The Fire Within: Part Seven
“What!?” Andesite gasped.
“You heard me,” Marbelle answered. “I intend to destroy Moltara City, the surface lands, even the space station and above. All the way to the top if I must. The purity of the core must be kept.”
The Elephante held her hands over the pool of magma in the chamber, letting the smoke pass over her hands.
“This place, Hariq, was used by the first mystics when they were discovering the Path of Fire,” Marbelle told them. “They knew a secret that Igneot, and most of Moltara, has forgotten. Look out to the lake and you will see it, too, if the Path truly means anything to you.”
Through the window, Andesite and Yardly could see out ot the great lava lake behind the monastery. The lava there must have been venting from deeper down, towards the planetary core. It exploded upwards in volcanic eruptions that stretched high into the air of the cavern, spraying magma cross the molten lake.
Marbelle's statement had been directed at Andesite, but it was Yardly who spoke next.
“Fire is dangerous,” he said. “It explodes.”
Marbelle gave him a curious, half impressed look. As if she hadn’t expected a surfacer of being capable of such a conclusion.
“Exactly,” she said. “Igneot and the other mystics send their entire lives trying to tame the fire, to control it and live in peace. But they have misunderstood the very first step on the Path, that there cannot be any control - fire is chaos. Fire is destruction. Fire is death.”
“This is blasphemy!” Andesite gasped.
“It is the truth,” Marbelle said. “It is easy to forget, given our nature, the dangers magma can pose. When you can wade through a river of lava, that sense is numbed somewhat. Alex Yardly here understand the perils, I can tell. That is why he can see what you cannot, Andesite. If the fire is chaos and destruction then so is the Path. The Path is to follow the chaos. To destroy.”
“Everything?” Yardly asked. “Or will the true believers be spared?”
“I'm not some cult leader, Alex Yardly,” Marbelle said. “I am a mystic, devoted to the Path more than anything in this world. When the time comes, yes. But first, the rest must fall.”
“Starting with Third Cog,” Yardly said.
Marbelle gave a smile, somewhere between sadness and smugness.
“That has been necessary,” she said. “I needed recruits. Third Cog needed to be pushed to a point where people would flock to defend their homes from them.”
“Then I understood correctly,” he said. “Igneot, Third Cog, Andesite, even people who hate you like Moltara City exiles, they have all misunderstood you. They have been trying to convince me that my idea of your motives was wrong.”
“Pardon?” Marbelle asked.
“You don't fear surfacers,” Yardly said. “You’re not even opposed to visiting. After all, you’ve been there before. Your goal has never been to protect the caverns - it is to control it, to take it back to the vision of the past you have. You attacked Third Cog because you knew they would respond. You needed an army. Not to storm Moltara City, that would be stupid at this stage. Especially when they seem so equipped with abilities that make targeting other magma Neopets easy. No, you intend to attack the Font. To depose Igneot by force.”
Yardly heard Andesite’s sharp intake of breath. If Marbelle’s words had been heresy, what Yardly was suggesting was a thousand times worse.
“You would profane the Font?” Andesite said, his voice no more than a whisper. “Why not rip the very heart from Neopia while you are at it?”
“The Path is chaos,” Marbelle told him. “Everything is permitted.”
“This leaves only one question,” Yardly said. “Why you have told us this. Why we are still alive.”
“Andesite, the exile, is alive because you requested it, Alex Yardly,” Marbelle said. “He has no value to us. You are alive because you do have value to us.”
“For what?” Yardly asked.
“Third Cog offered you a sum of money to eliminate me,” Marbelle said. “I have money, also. I would offer you more, and see you help us take the Font.”
“Why would you need my help?” Yardly asked. “Your monks can move where magma Neopets cannot sense them. You have an army of wizard ninjas, for want of a better description.”
