The Dark Faeries' Plot: Part Four
Celia the Baby Aisha looked nervously around the dungeon chamber in which she found herself. Although it was unmistakably a dungeon – the bars on the windows and the heavily fortified door were a testament to that – it wasn’t as gloomy as she imagined it might have been if this had happened in Meridell. The walls were made of bright pink brickwork, enchanted to keep them sparkling clean. The ceilings were tall, with closely-spaced windows allowing a considerable amount of daylight into the basement-level dungeon. Although the cell was, today, hosting a number of opponents of the Dark Faeries’ takeover, it was at least spacious, with cushioned bench seating along three walls offering some comfort to the prisoners.
As for Celia’s fellow prisoners… faeries, lots of them, Earth and Light and Fire and Water and Air, but no Dark Faeries in sight. For the most part, they seemed irritated by this stint in custody, perhaps bored and impatient to be released. A particularly haughty-looking Air Faerie wouldn’t stop tapping her finely-manicured fingernails on her lap.
The room had been quiet, mostly silent, since the moment Celia had come in. However, realising that she and her siblings did not have a lot of time, Celia plucked up enough courage to ask a question. "So… can anyone tell me what’s been happening here in Faerieland?"
The faeries turned and looked at Celia in surprise. A Fire Faerie with uncharacteristic bags under her eyes chose to answer.
"It’s difficult to say for sure," she began, "but there has been a rumour of… some conflict within the Queen’s inner circle."
"She’s right," added the Air Faerie. "There was something of a disagreement between the Dark Faeries and the rest. Queen Fyora, of course, did her best to keep the peace, but she’s been sidelined now, and I guess the Dark Faeries have decided they’ve won."
"But what was the disagreement about?"
"Well, that’s the thing. We can’t know for sure. But there is this rumour…"
The Air Faerie sighed. "The Dark Faeries, supposedly, were wanting to take vast sums of Neopoints from the Treasury and and use them to construct a massive weapon, one of the most powerful that Neopia’s ever known."
She shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe they were hoping to use it to assist them in this takeover. Regardless, now that Queen Fyora has been incapacitated, they’ve started filling the streets with Angry Tax Beasts as if they’ve realised they need to get the Neopoints together even faster than they’d been pushing for. No one knows why, or what specifically they’re doing. But I think I’m not alone when I say that I am very concerned about what’s happening here."
The other faeries nodded and murmured their agreement.
An hour earlier, Tommy the Red Scorchio had watched covertly from a window of one of the Faerie Palace’s peripheral towers as his little sister Celia was taken away. His breath caught in his chest; he had only flown away for a minute, and in that time the Dark Faeries had swooped.
Dejected, he continued to fly around the tower, searching for where his other sister, Sophia, had gone. At last he found her on the other side of a small window into a dusty storeroom. He clambered through to join her.
"They’ve taken Celia," he said. "I flew here to look for you and she’s gone."
The Brown Uni’s gaze met his. "We’d better find her again before Amy finds out we’ve lost her."
"I know, I know."
"Anyway," said Sophia, turning to cast her eye over the numerous shelves and boxes that filled the walls of the room, "we’d best get on with it. Practically all of the other windows looked guarded, not promising for us. This room looked unguarded but the door’s been locked from the other side. I was looking for a lockpick or something to help us get through – you can help me, if you like."
In silence, the two Neopets poured over dusty shelves and sifted through dusty boxes, filled to the point of overflowing with doohickeys and knick-knacks. To Tommy’s mind, the contents were very interesting, a rich variety of components that could combine to make a range of diverse creations. However, there were more important things to do at that moment than tinker with these items, so instead he systematically worked his way through one box, then another, and another…
"Aha!" Sophia cried, emerging with a stiff wire, bent in several places. "We can unlock the door with this."
She handed it over to Tommy, who began working his magic. He inserted the wire shallowly into the door, tested it out, and readjusted the bends in the wire until he heard the lock mechanism click. He repeated the process numerous times until finally he was confident he had it right, turned to Sophia, and said, "I’ve got it."
Hesitantly they opened the door. It opened onto a central, spiral staircase, lit with bright sconces in the walls. A guard – an armoured Faerie Draik – was standing in place upstairs, facing the other way. The two Neopets exchanged a pointed look, and silently crept through the doorway and scurried down the stairs.
