|Back to Basics|
Mistress Fealdspar had been about to sit down for her evening soup when one of the satyr girls had run into the dining chamber, claiming to have found Hydra unconscious. It seemed unlikely - who could overpower such a creature? - but now, as the Sorceress followed the satyr out into the garden, it was obvious that something was amiss.
"This way, Mistress," said the satyr girl as she trotted ahead, holding a lantern up to light the way. The Sorceress said nothing as she walked past the statues lining the castle's path. She had decided not to lift the darkness charm, reasoning that as long it remained in place the intruder would think they were undetected - making them easier to catch.
A feeling of unease came over the Sorceress as the satyr led her off the path and into the forest. Had something really managed to beat down Hydra? They would need powerful magical protection just to get past her, let alone attack her and win.
"Here, Mistress!" said the satyr girl, leaning down and holding out the lantern. The light clearly illuminated Hydra, who was lying motionless on the floor. The Sorceress knelt down and felt both the creature's chests to ensure it was still breathing. She looked toward Hydra's twin heads and saw that both of them bore bloody wounds. The intruder had managed to physically knock out the Sorceress' most powerful guardian.
Mistress Fealdspar stood up suddenly and looked at the satyr girl, who seemed to sense her anger. She took a step back as the Sorceress said, "Give me the lantern." The satyr quickly handed it over. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"Ah. Thank you, Mistress." The satyr seemed relieved, but dare not meet the Sorceress' gaze.
"As a reward, here is some advice that could serve you well." The Sorceress raised her free hand before continuing, "NEVER be the bearer of bad news."
The satyr girl opened her mouth to scream, but it was too late. She became immobile as her body instantly hardened under her mistress' spell. Within a second she had become solid granite from her horns to her hooves, her once soft fur now grey and cold. The Sorceress gave the new statue a vicious blow with her staff and it fell to the grass, making a loud thudding noise. "You will not be the only one to pay tonight," she spat.
The Sorceress was worried for the first time in many years. How would she find the intruder, and what were they capable of? And where was Bat? Her faithful familiar should be seeking out Hydra's attacker, but was nowhere to be seen.
She looked down at Hydra's heads again. The wounds seemed to have been made with a small flat-headed weapon, such as a mace or a mallet. Realisation washed over the Sorceress like a cold shower. She stood up and ran towards the middle of the garden, using her staff to steady herself as the heavy lantern swayed in her hand.
It took only minutes for the Sorceress to reach her destination. She extinguished the lantern and walked carefully and silently. This area was off limits to all but the Sorceress herself, and she now stood before the reason why.
Protruding from the bushes in the garden's centre was a statue of a young woman dressed in a ragged leather tunic. The face, partially obscured by the ivy that had climbed up the figure, looked shocked and scared. This was Mistress Fealdspar's true body, transformed many years ago by a wizard she was apprentice to. From this spot she possessed people, taking their bodies and changing their shape to suit her. The petrifaction curse was unbreakable, but her stone body was not.
She stood in front of her true body, staff gripped tightly in her hands, waiting for the intruder to come. She did not have to wait long.
The Sorceress could make out a white light coming towards her, seemingly floating in the air. It illuminated a tall, cloaked figure walking silently beside it. As the figure moved closer it became apparent that the light actually was floating in the air - a simple illumination spell unaffected by the darkness charm. This was the intruder, that much was clear. The Sorceress drew herself up to her full height as the trespasser approached. The intruder stopped a few feet in front of the Sorceress and pulled back the cloak's hood, revealing the face of a young woman. Her skin was pure white and her ears were pointed. The magical light gave her light grey hair an almost blue tint, and caused a metal hammer hanging from her belt to glisten. She glared at the Sorceress with deep blue eyes as she spoke. "I did not expect you to be waiting for me, Fealdspar." The Sorceress smiled faintly before replying. "Over the years I have learned to stay one step ahead of my enemies. You should not have used that hammer against Hydra. You gave your intentions away." "I would not use a lethal weapon against the innocent." "Even to kill me? The end does not justify the means... Very elven. And how does an elf come to be in my garden? There are so few of you left now." "Stand aside, Fealdspar."
"And let you destroy my real body with that hammer of yours? I think not."
"Your insanity must end. Stand aside."
The Sorceress' anger overcame her curiosity. She raised her right hand to cast a spell, but only felt a sharp pain shoot up her arm. The elf continued to stare at her, a look of triumph on her pallid face. "Around my neck is one of the most potent amulets of magical protection in existence. You cannot stop me, Fealdspar."
Her powers useless, the Sorceress raised her staff in defence. There was no way she could beat an elf hand to hand. Perhaps if she kept her talking. "So, elf, how did you come to know so much about me? My history is not common knowledge."
But the elf was not in the mood to talk further. She detached the hammer from her belt and gripped it with both hands.
The Sorceress raised her staff above her head and smiled slightly. "You should be careful, elf. I have friends in high places." Without a sound, Bat swooped down from above, her claws extended towards the back of the elf's head. With incredible speed the elf span around, catching Bat full in the chest with the hammer. The creature screamed with pain as it was knocked away. The elf span back round to face the Sorceress, but was too late. Fealdspar's staff caught her hard across the side of her head and she fell unconscious to the ground.
The Sorceress leaned down and tore open the elf's cloak before ripping the amulet from around her neck. Both the illumination spell and the darkness charm faded, and the garden was bathed in moonlight. Bat was sitting on the floor a few feet away, bruised but otherwise unhurt. She stood up and looked at the Sorceress, who was staring at the elf's amulet.
The Sorceress continued to stare at the amulet for a few seconds before replying.
"Thank you for your help, Bat. Arrange for Hydra to be taken up to the house. And inform the kitchen staff that I have something for them."
The Sorceress' guests looked at the disc with horror. It was an elven woman, immobilised and compacted into a smooth inch-thick plate. On one side the soles of her feet could be clearly seen. The other showed her face, frozen in a look of terror with her mouth open.
The Sorceress nodded and the maid placed the elf on the table, face down. The soup cauldron was then placed on top so that the flat bottom rested on the disc. The room filled with muffled screams as the hot metal burned the soles of the elf's feet.
A satisfied smile spread across the Sorceress' face. "Ensure that our elven friend joins us for soup every evening from now on." The maids nodded and began to serve the soup as the screams continued.