Master of Ceremonies: Part Nine
My feet sloshed through the mud as I wandered through the endless forest. I was alone and had no destination in mind. I just had to get away.
The rushing sound of rainwater poured endlessly onto the trees around me, but, for some odd reason, there were no raindrops falling onto me.
Where was I, and where had I come from?
This wasn’t home. This wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Wait… this wasn’t even real, was it?
I had just come from somewhere, but I couldn’t remember. Where had I been?
The trees around me began spinning, sending my vision into a blur of green and gray hues. They crept closer and closer as if I were trapped inside a whirlwind. How was I going to escape?
Just wake up. You’re asleep.
I needed to get out of here. Someone was after me…
Vira! Vira was trying to kill me! I had to stop her…
I shook my head back and forth trying to wake up, but the trees kept advancing. I was stuck in some sort of nightmare. What was going on? I twitched my hands in an attempt to regain control over my body.
Sleep slowly withdrew its suppressing threads from my muscles, and I felt myself being pulled out of the dream.
My eyes finally opened into darkness. To my relief, there weren’t any eyes looking back at me. I sat up and looked around, hoping that I was no longer in any danger.
I was in some sort of bedroom, and the only light source was the full moon shining in through the window; rain poured heavily against the panes. Antique furniture filled the room, and so did an accompanying, musty smell.
I pushed against the mattress and got out of the queen-sized bed that someone had placed me in. The floorboards creaked beneath me in the darkness as I walked to the bedroom door and turned the embellished knob. It was locked.
Maneuvering back to the window, I looked out and saw the Deserted Fairground off in the distance. The commotion of lights and movement was still going on as it had been just some time before. I deduced that I hadn’t been asleep for very long.
Lightning lit up the scene, and I saw a long road far beneath me leading into the dark forests. Pressing my forehead against the window, I saw rain pouring across the shingles of the rooftop below me. I was in a high tower of some sort of mansion. Was I in Castle Nox?
Turning away from the outside, I looked around the room and wondered if there was some sort of secret passageway that I could use for my escape. As I handled the walls and furniture around the room hoping to uncover possible secrets, I came across a lamp sitting atop a rather peculiar desk. After turning the lamp on, I noticed that the desk’s drawers were too thin to carry anything larger than jewelry and that a strange woodcarving lined the rear edge where the desk touched the wall.
I sat in the chair and inspected the unusual desk further. Upon opening the top drawer, I found a framed photo of four Acaras and a Kyrii smiling together. Also tucked away in the drawer rested a single Star of Paradise Flower.
Looking up, I noticed that the decorative woodcarving in front of me had a large oval in the middle where a… vanity mirror would typically be.
This wasn’t Castle Nox. This was the Claymores’ old mansion!
Why had Vira left me alive? Didn’t the enchanter order me dead? Why was I locked up in Vira’s room? Hadn’t the Claymore mansion been auctioned—
Suddenly, audible taps interrupted my train of thought. I jolted in my seat and looked behind me. Resting against the wall across the room was a large, square object covered by a thick cloth. Three taps struck again from its direction.
I got up from my chair to investigate. When I reached the object, I bent over and lifted the cloth from the ground. Beneath it sat an empty, framed mirror. I pulled the cloth off of the mirror completely and bent down. In the mirror’s reflection, I saw a silhouette waving at me from a distance. My other self was standing next to the vanity, and in the light I could see her fiddling with the underside of the desk.
I looked behind me, but there was no one there.
Looking back into the mirror, I saw that the bookshelf next to the vanity was suddenly moving sideways, revealing a secret passageway. My reflection waved goodbye as she disappeared into the chamber hidden behind the bookshelf.
I walked back to the vanity and ran my hand along the underside of the desk. After a brief moment, my hand came across some sort of button, and the bookshelf next to me suddenly began to move, revealing a secret passageway. Taking a deep breath, I pressed forward into the darkness, and the bookshelf closed behind me.
Keeping my hands in front of me, I maneuvered down the pitch-black corridor, turning corners until I ran into a dead end. I pressed my hands against the stony wall in different locations until the floor beneath me started to move—the result of activating a secret button. The wall rotated sideways, and I stepped into the mansion’s upstairs hallway.
I heard incessant rabble coming from the end of the long hall. I followed the antique carpet down the barren hallway and approached the glass panel doors. Past the glass I saw a balcony overlooking the grand hall below.