Tommy walked ahead of Sophia, inching down the stairs with constant checks around the corner to confirm that the coast was clear. Sophia followed, taking each step gingerly so as not to give away their position with a the tell-tale "clop" of a Uni hoof. It was hard to keep track of how much progress they’d made, with the spiral of the stairs seeming to to go on forever. The best metric was the doors they kept passing as they went: left, left, left, right, left, left…
Tommy came to a halt; another Faerie Draik was up ahead, guarding a specific door. Tommy and Sophia stayed put just around the corner, out of sight. For a moment, each was debating internally what to do, but then they heard voices – female, faerie voices – wafting through the air.
"Preparations are going smoothly, ma’am. The necessary parts have all now been purchased – or, ahem, acquired – and we will shortly be ready to move into the assembly stage."
"Excellent. When will it be ready?"
"With any luck, we will be capable of vaporisation by tomorrow night."
Sophia and Tommy turned to look at each other, faces aghast. Tommy gestured upstairs, indicating that they should return whence they came, and Sophia nodded. They crept back up the stairs until they spied the same Faerie Draik they had seen before – still, thankfully, facing the entirely wrong direction to see them – and sneaked back into the same storeroom from which they had entered the tower in the first place. Tommy closed the door behind them so carefully that it made no sound at all.
"All right," said Sophia, "clearly we are facing a big problem here."
"What in Neopia are those Dark Faeries wanting to vaporise?"
"Exactly. As well as the other big problem of: how do we stop them?"
The two siblings gazed at each other thoughtfully for a minute.
"If I can find the assembly room," said Tommy, "I might be able to get enough of an idea of the weapon’s construction that I can work out how to sabotage it. I mean, the Dark Faeries will probably notice – at best, it’ll buy us only a little more time. But it’s a start."
Sophia nodded. "Perhaps we should split up, then – I know nothing about making weapons and might be more useful elsewhere. If the Dark Faeries have purchased or acquired all their components, clearly there’s a seller somewhere who knows about it. I might see if the Battle Faerie at the Faerie Weapons Shop knows anything about it. We could meet back here in an hour and compare notes."
"Sounds like a plan." Tommy paused for a second before he continued. "Good luck, sis."
"You too, brother."
Sophia flew directly to the Faerie Weapons Shop, relieved that Angry Tax Beasts couldn’t fly. Below her the neat, grid-like streets of Faerie City sprawled out in all directions, clean cobblestone streets and neat, well-maintained tiled roofs. As she approached her destination she turned gently and flew in a curve, completing a large loop to survey nearby streets for Angry Tax Beasts. Sighting some only in the distance, she slowly came down to the surface, and entered the shop.
Inside, things were a mess. Shelves turned over, weaponry all over the floor. Somewhere in the distance, she heard crying.
"Hello?" she called out. "Anyone here?"
A few seconds later the Battle Faerie emerged from the back of the door, face red and tear-stained but with a stoic bearing nonetheless. "Good afternoon."
"What happened here?"
The Battle Faerie slumped. "I was ransacked. They took everything in my till, half of what I had in the back… and you can see what they did to my store." She gestured at the mess. "This is going to take me a long time to clean up."
Sophia smiled sympathetically. "You mean the Dark Faeries and the Tax Beasts?"
"But why did they do this? From the other shopkeepers they only wanted Neopoints, not their stock. And they certainly didn’t trash the whole place like this, either."
The Battle Faerie sighed. "I fear they wanted something specific. I outraged them by refusing to comply. I mean, in a fair arena, I could have defeated them all. But here, in my store? You can see what happens during battle."
"What did they want?"
The Battle Faerie hesitated. "I can only guess, based on what they’ve taken. However… I sincerely hope that I’m mistaken." She began to pace around what little part of the floor was not covered with weaponry. "They had no interest in any of the weapons I had on sale, only the components in the back room that I use to construct the weapons I sell here. So, they’re building something. As for the parts they stole… they’re making something big. They took light generators, devices that cross over into the magical dimension of our universe and draw vast amounts of raw light energy. They took channels. Magnifiers. Power supplies, with massive capacities. If I had to guess, not only are they building a vaporiser, but they’re building one with enough power to completely destroy Kreludor – at least – maybe more."
"Why would they want to destroy Kreludor?"
"I’ve not the faintest idea. And that is, of course, assuming that Kreludor is their target. We’ve really no way of knowing, until they actually use the weapon, and by then it’ll be too late."
"Well… assuming you’re right and that is what they’re building, what can we do to stop it?"
The Battle Faerie got a funny look on her face. "My dear Uni… what do you mean?"
Sophia drew herself to her full height. "My siblings and I found out about what’s been going on here in Faerieland and we are determined to stop it. As we speak, my brother is infiltrating the Dark Faeries’ assembly room. He’s skilled with gadgets; we’re hoping he can work out how to shut this down. But any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated."
