Agent of the Sway: Rogue - Part Six
The scorching heat of the Tyrannian plain had roasted Falmouth and Clayton long ago. The hours passed as they trudged along, miles from any cover, so they barely noticed when their guides stopped - almost walking into each other. The place was deserted for miles around, only a small river passing through the plain.
The Tyrannians didn't appear to notice the heat, garbling something in Tyrannian to Falmouth before leaving the pair to make the return journey by themselves.
"They said they don't like to linger around here, in case the ghosts find them," Falmouth said. "What is all this talk of ghosts? I thought the Oracle merely told visitors the future?"
"She does, but not just to anyone," Clayton told her. "She tests those who visit her, trial by combat. One of her peculiar magical abilities is that of summoning spirits, representations of people's worst fears. Those who visit the Oracle are forced to overcome that which they are most afraid of before they even have a chance at learning the future. If the Sway want the obelisk, they are going to have to confront the prideful fools they have become."
"Well," Falmouth said, jumping up on top of the stone transport. "We'd better get started unloading this stuff."
It took several hours of hard work, but eventually they had the crates of explosives all piled up on the barren ground.
"Do we run for cover, then?" Falmouth asked.
"We should have about a minute once I light the fuse," Clayton replied. "So yes, we run. But there's no cover."
"Will we get far enough away?" Falmouth asked.
"Probably," Clayton said. "To be honest, I hadn't considered it - not like I have much reason to survive this, given that Faerieland's dungeons are waiting for me."
"Well I should like to run," Falmouth said.
Clayton lit the fuse, and the two of them ran together, as fast as their legs would carry them. Under her breath, Falmouth began to count. When she reached a minute, she gathered a magical shield around them.
It wasn't enough. The explosion behind them lit up the hills in front of them, the bright flash easily being seen for hundreds of miles around. Then came the sound and the tremors, like the world was ending around them as they were thrown up by the impact.
The shield cushioned their fall, allowing them to gather themselves quickly and take in the sight behind them. A great plume of white hot fire was rising into the sky. The biggest calling card ever made. If the gathered factions didn't notice it, no one would.
"What now?" Falmouth asked.
"That should have been enough to reveal the top of the obelisk," Clayton said. "The local dig team will be sent out from Tyrannia to survey the area, they'll dig out the rest in a matter of hours and then leave pending an official archaeological dig team arriving. Beyond that, we wait for our guests to arrive."
The dig team, led by a Zafara, arrived in short order. As Clayton had said, they took only a matter of hours before the obelisk was completely uncovered, sitting in an artificial crater like some horrible crashed comet.
The obelisk was hollow, shining a shaft of light up into the darkening sky. A single door at the base was locked shut, and would remain so until the Oracle's visitors proved their might.
The lack of cover had proved a problem for Falmouth and Clayton, but during the dig they had managed to find sanctuary in the large piles of excavated dirt that now lined the crater's edge. Silently, they waited as night fell. They did not have to wait long.
The Thieves Guild were the first to arrive in the early hours of the morning, hundreds of cloaked Neopets led by Kanrik himself. They quickly made camp, giving themselves the biggest advantage in position, and Kanrik invited Clayton and Falmouth into his tent.
"One of my scouts, the one who first saw the explosion... Sorry, earthquake, has gone missing," the Gelert announced. "I don't doubt for a moment that the Sway have him."
Falmouth nodded, consulting strange magics in the palm of her hand.
"I have a message from my lookouts in Faerieland," she added. "Large numbers of Crokabeks are in flight tonight. Abnormally large."
"A Code One Response," Clayton said. "It must be. All Sway agents will be gathering at a meeting place. They'll be on their way here before dawn."
"I'll have my forward scouts be ready," Kanrik said.
"The Order won't be far behind them," Falmouth added. "It seems Rasala was keeping an eye on Tyrannia as asked. She's called a formal meeting of the Order."
Falmouth was right. Just before dawn, two more armies appeared on the horizon. The wizards of the Order had come in force, flying in on their magic carpets and broomsticks, launching a quick volley of fireballs down towards Kanrik's thieves as they flew overhead, settling on the opposite side of the obelisk crater and quickly forming their own camp.
But Clayton's eyes were on the other army. The Sway had arrived, like a darkening cloud. The Duchess had fallen for the bait completely, and they weren't even finished.
"There we go," he said to Falmouth. "I've done what I said I would. Now it's up to you to identify them."
"I'm going to let this play out first," Falmouth said. "With any luck, they'll wipe themselves out with all the fighting and save me the trouble."
As the first rays of dawn broke over the horizon, two more armies joined the fray. The Brute Squad were marching, rocking the very ground with their numbers. Up above, the Seekers appeared to have constructed a giant dirigible for the trip, conducting their war from the air as they parachuted down to the battle.
And how it was a battle. Hundreds, if not thousands of souls in a free for all. It was only added to a few hours later when the undead recruited by the Wocky twins arrived, calling themselves the Awakened. They descended into the battle like a plague, and all chaos broke loose.
Clayton watched the battle like an amused child. He let out a laugh as he saw Agent Knight, the Techo trying to hold off a dozen zombies and an Order wizard at the same time.
Falmouth had long ago left the thieves camp to try and help the battle against the Sway wherever she could. Still unarmed, Clayton had no such luxury of direct revenge.
"So you must be the famous Agent Rook," a voice came out of nowhere. "Or, should I say, former Agent."
A Nimmo stepped out of the shadows in Kanrik's tent. He wore a long black cloak, staring down at Clayton from behind his thin spectacles and black moustache and beard.
"I am Agent Bishop," he said. "We haven't met. But I have heard such a lot about you. She wondered, you know? Thought perhaps this might be a trap of your making. But so many were involved, and it all moved so quickly. Congratulations, I must say. You are the first person to successfully dupe the Duchess in years. But that ends now. We have been authorised to deal with you on sight. You know the penalty for disobeying the Sway."
Clayton did, but he wasn't keen to experience it. Instead, he turned and ran, bursting out of the tent and into the chaos of war. Bishop was on his tail, he could feel it. The man looked gangly and feeble, but there was unseen strength there.
Clayton darted this way and that, frantically trying to avoid his pursuer. Desperately, he ran straight into a group of Order wizards who had been firing off spells, toppling the lot of them. Clayton ploughed on, his fur singed from the encounter. He chanced a glance back - Bishop was having to deal with the wizards, Clayton had escaped.
Or perhaps not.
He'd come far from the heart of the battle, close to the edge of the fast flowing river. There, a familiar old Lenny was waiting for him.
"Clayton Moore," the Duchess said mercilessly. "I have been waiting."
Clayton turned, attempting to run again. But this time, he wasn't quick enough. The Duchess had been anticipating it, and took her amulet, a horrible purple eye. It fired off a blast of dark magic that struck Clayton hard in the chest.
The Kougra stumbled back, shock in his face as he stared at the Duchess.
"Nothing escapes the Sway," the Duchess snarled.
Clayton fell backwards into the water of the river, the currents washing him away.
The Duchess did not waste any time on grief or regret. She turned back to the battle and began issuing orders again. They were getting closer - soon, the obelisk would be theirs.
Not far away, Falmouth watched the confrontation. As Clayton fell back into the water, she screamed out, knowing full well it would mean nothing.
She had doubted him, down to the last. Thought perhaps it had all been a grand scheme of the Sway somehow. But Clayton had given his life to ensure the downfall of the Sway.
She swore it wouldn't be in vain.
The Sway would pay for what they had done.
To be continued...