Agent of the Sway: Rogue - Part One
Three Years Ago...
The Faerieland dungeons are world renowned for being some of the most hospitable and comfortable in all of Neopia. Fyora doesn't wish harm on even her most bitter enemies. Even in the newly ruined Faerieland, the dungeons were better than some homes in Neopia Central's Docklands.
Clayton Moore was currently enjoying his cell, and had been for a number of days since his arrest.
At last, the moment he had been waiting for came. The doors leading up to the surface opened and down strode Lady Falmouth.
The white Xweetok was one of Fyora's best knights, and the one tasked with her more secret missions. She had been the one to arrest Clayton, but she had hardly been expecting him to ask for asylum.
"We have reviewed your evidence," she said simply.
"Then you believe me," the brown Kougra replied.
Falmouth gave him a troubled stare.
"I didn't say that," she told him. "If you had come here ten years ago, then yes, perhaps I would have believed what you told me at face value. But then we arrested Duke Hopesmeade, who spun us such a delicate web of lies that we believed... Only to find out that every poisonous word had been scripted simply for us to believe that the organisation... This... Sway, as you called it, had ended."
"I swear every word I have told you is the truth," Clayton said. "I have no reason to lie to you."
"Other than the fact that deceit is nature for your kind," Falmouth said. "Even if we were to believe you... what you have to offer us is shaky at best. You tell us the name of your organisation, but also tell us that few members know it, let alone use it. You have no names of members, because now codenames are used. You provide us with the name 'Duchess', but nothing more. Do you have any idea who many duchesses there are in Neopia? And that is even if she really is a duchess, and not simply using the title as an alias."
"It's the truth!" Clayton insisted.
"You offer us the location of your previous meetings with her," Falmouth added. "But with the proviso that she will have moved operations following your arrest and now only meets in public places. You inform us that the Sway can be found through their signet rings, which you also say they no longer wear in public. In short, you sit here and offer us nothing but smoke and mirrors."
"I want to help you," Clayton said. "I'm not an agent anymore. I've left."
"Why?" Falmouth demanded. "Why now? There are records of you with a Lord Faversham going back at least a decade. Yet suddenly, you turn yourself in?"
"The Sway has lost its way," Clayton explained. "We are an organisation devoted to the greater good of Neopia... But the destruction of Faerieland was pure vengeance for the Duchess. It served no good at all. Do you remember the destruction of old Maraqua? I was... heavily involved. The casualties weighed heavily on me. I was promised the fall of Faerieland would not be a repeat of that. I was lied to."
"And yet, you still offer us nothing of value," Falmouth said. "You come here with empty words, and yet expect us to free you? Give you Faerieland's resources? You are mad!"
"I can give you their next target," Clayton said. "By means of proving my sincerity. It's Krawk Island."
"They are planning on attacking the pirates?" Falmouth asked.
"The fall of Faerieland, Quizara, Razul in the Lost Desert, everything since Scarblade's attack on New Maraqua," Clayton said. "It has all been for one purpose - gaining control of Krawk Island. We needed something from the Hidden Tower, and Xandra was the only person we had left who could get us in there. The Ring of the Deep, it was part of the tower's inventory, yes? I suppose there might not have been time for a full catalogue yet, but you'll find it is suddenly missing. They are going to use it to summon a Krawken and attack the island. It will pull the place apart, and a new Sway-appointed governor will put it back together. Scarblade will be finished, and the Sway will have control over most of the five seas."
Falmouth considered this.
"And the Darkest Faerie?" she asked. "What plans do you have for her?"
"That I don't know," Clayton admitted. "I wasn't part of the operation to take her statue. I only knew about it at the last moment."
"You see?" Falmouth laughed. "Empty words. You offer information, but when pressed for specifics you know nothing, or worse yet are withholding it. You will rot here, Clayton Moore, until you learn to tell us the truth. Not simply what the Sway wants us to believe."
With that, she turned and left.
The door to the dungeons opened again. A few days had passed, and this time Falmouth had company.
Queen Fyora herself had decided to grace Clayton with her presence.
