laughed. "I can't send a message to Fyora, if that's what you're thinking. My name is Ariadne. Tura-Kepek used his magic to bind me... Enslave me. I tried to stop him, when he found the first of the wards... But he was too strong. Now, his wish is my command... I've told him everything I know about your kind, of course. I couldn't help myself."
Clayton reached for the amulet of hypnosis again but thought better of it. Faeries were rarely susceptible to such trickery.
"If I must fight you, then I will," Clayton threatened.
"Then you will," Ariadne replied. "I wish I could say I was sorry, and certainly, should I fight those who are climbing the mountain after you, I will be. But you, it would be a pleasure to destroy one of your kind."
She readied a blast of dark magic, but Clayton dodged it, darting forwards and running past her towards the altar. There, his blade caught the ward, breaking the gem in two. Ariadne shrieked, part of her magic coming undone. She collapsed to the floor, and Clayton took his chance to run further up the mountain. He used the amulet twice more, once on a Buzz and once on a Skeith, before finally coming to the last two altars.
Tura-Kepek caught sight of him and waved Eithne away.
"Ariadne has told me so much," the Kyrii said. "Of how old your organisation is, and of its downfall recently. I must say I am sad to hear of the death of Duke Hopesmeade - I was hoping to finish him myself for the insult he once gave me."
"Tura-Kepek, you were given a warning the last time we had dealings with you," Clayton said, ignoring the shaman's rant. "You were told that if your activities continued, you would face serious consequences."
"Consequences!?" Tura-Kepek laughed. "I control Moltenus! I am unstoppable!"
Below, there was a scream - the voice of the Eyrie. The first of the six wards had been removed by the adventurers.
"Not looking that way to me," Clayton said, lifting his crossbow. "Now, this is your final warning. Hand over the ward and walk away, no more will be said of this. Stay where you are and we will deal with you."
"I am not the kind to be dealt with, child!" the shaman bellowed.
He charged some magic, but Clayton's crossbow was faster. It was a flesh wound, but it still forced Tura-Kepek back. Another scream from below signaled the defeat of Ariadne.
Eithne was looking worried, her attention down below at the party circling up towards her. Clayton took his opportunity, darting behind the cover of some nearby rocks.
He watched as, after defeating the other two guardians, the adventurers dueled Eithne. She was weakened by the battle, and in a fit of madness flew directly into the volcanic heart of the mountain, chasing her ward. Now there was only Tura-Kepek.
But he was still weakened by Clayton's work. Together, the adventurers managed to overpower him and wrestle the ward from his hands. They threw it into the lava, destroying it. Defeated, Tura-Kepek teleported away.
It had been difficult, getting off the island without being noticed. Clayton had decided to wait until Nuria and the crew of the Cyodrake's Gaze left. That meant lingering in the jungle a few days.
Then, he was able to get passage on a ship heading back to Neopia Central. He found the Duchess waiting at the end of the gangplank.
"I have received your reports," she said. "Tura-Kepek escaped."
The pair walked to her carriage, and only spoke again when they were underway.
"I apologise," Clayton said. "But there was no other way. If I had finished him off while the adventurers were there, our cover would have been blown. And I couldn't challenge him alone, he was too powerful."
"It is unfortunate," the duchess said, her disappointment evident. "I expected more of you, Agent Rook. As a result of your failure in this matter, I am having to allocate more resources to locating and dealing with the shaman."
"I have passed the matter on to the Order of the Red Erisim," she said. "They deal harshly with their own kind, and have agreed to help. But only at a cost. They are demanding a rather unique form of magic that they don't currently have access to."
"The harmonic crystal that is maintaining the peace in the caverns of Moltara," the Duchess said.
"The crystal?" Clayton gasped. "You mean the device that is keeping Neopia's molten core stable?"
"The very same," the Duchess said.
"You can't seriously be considering that!" Clayton said. "I've seen the Seeker's books on what happened the last time the core was unstable - it would tear Neopia apart!"
"Never the less we do not have a choice, Agent Rook," she shot back acidly. "Tura-Kepek has grown too powerful, he all but decimated three lands in his latest escapade. He cannot be allowed to continue, and the Order are the only ones who can stop him. I have already instructed our agents in Moltara to remove the crystal and have it delivered through the secret tunnels to the surface. The core stabilisation device can be replaced, we shall have to take that matter in hand."
"But first, there is another matter we must attend to," she added. "You recall Quizara, the sorceress who offered to help us storm Faerieland? I believe she will soon require our help."