Moltara's Winter: Part Six
Also by saltsman
Exactly two hours later, Vaughn decided it was time to finish his master plan. Luna, who was hungry and afraid of being the next in line to get iced, decided it was time to discuss.
"No, lady. Don't please me. I don't have time for excuses. These Moltarans, they deserve to suffer for what they did to me."
"What they did to YOU? You ruled over them based on threats! You had a bomb planted under Moltara and threatened to kill us all if we didn't follow your orders!"
"BUT I WAS KIND! But then, when two ridiculous explorers came along and outed Moltara to Neopia, your people turned on me. I'm sure you weren't here to see it, but they did! They called in the Defenders, and so they came and destroyed everything I've achieved, giving power to some commoners! We were fine without Neopia knowing about us and the minute we were put under the spotlight, they took me down. The Defenders still look for me, don't you know? But they don't reckon I've been hiding in these caves for the past four years, no."
"You've been out here the whole time?"
"Yes, love, I have!" He was so angry his white fur and becoming redder. "But then I stumbled upon this beauty right here. That's when I decided to get in touch with those on the cities that were still loyal to me."
"Loyal to you?" Luna snorted. "Who would be loyal to you if all you've done was enslaving these people and govern their lives for them? Heavily punishing those who'd dare to cross you even in the slightest of ways? Who could be loyal to a monster LIKE YOU?"
"My faithful servant Rhoman, if you want an example," Vaughn pointed out. "I got in touch with him, escaped those caves to contact him, and he gathered a group of admirers and went after the key. Only he returned, anyway. His love for me is so great he was willing to sacrifice himself for my mission."
"Yeah." Vaughn smiled. "But now he won't have to, because you'll do that for him."
"I won't do anything," Luna angrily affirmed.
"You won't have a choice, love." Vaughn giggled, as though mocking her innocence. "I need someone to destroy the machine once I'm far away, in order to ensure the Entity will have no way of ever being trapped in it again. Witches of this age can't perform this sort of powerful magic anymore, so my monster will continue to be out there."
"And what's your plan? Rule a kingdom of frozen things and people?"
"Quite the contrary. Rule a kingdom where every living Neopet thanks me for their lives. I will supply these hazmat suits to them. The production has already started with those nifty workers at the quarry that, by the way, are on my side and aren't going to tell the Defenders squat. I'll them at the highest price possible, and rule Neopia from Kreludor, where I'll have freedom to be out of these suits. In order to keep their suits, everyone will have to pay me taxes. How much do they consider their lives to be worth? We'll find that out. I will not be king of Moltara anymore. I'll be king of the world!" He finished saying and left, walking towards a dark area of the cavern.
Silence fell. Luna noticed there was no way out. Her only beacon of hope had just been destroyed: the quarry workers were working undercover for Vaughn. The Defenders weren't coming. There was no way out.
Vaughn returned holding a box.
"Let's talk schemes: this box contains the explosives you'll be setting up. When? Don't worry, the explosives will show you when. Set them up, explode the whole thing, and your work is done! I would program them to explode by themselves, but I don't know how much time I'll need to strip everything from Moltara, so I need someone down here ready to do so."
"And what makes you so sure I'll do it?" bragged Luna.
"The fact that I have your children," Vaughn said. "Unless you want them to freeze for eternity, you'll do what I tell you to."
Luna started sobbing and shrieking. Grief struck her and so did pain.
"Oh, you really trusted Uni and Mord, didn't you? They're great actors! Well, I'm on my way out of here. I'll be picking up your son and your daughter. Mord and Uni took them out of Moltara. I'll make sure they're safe. If you don't explode the machine when I tell you to, I'll then arrange for you to receive a very nifty gift. Are we understood?"
"Yes." Luna lowered her head.
"Great." Vaughn smiled. "Then I think I'll get going, tons of stuff to do. Shall we, Rhoman?"
"Yes, Lord Vaughn," Rhoman responded mechanically.
Luna watched Vaughn walk away when something uncanny happened. He suddenly stopped. Rhoman turned to look at him, completely puzzled. He then fell on his back, completely immobile.
"RHOMAN?" Luna started yelling. "Rhoman, I can feel you don't want to do this. You agree with us that what Vaughn is trying to do is crazy, right? He's going to take everyone's free will... Rhoman, listen to me." she noticed that the Kacheek was looking intently at her. "He doesn't care about you! If we hadn't showed up, he would've been keen to let you sacrifice yourself. I understand what is like to be manipulated by someone but you've been given the chance to break free from Vaughn's grasp. Before whatever happened to him loses its power, you need to untie me, please!"
Rhoman started moving on Luna's direction.
"Please... Don't tell anyone."
"I won't tell anyone Rhoman, rest assured I won't. You need to believe me. I want to work with you to stop this madness once and for all."
Hesitantly, Rhoman unlaced the rope and Luna was set free.
"Do you know how to operate this thing?"
"You have to turn the key backwards to turn it on. It'll siphon the Entity back in and lock the device."
Luna thanked him and held the key between her fingers. She felt power surging through her veins. Carefully, she rotated it backwards. Instantly, riot began. All the frosty covering that dominated every single surface started to magically dissolve and prickle back into its steam form, hastily getting imbibed by the machine. A strong, cold wind started to blow, making Luna shiver. When Jon finally unfroze, he watched the steam getting sucked in, spiraling everywhere. He could imagine every single person on Moltara retrieving their lives, trying to understand what was going on. For the first time in the past hours, he felt truly happy.
As soon as Luna noticed that Jon had come back to life, she started to jump around him to celebrate. They embraced. Rhoman watched from a distance as the Entity wrestled against the churning force that kept attracting it like a magnet.
"Hey, help me out!" Jon started running to where Vaughn lied paralyzed. He tried to pick him up. As soon as the other two understood what he was trying to do, they helped him.
Together, they climbed up a small rock, from atop which they could throw his body directly into the machine. The white mass that generated on and around it made it harder, but they got it right anyway. Vaughn fell with a strong thud into the machine. From that higher spot they watched as the smoke got sucked in. The whole process took about twenty minutes. Then it finally stopped.
"Is it over?" Luna asked, panting.
"I think so," Jon responded.
The machine closed itself with a loud BOOM. Light started emanating from inside. The whole chamber darkened.
"We need to dispose of the key, forever!" Rhoman noted.
"Yeah, we do," Jon agreed. "Thank you, Rhoman, by the way."
"Jon, you had to be here to see it. Vaughn almost won! I really don't know what happened. He simply stopped walking and fell down onto the ground."
"Well, I might have something to do with that." Jon winked.
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, do you really think I'd try hitting him on his thigh with that hammer? If I were serious about freezing him, I'd hit him on his head. But freezing him, as we came to agree, was no solution. He'd wake up as soon as the machine siphoned the Entity in and we would be left with a very angered ninja-killer-slayer-whatever! So, while you were discussing and he was tying you up, I sipped paralyzing potion on the hammer. When I went for it, I made sure to get the potion into his system by hurting him with the hammer, hurting his skin. That's what I did. It took a long while because of the small quantity, I guess."
Luna was perplexed, her mouth open, gazing at Jon.
"You are a true genius!"
"Well, I do my best!" Jon shrugged, laughing.
"It isn't over yet," Luna alleged. "And we need to get going. There's a town's worth of explanations to do, a key to dispose of and my children may be in danger!"
"Why?" Jon frowned.
"Mord and Uni, they were Vaughn's followers. And according to Vaughn, they took them away from Moltara!"
"Oh my, Luna, we need to run, NOW!"
Together, they started sprinting their way back.
To be continued...