Agent of the Sway: Discovery - Part Eight
The council chamber, it turned out, was hidden in the Hall of Heroes. It took Hopesmeade a few hours of careful manoeuvring and avoiding the Yurble janitor to locate and use the hidden switch that opened the door.
The Wocky poked his head inside, finding the eleven council members deep in conversation. It stopped abruptly when they realised they had a visitor.
King Altador was the first to speak.
"And just who might you be?" he asked. "How did you get in here?"
"I'm working with Finneus to help undo this magic," Hopesmeade quickly lied. "I'm a visitor from Neopia Central."
"Then you are most welcome!" Gordos, the treasurer Skeith boomed. "When I remember who did this to us, why, they will pay!"
He paused, as if an unseen thought had struck his consciousness, telling him that perhaps that wasn't a good idea. The Skeith shrank back in confused embarrassment.
"There are others working even now to restore your memories," Hopesmeade said. "Surely you noticed the change a few hours ago? You must now remember the Darkest Faerie."
A chilly silence greeted the statement.
"Yes," Altador answered. "We remember the deeds of the Betrayer. But that doesn't explain exactly why you are here."
"I wished to speak to you on a matter of grave importance," Hopesmeade said, with a glance to the Faeries, Siyana and Psellia. "In private, if I may."
"Anything you may say to me, my council can hear," Altador said.
Hopesmeade gave a little smile. He would need to proceed vary carefully.
"I represent certain forces in Neopia Central," Hopesmeade said. "Ones that wish to say hidden to help their work, but which are allied to Queen Fyora. There are organisations wishing to undermine her, and we seek in turn to undermine them. They place agents in foreign lands, and we place counter agents. They influence a turn of events, and we influence it back to the true path. Altador will represent a new and enticing target for them - I am here to beat them to it, so to speak."
A lie. A blatant lie. But without their memories, perhaps they would buy it.
"There are forces seeking to infiltrate Altador?" Psellia gasped.
"As we speak," Hopesmeade said, a truth at last. "I believe they will attempt to make use of the state you and your people now find yourselves in. Without your memories, you may, excuse my language, be easily duped by outsiders."
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," Jerdana said. "We will be on the lookout for such agents. May I ask your name?"
"Duke Hopesmeade," the Wocky answered. "Might I... Suggest a course of action for you?"
"We accept all council," Altador answered.
"Such forces often pretend to work for Fyora herself," Hopesmeade said. "Even going as far as to wear the armour of her rule. If such an agent was to appear in Altador, I would suggest detaining her, and calling for myself and my associates."
"I thought I might find one of you here," came a new voice from behind Hopesmeade.
There was Lady Falmouth, standing in her Faerieland armour. Her sword was drawn.
"I assume this magic is your kind's doing?" she asked. "Enemies of Queen Fyora, even here, in one of her protected lands!"
Hopesmeade gave a little smile, turning back to the council.
"Do you see?" he asked. "The agents of discord have come, just as I said."
King Altador nodded grimly.
"I see you have turned them against me already," Falmouth spat. "No matter, I will deal with you, and then correct them."
"Deal with me?" Hopesmeade replied, slightly offended. "You will deal with me? I'm not some lucky farmhand, my dear."
He took an amulet of hypnosis from our his neck, flicking it open and letting the light bathe Falmouth's face.
She snarled, the magic having no effect on her.
"A parlour trick is the best you can throw at me?" she laughed. "I expected more. I know exactly how to deal with that kind of magic, my dear."
She charged a brief blast of pink magic, throwing it towards Hopesmeade. It collided with the hypnotic amulet in a bright flash that blinded everyone in the council chamber.
Clayton saw the flash from across the city, and immediately knew something was wrong. He broke into a run, heading towards the source of the light. Along the way, he collided with Professor Lambert, sending the Gnorbu sprawling to the floor.
The Seeker was spouting something about putting a necklace around the neck of the Darkest Faerie's statue, but Clayton was not paying attention - Hopesmeade was in trouble. There were two Faeries on the Altador council, so that trouble could be very serious indeed.
