The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Ten
When Parlan woke up, his face was pressed against something cold and hard. "Wha--?" he mumbled. His tongue felt heavy, and his mouth tasted dry and gritty.
"Hey, Parlan," a voice floated from above.
Parlan opened his eyes and turned his head, wincing as blood pounded through his temple. To his surprise, he saw a familiar blue Ogrin dressed in a dirty white lab coat sitting on the slate floor next to him. "Darren?" he said, his voice coming out in a strained scratch. "What... what are you doing here? Where are we?"
The Ogrin did not look well; there were dark circles under his eyes, and his mouth was red, as if he had been biting his lip a lot recently. "The same thing you're doing down here. Being held prisoner in Sir Hartwick's dungeon."
Parlan's eyes widened, and he struggled to sit upright. His head pounded with each movement. "Dungeon? Who put us here?"
"Sir Hartwick. Who else?"
"No." Parlan tried to shake his head, but the movement made stars dance before his eyes. "No. There has to be a mistake. Sir Hartwick... would never do this."
"I'm afraid I had to," Sir Hartwick's voice floated from the darkness.
Parlan turned towards the sound and saw, finally, that what Darren had said was true. They were both locked in a cell, trapped behind a tall wall of iron bars. And on the other side of those bars stood Sir Hartwick. The Gelert's eyes, normally calm pools of grey, were stormy, absolutely livid beneath sharp narrowed brows. And his deep purple robes, typically spotless, were caked in a thick layer of soot and singed at the hems.
The sorcerer snapped his fingers roughly, and Darren yelped as he was lifted to his feet against his will. With another snap, Hartwick's magic pressed the blue Ogrin's body against the bars of the dungeon.
"Sir Hartwick!" Parlan shouted, scrambling to his feet. "Stop! What's going on?"
"What's going on," Hartwick hissed, "is that your friend here, Sir Rickshaw, gave me a list of ingredients that nearly set me on fire and burned down the entire mansion!"
"He wanted me..." Darren gasped, "to tell him... the ingredients... for the time travel spell. I couldn't do it."
"Sir Hartwick!" Parlan yelled. "Let Darren go! Please!"
"I will let him go when you tell me the true ingredients, boy!" the sorcerer yelled.
Parlan tried to yank Darren away from the bars, but the Ogrin's body was held tightly by the sorcerer's magic. Hartwick laughed at his futile attempt.
Alright then, Parlan thought, determined. He whipped back his sleeves and tried to summon his power, but almost immediately, he knew something was wrong. The magic in his veins felt weak and sluggish, and the flame he was attempting to conjure never appeared.
The silver Shoyru looked at his hands in confusion, and then out of the corner of his eyes, he saw what was etched into the iron bars of his cell. Spiraling from floor to ceiling, curving around the bars, were magic-blocking runes. I'm powerless in here, he realized, his stomach churning painfully.
"You're taking too long, Parlan," Hartwick whispered, his grey eyes narrowing into slits. "Your parents should have taught you to answer when spoken to!" He waved his hand, and suddenly Darren was released from his hold. The blue Ogrin collapsed to the ground, breathing heavily into the stone floor.
Parlan crouched down to help him up, but before he could even touch Darren, the Shoyru felt a tug on his navel and suddenly he was flung up into the air. "Ahh!" he screamed as his body flew higher until, with a jolt, he was dangling in mid-air, staring down at the floor far beneath him.
He had been hoisted into the air with a similar spell before—the very first day he had met his roommates—and though back then he had been frightened, this was utterly terrifying. Sir Hartwick's gaze was hard, and Parlan knew that unlike his roommates, the sorcerer had no intention of letting him down gently. The floor spun beneath him; he felt sick to his stomach.
"Parlan!" Darren shouted, slowly pulling himself to his feet. "Are you all right?"
"He won't be for long," Hartwick said, his hand outstretched like a puppeteer. "Sir Rickshaw, you have seen what I can do. If you don't tell me the correct ingredients right now, the boy will suffer."
"You can't tell him!" Parlan shouted back down, feeling a wave of nausea wash over him; the floor was so far away. "You remember what Matilda said!"
But Darren ignored him, shaking his head violently. "I have to tell him, Parlan. I've been down here for too long. I've seen what he can do. He'll hurt you and I... I can't allow that to happen." The blue Ogrin clenched his mane and closed his eyes. "I'm so sorry. The first ingredient is a bottle of—"
Suddenly, a harsh cry rang through the basement, followed almost immediately by a flash of yellow light and the sharp smell of sulfur. The air rumbled, and a moment later, Parlan felt the spell on him release.
And he was falling down.
"AHHH!" he screamed as the floor grew closer, but right before crashing into the stone, he felt the air thicken around him, slowing his descent. After a few scary seconds, he reached the ground safely; his legs wobbled beneath him.
"What the—?" Darren muttered, peering through the bars of the cell. Sir Hartwick was lying on the ground, his cape splayed around him like spilled milk. "What happened?"
"We don't have a lot of time," a voice bit from the darkness.
Parlan looked through the bars in surprise, recognizing the voice and searching for its owner. Sure enough, the Shoyru saw an orange Wocky with long blond hair emerging from the basement shadows.
"Marlo!" Parlan shouted. "How did you find us?"
