Rafe and Moralie braced themselves as the mannequins approached them. Their mouths were open, ready to tear away their flesh. Rafe didn’t plan on letting them get that close. She tried to raise her sword, but the hallway they were in was too narrow. She couldn’t fight here.
Moralie prepared her daggers for action. She caught a glimpse of Greta spooning some of the potion into a bottle. When she was done, Greta left the kitchen. Moralie knew that they didn’t have much time before Greta gave Zeke that potion, whatever it was.
Rafe and Moralie led the six mannequins out into the lobby where they would have more room to fight. They didn’t want to go too far from the kitchen, but it was unavoidable.
The mannequins made the first move by rushing them. Rafe reacted and stabbed her sword through one of their chests. She used her strength to pull the sword upward, splitting it in two. It kept coming at her, so Rafe swung her sword and lopped the split head off its shoulders. The body fell to the floor and writhed for a moment before it became still.
Moralie had two mannequins push her up against the stairwell. She pulled out her fire daggers and jabbed them into each of their heads. Smoke began to spill out of their heads before they burned up from the inside. The fire spread to its shoulders and eventually the whole thing fell apart into a pile of embers.
Rafe disposed of another one while Moralie took on another two. When they were done, they immediately ran to the kitchen. They scanned the kitchen for any sign of a door. Greta was no longer in the kitchen, so she had to have gone somewhere.
“It must be a secret door, camouflaged,” Rafe said. She pulled on anything that might be a lever to open the door. She knocked containers full of spices off of the shelves, pressed anything that looked like a button, and pulled on hooks on the wall. Nothing yielded a door.
Exhausted, Rafe stamped her foot on the floor in frustration. It was then that she heard a thunk. She looked down at her feet and saw that the part of the floor she was standing on was raised more than the rest of it. She grinned as she gave the floor another stomp. A click sounded by the wall next to the stove. A part of the wall opened to reveal the door.
“Excellent work, Rafe,” Moralie said. “You only had to wreck the whole kitchen to find it.”
“I should have been an interior designer.” Rafe smirked as she opened the door.
The door led them to a stairway that led underground. The way was carved out of stone. There was a light coming from the bottom of the steep stairway. Rafe knew that Greta was down there at the bottom. This was good because there was no other way in or out of this basement. Hold on, Zeke, Rafe thought, we’re coming.
Zeke and Simon sat in the dark room, waiting for something to happen. They had come to the inn hoping to find Rafe and Moralie. Instead, they found Greta and more mannequins. They tried to fend for themselves, but they were exhausted from their earlier battle and were captured easily. They were led to this place and abandoned.
“She could have at least let us change our clothes,” Zeke said, adjusting his towel. “I feel so helpless.”
“Well, don’t give up.” Simon sighed. “Hopefully, Rafe and Moralie are still out there.”
“What does that lady even want with us?” Zeke wasn’t sure, but he surmised that the Dark One had something to do with this. That guy really had it out for him and didn’t know why. He supposed that he could ask him the next time they met.
Zeke started to say how frustrated he was that he couldn’t use his powers when Simon shushed him. The two of them listened closely and heard footsteps coming from outside. They felt hopeful and frightened at the same time. Was it the innkeeper or was it Rafe and Moralie? They took a few steps back from the door and waited.
There was a click in the door as someone stuck a key in the lock. Zeke’s stomach dropped as Greta entered the room. Three mannequins followed her. Zeke placed his back against the wall. He saw that she was carrying a small bottle of something. He didn’t like the look of what was inside.
Greta shut the door behind her and turned to Zeke. She looked into his eyes and smiled. It was the only thing she could do to lessen the impact of what she was going to do. She told herself that all of this was for her family. She couldn’t live without them; she needed them, otherwise her life had no meaning.
She held out her hand that contained the potion and said, “I’m going to need you to drink this.”
Simon stepped in front of Zeke and said, “He’s not going to drink anything, lady. You need to back off!”
“Please, don’t make this difficult,” Greta pleaded. She took a step toward them knowing that there was nowhere else they could go. “You have to drink this.” Tears were welling in her eyes.
“What does it do?” Zeke asked out of curiosity.
“I don’t know.” Greta’s hands were shaking. She was so close to completing her task. She took another step.
Simon tensed his muscles and prepared to take this little old lady down. He ignited his fists with green flames, but he could tell that they weren’t as powerful and he would have liked. Most of his magical energy had been used up earlier.
“You need to stop right there,” Simon said. “I’m not afraid to injure the elderly.”
“Stand in my way and I will strike you down.” Greta was becoming angry. She didn’t want to have to use brute strength, but this man was giving her no choice. She snapped her fingers and two of the wooden mannequins stepped up to Simon.