He burst into the Hall of Heroes, seeing the new chamber open on the right. Clayton dashed up the staircase two steps at a time, but held back in the doorway as the sounds of swordfighting came from inside.
Peeking around, Clayton took in the scene. The amulet of hypnosis belonging to Hopesmeade was shattered on the floor, its magic quickly evaporating. Clayton hastily checked his own, Bori-made one was still intact.
Hopesmeade was busy fighting a Xweetok in Faerieland armour who could only be Lady Falmouth. The two were sparring with swords while the Altador council looked on, unsure of how to act.
Thankfully, Hopesmeade appeared to be getting the upper hand. Gradually, Falmouth was being forced back, and when Hopesmeade took the sword out of her hand with a graceful swipe, she fell backwards.
Clayton sensed movement below - Lambert appeared to have arrived to carry out his plan. Clayton ignored it, what was happening in front of him was more important.
"Nice try," Hopesmeade said triumphantly. "But we got here first."
The sounds of an explosion came from below, and immediately Clayton felt a shockwave of magic wash over him. The spell had been broken, and that meant...
The council turned as one, their focus on Jerdana.
"You?" Altador said, memories shifting in his mind. "You caused this magic?"
Then, a smile spread across his face.
"Yes, you," he said. "Protecting us from a spell of the Darkest Faerie's designed to make us believe she ruled Altador."
"The spell is broken at last," Jerdana said with a relieved sigh. "The Darkest Faerie's influence has been purged from Altador forever."
Her eyes rested on Hopesmeade. She glanced to his hand. To the ring.
"Or maybe not," she added.
King Altador's glad face changed instantly.
"I remember now," he said. "Neopets with that ring serving the Darkest Faerie, seeking to overthrow the council a thousand years ago."
"We know your organisation," Siyana snarled. "You will not leave this chamber and poison more with your lies."
She waved her hands, and Falmouth's sword flew back into the Xweetok's hands. The knight got to her feet, ready for another round with Hopesmeade. The Wocky was outnumbered now, twelve to one. No hope.
Clayton reached for his dagger and the magic book that would summon other agents of the Sway, but Hopesmeade caught his eye. He gave the briefest of gestures, a shake of the head. He was instructing Clayton to remain hidden, but surely he would know what that would mean for him?
"I submit myself," Hopesmeade said, deflating.
His sword clattered to the ground.
"Torak," King Altador instructed. "Take this traitor to the dungeons."
The Grarrl moved towards the Wocky, but Falmouth ventured forwards.
"King Altador, if I may," she said. "Allow myself a reintroduction. I am Lady Falmouth, I am here on business from Queen Fyora herself, tracking agents of this organisation. If I could be allowed custody of the prisoner, her majesty would like to interrogate him personally in the hopes of rooting out other agents. I, unlike him, offer proof of my mission."
She produced a scroll and handed it to King Altador. The seal of Fyora appeared to convince him.
"Very well," he agreed. "Please send our thanks to the Queen."
With that, Falmouth took hold of Hopesmeade's arm. A brief flash of purple magic followed, and the pair were gone.
Clayton at once felt intensely alone and vulnerable. He'd operated by himself before, of course, but never like this. He had to get back to some sort of safety. He had to get back to the Duchess. He backed away, back down the staircase.
"I think there will be people below we have to thank for breaking the spell," King Altador was saying. "They will need to be properly rewarded for their efforts."
Hundreds of miles away, the embers crackled in the Duchess's fireplace as she sat contemplating her chess set. She had played a particularly fiendish move, and was finding it difficult to counter.
A Crokabek flew through the open window, dropping a scroll on her lap before disappearing back where it had come from.
She opened it carefully, holding it with one hand and reading it as she picked up a Queen from the board. Her hand paused in mid air as she read, her eyes going wide with shock.
The Queen clattered to the board, knocking over several other pieces.
"Oh," was the only blunt reply the Lenny could muster.
The Sway had been discovered.