The orange Wocky knelt down near Hartwick's body and fished through his robes until she found a set of keys. "I heard a thump from inside after I left the mansion," she said quickly, "and when I came in, I saw Hartwick dragging you away. So I followed him." She stood up, jiggled the key into the lock, and slid open the bars to the cell.
Parlan immediately pulled her into a hug, surprised by how happy he was to see her again. When he finally let go, Darren took a step in front of him and shook her hand. "Thank you," the scientist said, looking marginally surprised to see the orange Wocky's long hair. "I... didn't realize that you were a girl."
"Well, I didn't know you were from the future," she said with a bit of a smirk. "So I guess we're even."
Suddenly, there was a groan from the floor: Sir Hartwick.
Marlo's eyes widened, and she started dragging at her companions, tugging at their sleeves. "We need to get out of here. Leave the mansion before he wakes up. Unless..." She glanced back at Darren hopefully. "Unless you're able to contain him with some sort of spell?"
"Er..." Darren mumbled, scratching his ear self-consciously. "I'm actually... not a sorcerer. Or even an alchemist, for that matter."
Marlo stared at him for a moment in surprise, and then started running. "Then we need to get out. Now."
The basement was a complicated arrangement of rooms, and they had to weave in and out of them to reach the only staircase leading out of the basement.
"It's just around the corner..." Parlan recalled, but his sentence died in his throat when the floor started to shake.
Darren grabbed onto the wall for support; his legs quavered beneath him. "What's happening?"
"I think Hartwick woke up," Marlo said, her eyes wide.
"I don't care if he woke up!" Parlan shouted over the loud rumbling of the ground. "We need to get ou—agh!" Parlan yelped.
Darren wheeled around, staring at the silver Shoyru in fear. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"My... my amulet." Parlan looked down at the pewter Hartwick Hall pendant that hung around his neck. "It's... vibrating."
Marlo reached for her neck, but her fingers only touched skin; she had forgotten that she had given her amulet to Parlan. "What does that mean?"
"I don't kno—OH!" Parlan's head jerked back suddenly; his eyes widened, and despite the vibrating floor, his body stiffened.
"Parlan!" Darren asked, grabbing him by the shoulders. "Are you all right?"
But Parlan was frozen still. He didn't move; he hardly breathed.
And then, his eyes began to glow red.
Marlo took a hesitant step back, wobbling on the uneven floor. "Parlan...?" she asked, watching as the silver Shoyru extended his hand, conjuring a small flame.
Darren's eyes widened. "Hartwick is controlling him. With the pendant."
Suddenly, Parlan sent a ball of flame towards Marlo. She waved her hand and sent it away from her; it spiraled towards the stone basement walls, splattering as a wave of sparks. But then Parlan attacked her again, sending a few more bursts of flame in her direction.
"Parlan!" Darren shouted, trying to avoid the stray bolts of magic. "Snap out it! Stop it!"
"He can't hear you!" Marlo breathed, dodging the flames and sending bursts of her own magic back at the silver Shoyru. She restrained from using any sort of fire—she didn't want to hurt him—but Parlan clearly didn't have the same reservation. He sent a spiral of flames towards her, and Marlo narrowing missed it; a few embers landed on her cloak, and she had to bat them away to prevent the fabric from catching on fire.
While she was distracted, Parlan sent a gust of sharp ice shards her way. She waved her hand just in time, melting the ice and sending a burst of water back at him. Parlan dodged the deluge and sent another volley of flames.
"I think... I can hold him off," Marlo shouted over to Darren as she redirected the flames towards the ceiling. "But you need to get out of here! Go up the stairs and get help!"
"I'm not leaving you," Darren said, ducking to avoid any misguided flames or ice. He edged his way along the wall, trying to stay as far back as possible from the battle, but then Marlo sent a gust of wind towards Parlan, and the Shoyru stumbled back. He was now only a few feet away from Darren.
Darren didn't know what came over him, but suddenly he lunged at Parlan, reaching for the possessed sorcerer's neck.
"Darren!" Marlo shouted, but the Ogrin ignored her. His hand grabbed onto the Hartwick Hall pendant, and just as Parlan started to mumble the incantation of a dark spell, Darren pulled hard.
The thin chain of the pendant snapped, and the necklace fell to the floor with a ting.
The fire in Parlan's hand died away, and his eyes faded from red to blue. "Wha..." he gurgled, blinking in confusion. His hand clamped onto Darren's arm. "What happened?"
Marlo breathed a sigh of relief and pulled him into a hug. "Thank Thyora you're back. Hartwick had you under his control."
"No time to explain," Darren said, giving Parlan a quick squeeze on the shoulder. "We need to get out of here. Hartwick is awake and he's still after us."
They started running again, finally rounding the corner of the final room in the basement. The blue Ogrin's eyes fell on the staircase and he smiled. "There it is! We're almost—oh Fyora, no."
They stopped running, halting in their tracks. The stairs were only a few feet away, but they weren't empty. Walking down the steps, marching in unison like an army, were all thirty Hartwick Hall apprentices. All of them wore vibrating pewter pendants, and all of them had glowing red eyes.
And Sir Hartwick casually strolled into the room behind them, joining his army of students. The grey Gelert's arms were crossed over his chest; his lips were set in a smirk. "Now," he said, "are you ready to give up?"
To be continued...