The Battle Faerie nodded solemnly. "I’m not sure how much you can accomplish, little Neopet, but I can tell you’re committed and my blessings go with you." She waved her hands, and Sophia felt a little stronger, a little more confident. "The simplest way to disable the weapon would be to disconnect the various components, but of course, they can be connected right back up again just as fast as you took them apart. That’s no permanent solution. What you really need to do is destroy the light generators. The preferable way would be to use a convoluted old faerie spell that effectively makes the generators ‘forget’ their path to the magical dimension. The spell can be reversed, but it takes time and is very difficult, with only the most skilled faeries being capable of it. If they could be deactivated that way and returned to me, at least I could still use them."
"How do we do the spell?"
The Battle Faerie smiled. "Even though it’s less complex than the spell needed to reverse it, I’d say it’s still out of your reach. The easiest way to ensure that the weapon cannot be used is to smash the generators."
"Yes, crush them up into tiny little pieces. It would set my business back a fair way… but if it saves Neopia, or Kreludor, or whoever the Dark Faeries’ target may be, then it’s worth it. Don’t you think?"
Through a combination of stealth, haste, and keen eyesight, Tommy had dodged the guards on the staircase and made it down into the assembly room. It had not been too difficult to find, since a steady stream of Neopets were being directed by the Dark Faeries in a path straight towards the room. Tommy had simply gone outside, joined the group, and walked in with them.
The assembly room itself was large, light and airy, with tall ceilings. Long work benches had been set up across the room, with dozens of Neopets working on a range of different components. Towards the end of the room, a large… thing, a mass of conduits and parts of all sorts, somewhere between magic and machine, occupied pride of place.
Tommy tried to ask the other Neopets what was going on. "Hey, do you know what we’re building?" and "Hi, I’m Tommy, I’m new. How long have you been working here?"
But none of the other Neopets wanted to speak to him. He slipped from workstation to workstation, casually picking up a range of parts and tinkering with them as he asked his questions. He encountered a range of responses – frustrated grunts, a hissed "shhhh!", the snippy question of, "Don’t you have any work to do?", withering glares, and the classic tactic of pretending that he wasn’t there.
Curious, he thought. These Dark Faeries must really have them terrified.
He realised that he needed another way of gathering information.
He examined the various components being worked on in the different parts of the assembly room. He watched the ways in which the other Neopets were putting them together, a piece at a time. Finally – when he dared – he approached the work-in-progress itself at the head of the room, examining its layout and the various parts that made it up.
The conclusion that he came to out of all of this was that the Dark Faeries were building a powerful weapon indeed.
In the storeroom where Sophia and Tommy had first entered the tower, they compared their findings. Sophia relayed everything that the Battle Faerie had said, and Tommy thought about what he had seen and re-processed those memories with the new information.
"All right," said Tommy, "I think I know what we can do."
Tommy and Sophia returned to the assembly room, where no one looked at them twice. They walked directly towards the weapon the Dark Faeries were building, and Tommy leant in as if he were part of the construction effort. He identified the power supply, removed all the cables, and then began to dismantle the power supply unit itself: the casing and all the little bits and bobs that had been inside went clattering over the floor of the unit. Then he went for the light generators, as per Sophia’s warning. He didn’t smash them – he thought that would draw far too much attention to them, far too quickly – but he did unplug them and block the sockets with chewed-up gum before he began to dismantle them, one at a time. However, as he inserted a claw under the casing of the first, a blinding flash of light filled the room. Everyone turned to look at them.
Hurriedly, Tommy tried to continue doing what he was doing – the more damage he could cause before they were stopped, the longer it would take to reverse.
Movement rippled through the room.
"What are you doing?!" screeched a female voice. By magic, Tommy and Sophia were wrenched away from the machinery and tossed across the room onto the floor. By the time they looked up, they had already been surrounded by Dark Faeries. Another examined the machine frantically.
"Ruined," she said, sombrely. "Even if we work around the clock – even if we bring in twice as many workers – I don’t see how we can fix this before the asteroid hits."
"Asteroid?" Tommy asked.
"You foolish, meddling little Neopets!" cried the leading Dark Faerie in front of them. "Can’t you see what you’ve done?"
"We were stopping you from destroying Kreludor!" Sophia exclaimed.
The faerie scoffed. "Kreludor? Kreludor? What imbecile told you that? We were working to destroy an asteroid before it slams into this planet and destroys all of Neopia!"
To be continued…