Storm of Fortunes: Part Six
Suddenly a scream rent the air. It was shrill- full of horror and despair.
Hanni turned, deaf to the voice of the wraith beside her.
"Unlock the door. I'll do my best to help Amaira. Girl!"
He seized Hanni's arm as she went to flee. Hanni struggled, clawing at the limb with her free hand.
"I need to help her!"
"Give me the key, then."
Hanniala threw it at the bars, and then pulled free as the wraith's grip slackened. Without so much as a backwards glance, Hanni broke into a sprint, heading in the direction of the cry.
Tyson leaned against the throne, the left side of his face swollen and bruised. Before him sat Vira, cradling her mirror, while the dagger hovered menacingly at her shoulder.
"If you want your beauty, Amaira, make him speak."
The wretched creature growled. It swiped a heavily armoured paw at Tyson. He staggered back just in time, jaw locked in grim determination. The Bori had already decided that he would die before betraying Wolf. But deep inside, a snivelling wreck trembled and begged for him to give in.
Amaira lashed out once again. This time she made contact, and Tyson was knocked off his feet. Limbs flailing, he crashed to the ground. His head collided with the wall behind him. Pain lanced through his skull and he lay still for several seconds, stunned.
Vira moved into his line of sight, stroking the ornate designs that adorned her mirror.
"Tyson, we'll try this one more time. Look into the mirror."
"No!" He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and curled up into a ball. His entire body ached. He wanted to go home.
"Then tell us what you know about the wraith. Or else you can just stay there awhile, and Amaira will deal with you."
"Wolf's birthday..." Tyson began.
A shout from the doorway interrupted him.
Vira spun around. Tyson wearily got to his paws. A young Darigan Kougra, eyes widened in horror, stood in the doorway.
"Hanni, my dear," Vira purred. "You're finally more beautiful than your sister. Doesn't that please you?"
Hanni hesitated, and then hissed.
She lunged at Vira, claws outstretched. At the creature's command, Amaira moved to intercept. Then a door burst open, and four guards lunged into the room. It was utter chaos as Hanni fought to calm her sister, while the guards struggled to get close enough to capture the elder Kougra.
In the midst of all this confusion, Tyson made for the exit. He was thinking more clearly now, and remembered where he had heard the name "Vira" before. This was the castle at Fleralsen, where Stone had met her end.
Once in the corridor, Tyson chose a direction and ran. As he passed an alcove, he was suddenly seized by a pair of hands. He whipped around, ready to fight, and found himself face to face with Wolf.
"Wolf," he panted, relieved.
She laid a finger to her lips in a gesture that looked awkward and unreal, but still conveyed a clear message. Tyson fell silent, and Wolf leaned in close.
"There are two guards just along from here," she murmured.
"Have you seen a teenage Kougra?"
"Yes. Ah... that way."
"Good. Let's go."
Wolf slid out into the hall, Tyson right behind. Side by side, they made for the sound of conflict. Quite naturally, Tyson was reluctant to return to the room of his imprisonment, but he hated even more the thought of being left alone in that dim stone corridor.
As the sound grew closer, Tyson became more and more uncomfortable. He didn't even know who the Kougra was, or why it was so important that they rescue her.
Then it clicked. Perhaps she and her younger, now mutated, companion were the "they" that Wolf had been so unwilling to speak of. That would sure explain...
Before Tyson could even finish the thought, an all too familiar voice sounded nearby.
"So, the wraith. You are a difficult creature to contain, aren't you?"
Rough hands seized Tyson from behind. The red Grarrl from earlier hoisted him up in his arms, as easily as if he were a child, and carried him into the room where the sounds of conflict had subsided considerably.
Tyson struggled against his captor, but the Grarrl dug his claws in tight, and Tyson fell back into his arms with a piercing yelp. Beyond the massive Neopian, Vira smiled and moved towards Wolf. Then they were gone from sight.
Tyson thrashed about, kicking and clawing with all the energy he could muster. Snapping teeth met the Grarrl's throat. The creature yelped, swiftly dropping the Bori and clutching at his wound.
"You little Slorg," he growled.
Tyson jumped back out of range and made for the door, but found his path blocked by the mutated Kougra. Behind him Hanni, the elder Kougra, pleaded for her to back down. The creature didn't seem to understand and, unsheathing her claws, lunged at Tyson.