“We can hide from people like Andesite,” Marbelle said. “But Igneot knows the Path better than any of us. I believe he will be able to sense us coming. But you, you exist outside of the Daken Nar. You are truly what he will not see coming.”
“My fees are substantial,” Yardly said.
“Mr. Yardly!” Andesite gasped. “You cannot seriously be considering this!”
“My coffers are similarly substantial,” Marbelle said, ignoring the Kyrii.
“Very well,” Yardly said. “I will help you. However, I have a condition.”
“What is it?” Marbelle asked.
“I would not like to see Andesite die,” Yardly said. “He has been reasonably accommodating and friendly to me. Of course, you cannot allow him to go free - but perhaps imprisoning him here until the Font is taken would be acceptable?”
“Mr. Yardly!” Andesite hissed in outrage.
“Very well,” Marbelle agreed. “We have an accord.”
Marbelle must have somehow used the Daken Nar to signal her bodyguards, as a moment later the door to the chamber opened and the magma Poogle, Schist returned.
“Take Andesite to the cells,” she instructed.
“Mr. Yardly...” Andesite said, somewhere between sorrow and rage.
Yardly took Andesite’s hand forcibly and shook it, though Andesite did not return the action.
“Good luck, Andesite,” Yardly said.
Schist led the Kyrii away, down further into the complex to the waiting holding cells. On the way, Andesite opened his hand to find the object Yardly had slipped into it. A lock pick.
Andesite sat in the middle of the cell floor, concentrating deeply. It would be one thing to pick the lock and rush out - quite another to escape the building. The Daken Nar would betray him at every turn. No, in order to truly escape, he would need to move like them. To become invisible to the Daken Nar.
He understood now. Yardly had been giving him a route out - saving him. He had made sure Marbelle had revealed exactly how to do it. Andesite was to run, all the way back to the Font. He was to give Igneot the warning he would need - time to shore up the defenses.
The key, she had said, was picturing oneself as an individual. But for someone like Andesite, that was difficult. Even now he could hear the whispers of the others as they trained above him. Somehow, he had to block them out. Just listen to his own thoughts.
It took hours, or at least felt like it took hours. Andesite didn't even notice at first as the whispers gradually started to die out, but then, when at last the final whisper died, the silence hit him like a brick wall.
They were still there, he realised, but dulled somehow. Like he was listening to them through fabric. It was chilling, for someone who had known the Daken Nar since birth.
It was time. He stood up, making short work of the lock with the tools Yardly had provided. Picking the quietest route out of the cells, he made his way out of the monastery and back down the tunnels. When at last he was about a mile away, he reached out to the Daken Nar again and the whispers flooded back, clear as ever. He could feel the Font, at least a day's trek away, like a beacon in his mind. Igneot needed to know what was coming.
The sphere of rock floated ominously on Igneot's table as the Gnorbu peered into it.
“This is very troubling,” he said at last. “How long do you believe we have?”
“Now Mr. Yardly is helping them, days at the most,” Andesite replied.
“Not long enough, then,” Igneot said. “Not long enough at all.”
“What are you going to do?” Andesite asked.
“I will not fight her, if that is what you are suggesting,” Igneot said. “She may be willing to defile this place, but I am not. If it comes down to it, I will stand down. But I hope, if I can speak with her, I can convince her to find a new way forward. There is room on the Path of Fire enough for all of us, I am sure. But you, Andesite... There is no place for you here. I would welcome you, of course, but Marbelle and her followers will not be kind to those that are different if and when they have control. Exiles will be in danger. You must return to Moltara City. Warn the other exiles of what is coming. And warn the Mayor. He will need time to prepare as much as I will.”
“Very well,” Andesite agreed.
“And, if you would, take Luthor Cogingham with you,” Igneot suggested. “They may not be happy to have him back in the city, but if he stays here I don’t doubt Marbelle will make him her first victim.”
“A good idea,” Andesite agreed.
He provided a small nod, and left Igneot to his thoughts.
To be continued…