"Krawk Island has been attacked," Falmouth announced. "A Krawken, as you said. A new Governor has appeared, recovered and rebuilt the island."
Fyora held up a hand.
"I would like to be sure," she said. "The name of the Governor, please."
"Gavril McGill," Clayton said.
Fyora gave a sad nod.
"Under the circumstances, normally I would authorise Isobel to conduct a search for your Sway agents," Fyora said. "As she did for Duke Hopesmeade. However, evidently the last time we tried that, it failed. I am willing to listen to your ideas, but do keep in mind this is no guarantee of your freedom."
Clayton was silent.
"The Queen is asking for your plan of attack," Falmouth prompted him. "You must have one."
He did. Days of imprisonment had given him a great deal of time to think. He'd drawn on all of his experience within the Sway, and he knew exactly what to do.
"You need a list of names," Clayton said. "And the only way to get that is to make every single Sway agent appear in one specific place."
"You can do that?" Falmouth asked.
"No," Clayton replied. "But the Duchess can. An emergency Code One Response message instructs all agents to gather in a specific location. It's a rare event, I've never experienced one myself. In order to force the Duchess into calling a meeting, we'll have to arrange something she won't be expecting. Something so tempting she can't possibly resist."
"Such as?" Falmouth asked. "Before you say it, Faerieland is not available to be used as bait."
"Nor will it," Clayton said. "No offence, but it will take something more than this place. The Duchess, and the Sway by extension, derive power from being in control. From expecting what will happen and controlling the outcome. We need something that will allow them to manipulate the future, and something that, if it fell into opposing hands, would be disastrous for the Sway."
"Such as?" Falmouth asked.
"In my time I've seen a great deal of the texts the Seekers keep in their libraries," Clayton said. "There was one I remember about an ancient obelisk of great power in ancient Tyrannia. It didn't tell the full story though, the one the Sway know. The obelisk was home to a precognitive spirit known as the Oracle. Something that powerful would be valuable to the Sway."
"I remember her," Fyora said. "As I recall, the Tyrannians buried the obelisk through fear of her powers. It begs the question though, if the Sway are aware of the Oracle, why haven't you recovered her already?"
"The Sway didn't start with the Darkest Faerie," Clayton said. "In one form or another, we've been around as long as there have been Neopets. Our ancient Tyrannian forebearers learned what they could at the time from the Oracle, but couldn't hope to defend her forever. They couldn't destroy her either, so did the only thing they could - buried her. The modern day Sway has been unable to recover her because a large scale archaeological dig tends to get exactly the sort of attention the Sway don't like."
"This Oracle... You are sure her discovery would be enough to tempt your Duchess?" Falmouth asked.
"By itself, perhaps not," Clayton replied. "But if we were to add in a little competition, and immediacy, her hand would be forced. She can't afford to let the obelisk fall into the hands of others who might derail the plans of the Sway."
"We cannot deploy the Faerieland army," Fyora said firmly. "They are needed to help with the reconstruction effort."
"Not even to stop the Sway?" Clayton asked.
"No," Fyora said firmly. "There is still the chance you may be lying to us."
"Fine," Clayton agreed. "There are other groups we can use. The Seekers, the Order of the Red Erisim, the Thieves Guild... Take your pick."
"You believe these groups will simply help you as a favour?" Falmouth laughed.
"No," Clayton replied. "But they could be persuaded to make their way to Tyrannia if we were inventive enough."
"This is a risk," Fyora said. "We have been burned before for trusting the words of the Sway. But life, it seems, is nothing without a little risk. Xandra was right in as much that the Faeries had grown distant from Neopia. We will change that, and the first step will be removing this unsavoury element."
She nodded at Falmouth, who moved forwards to unlock the cell.
"You will, however, have to earn our trust," Fyora added. "Isobel will accompany you to monitor your movements."
"Make no mistake," Falmouth said. "You may not be surrounded by bars, but you remain our prisoner just the same."
Clayton nodded as he stepped out of the cell. In truth, he was glad of the company - the Sway, if they found him, would try and stop them. Falmouth would be a useful bodyguard if nothing else.
To be continued...