Tyson raised his arms to fend her off, and cried out as they were slashed by razor sharp talons. He fell to the ground in a scene reminiscent of his earlier confrontation with the beast, one hand still raised to defend himself. Tyson's vision, dominated by dark fur and glittering claws, flashed red.
He gasped as pain lanced through his arm.
He had to escape! He had to help Wolf! She'd done her best to help him.
Tyson kicked at the monster looming over him. She snarled and slashed directly at the Bori. He rolled aside, yelped as his injured arm was momentarily pinned beneath his body. The Grarrl shouted something and grabbed at the creature's arm as she prepared to spring. Amaira shook him off and pounced.
Tyson rolled away once more, but his attacker seized him and pinned him face first against the ground. Somewhere, voices were calling for her to stop. Tyson struggled against the creature, ever more desperately. He could feel his strength depleting and, before long, he had no energy left to struggle.
The exhausted Bori lay still, dimly aware that he could be about to die.
"You leave him alone," Wolf growled.
Vira grinned, but didn't reply. She circled the wraith, examining it with interest. As Vira walked, Wolf shifted to follow her enemy's movements with her eyes.
"We could have been friends, you know," Vira said.
In reply, a bitter bark of a laugh. "No, we couldn't."
"Aww." Vira bit her lip, feigning sadness.
"Can't we let bygones be bygones? You intrigue me, Mister Wolf. How is it that you were able to resist my mirror?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
Without warning, Wolf lunged. Vira, who was passing an open cell-like construction, fell back into it with a startled gasp. The dagger leaped to defend its mistress, but Wolf was already pulling the iron door across, sealing the Acara inside.
"Now," she said. "Any regrets you'd like to confess?"
At a command from Vira, the dagger returned to its master's side.
"Let me go," Vira hissed, latching onto the bars.
Wolf removed something from her jacket. Vira froze. In one hand, the wraith now held a box of matches.
"Oh, I would," Wolf snarled.
She struck a match, which flared brightly in the dim passageway. The dagger once more moved to intervene, but Wolf tossed the fiery object at a nearby bench before the blade had a chance to strike.
"Mister Wolf, please..."
With Vira's pleas echoing in her ears, the wraith sprang into the adjoining room, where the sounds of conflict had again risen..
Tyson lay on the floor, his arm and face throbbing in angry unison.
A commotion outside the door reached his ears. What had once been soft conversation had increased in volume to desperate, fearful shouting.
He heard a door burst open. The mutated Kougra was flung from him with a startled cry. Tyson looked up to see Wolf spin away, teeth bared, and slash at an approaching Pteri. The wraith was like one possessed, dealing blows left and right and with great sweeping strikes of her tail, all the while snarling like a wild beast.
Tyson had never seen such fury. Wolf spun before his eyes with a fiery wrath, which seemed to stream behind her in streaks of shadow. Her claws flashed- daggers that struck left and right with startling precision and ferocity. Then real daggers appeared from within her clothes, swiftly cutting down those who tried to flee. They lay, groaning and clutching at their wounds, on the slowly reddening floor.
"Follow me!" howled Wolf as she passed Hanni.
Still blazing with darkness, the wraith sprang to meet Tyson. His eyes widened.
The Bori yelled as she seized hold of his collar and lunged for the window, holding her wings in front of them like a shield. Tyson wrapped his arms around her neck, terrified, as they burst free of the castle and plummeted towards the land far below. Shards of glass rained down around them.
Wolf spread her wings, beating them strongly downward in an attempt to slow their descent. But it wasn't working fast enough.
She tossed Tyson into what appeared to be a hay stack, before attempting to tuck and roll as she met the earth. She came up with a hiss, nursing an injured knee. Tyson groaned and blinked.
A dark shadow passed over them. Hanni came in to land, Amaira right behind. Wolf rose to greet them.
"She'll find us," was the first thing Hanni said.
"We'll keep you safe," the wraith responded.
Tyson sat up slowly, aching all over. He was tired and afraid. What he had seen earlier, what Wolf and Amaira... especially Amaira... had done, was impossible to put out of mind. Would they... could he... was that a flicker of lamp light in the window, or...?
An explosion, loud enough to deafen the Bori, shook the castle to its core. A jet of fire sprang into the air, angry and bright against the night sky. By its light, Tyson could see the upturned faces of his companions, their eyes narrowed against the glare. Then the whole thing was gone, sinking down into oblivion, flames howling and tearing at the rubble.
To be continued...