As I reached for the handle, the faint reflection of my hand motioned to me frantically to get down. I got down to my knees before opening the door.
“Tonight we take Neopia by force. The world will be ours!” I heard the enchanter announce from somewhere in the grand hall. “May the freedom of this army swallow up the freedoms of these lands and plunge them into the endless night of woe and terror!”
Thunderous pounding filled the room, and a disturbing concord of Neopets cheered like wild Myncis.
I crawled forward to the railing. Beneath me stood about one hundred of Neopia’s greatest villains surrounded by mirrors that circumscribed the grand hall. Inside the mirrors were thousands upon thousands of animated reflections, pounding against the glass out of excitement for their freedom.
To my left, the grand staircase descended alongside the wall and led to a landing that was half a story above the sea of villains. The enchanter was sitting on his Throne of Intrigue inside of a large mirror, and Vira stood by his side, still dressed in oppressing black and overlooking the wild crowd.
“Hail the king and queen!” they all cheered.
The enchanter hollered, “Let the enchantment begin!”
They broke into exuberant applause, but their clamorous thrill was quickly overpowered by a rhythmic pounding that filled the room. The thousands of reflections hit the glass from every which way in the grand hall. Following the rhythm of pounding, the villains began chanting, “Free our shadows, crush the light.”
Thousands of wicked eyes turned to Vira as she clasped her claws together in front of her chest. She began chanting some sort of spell—the ‘origination’ spell that the enchanter must have taught her.
“By the powers of pride, sloth, envy, and greed, may our images from their glass imprisonment be freed. Give shadow and light their own true forms tonight, that by freedom and bloodlust they may enter the fight.”
Her voice magically echoed throughout the grand hall. The magic in her blood would be the end of us all!
“We are the puppets that need to be freed from this miserable life of sorrow and greed. Against the spell of bloodlust do I fight, that we may be turned into our shadows tonight.”
The enchanter suddenly shouted, “What are you doing? Those aren’t the words of the spell, you witch!”
Vira continued, “Though the light and the matter cruelly yearn to unite, I beg the heavens for protection against this vile plight.”
“Somebody stop her!” the enchanter shrieked, but it was too late.
“Through the glass let us travel according to my plight, that with our own reflections we may finally unite!”
Suddenly, the ocean of animated reflections melted into a conglomerate of menacing wraiths. Shadows burst out from the mirrors around the room and grabbed the unsuspecting villains with violent force. Everything broke out into chaos as darkness engulfed the scene below me.
Vira had reversed the enchanter’s spell! Instead of bringing the reflections out of the mirrors like he wanted, she was pulling everybody in!
Down below, the villains ran every which way looking for an escape route, but there was nowhere to run or hide. Massive, shadowy hands grabbed them from every direction, dragging them screaming into the walls of haunting mirrors.
Vira stood above them with a satisfied smirk on her face. She turned toward the mirror that was behind her and stepped forward, waiting to reunite with that beautiful Acara dressed in sunflower yellow. The enchanter glared at her maliciously from the other side of the glass as Vira’s old reflection stepped into her sight.
Vira had finally found what she lost twenty years ago.
“Vira!” I screamed above the chaotic shouts and cries from below. “I told you it was all a lie! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
But Vira didn’t look at me. She was greedily enthralled by the image of her own beauty that awaited her in that enchanting world, completely oblivious to the darkness that truly awaited her on the other side of the looking glass.
Her vanity and selfishness had blinded her from seeing her actions’ deadly consequences.
Something grabbed my leg from behind. I held onto the railing and looked behind me. My faint reflection was reaching her elongated arm through the door’s glass panel. She had a wicked grin on her face as she tried dragging me into her twisted world of darkness and chaos.
Her overwhelming strength ripped me away from the bars, and I was pulled facedown across the carpet. My lower body was lifted into the air as my feet struck the glass panel in the door behind me. They pressed through it like being swallowed by a Gelatinous Non-Cube.
My body sunk deeper into the pool of liquid glass until it enveloped me completely. The sounds of screams and chaos were muffled as I drowned inside the realm of mirrors. I latched onto the doorframe and pulled as hard as I could, but I was only delaying my inevitable imprisonment in its twisted reality.
I looked through the glass and saw Vira stepping into the faraway mirror. She had cast all of Neopia into the abyss and doomed us all in her selfish quest for beauty!
The enchanter’s army was pulling everyone throughout Neopia into his vile world, where there would be no escape from his horrific and eternal reign…
To be continued…