Simon sent two blasts of fire in their direction. The flames danced on their bodies, but didn’t have any effect. They soon fizzled out, leaving smoke to rise. This confirmed his thoughts that he was weakening.
The mannequins picked Simon up and threw him across the room. He landed in a corner, pride wounded, but otherwise alright. He stood up and thought about charging the mannequins, but there wasn’t much he could do with them afterwards. He supposed that he could keep them away from Zeke. He decided that this would be the best course of action.
Simon ran at the closest mannequin and tackled it to the floor.
“Hold him!” Greta commanded.
The mannequin quickly got on top of Simon and pressed him down. Simon struggled to get up, but his opponent was surprisingly strong. He told himself that he had dealt with stronger and handled it just fine. He continued to fight, taking some liberties to kick the mannequin in places that would injure any man. The mannequin wasn’t fazed by this at all. It proceeded to carry out its order of suppression.
Simon took a deep breath and refocused his energies. There had to be a low level spell he could use. He was running on empty after that dragon spell he cast. He mentally kicked himself for being so careless.
Greta commanded the two remaining mannequins to seize Zeke. The young wizard fought against them, but he wasn’t strong enough to prevent them from grabbing him. Greta approached Zeke with the bottle and opened it. A pungent odor that reminded Zeke of bad cabbage and week old dirty socks filled his nostrils.
“You will drink this and it will all be over,” Greta said calmly. She brought the bottle up to Zeke’s lips. He pressed them closed and turned his head away. She grabbed his face and squeezed his cheeks. “Open your mouth.” Zeke grunted his refusal. She resorted to plugging his nose, which Zeke was grateful for, but he knew that he was going to have to open his mouth to breathe eventually or pass out, and she would be waiting for that.
Greta continued to hold Zeke’s nose. It was only a matter of time now. He would open his mouth and she would pour the potion in. It would do whatever it was going to do and she would be free. It all was within her grasp.
Suddenly, the door to the room was kicked in. Startled, Greta looked behind her and saw Rafe and Moralie standing there. “No!”She was sure that the mannequins had taken care of them. Now she was between a rock and a hard place. She should have the three remaining mannequins attack them? She needed all of them where they were. Her end goal was slipping through her fingers. What was she going to do?
“Step away from the wizard,” Rafe shouted. She raised her sword at Greta to make sure that she got the point.
“No! He must drink this!”Greta turned back to Zeke, still holding his nose. He was beginning to wiggle, still trying to hold his breath. He couldn’t hold out much longer. He was seconds away from gasping for air, she could feel it.
Zeke was beginning to see stars in his eyes. He had to breathe by any means necessary. He needed to get Greta away from him. Desperate for air, he kicked Greta in the shins, hoping that this would cause her to release him. This attempted failed, Greta only strengthened her hold on him. He closed his eyes and decided that he would open his mouth.
“Moralie.” Rafe extended her hand to Moralie, asking for one of her daggers. When she received it, Rafe threw the dagger at Greta’s back. The innkeeper cried out and released Zeke from her hold. Zeke immediately took a deep breath. The mannequins’ hold on Simon and Zeke weakened, allowing them to escape.
Greta collapsed on the floor, reaching for the dagger in her back. She couldn’t reach it despite her best efforts. She felt heat spreading from the wound to the rest of her body. She felt as if she was on fire from the inside. growing hotter with every second. She cried as she realized that she had failed in her mission. There was nothing she could do. Surely the voice wouldn’t bring her family back now. She was done for.
Rafe and the others watched as the innkeeper began to smoke. Her skin turned black with streaks of red coursing through her veins. She screamed as the heat consumed her and then she finally fell silent as she slumped over. Smoke rose out of her charred body.
The mannequins that the innkeeper controlled tumbled to the floor, no longer a threat. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” Zeke said, rubbing his nose. “It’s a good thing you guys came when you did.”
“No sweat,” Moralie said, slapping Zeke on the should. “Okay, maybe a little bit of sweat.”
Simon walked over to one of the mannequins and kicked it fervently. “I hate these things! Take that!”
Rafe went over to Greta’s body and retrieved Moralie’s dagger. She saw the little bottle that Greta had been carrying on the ground next to her body. She made sure that no one was watching before she picked it up. She found the stopper to the bottle and placed it on before sticking it into her pocket. She, then, stood up and joined the rest of them by the door.
“We should probably get some sleep. It’s been a busy day,” Rafe suggested.
“Do we have to sleep here?” Zeke asked, almost whining. “This place gives me the creeps now.”
“We paid, we might as well.” Moralie said, wiping the blood off of her returned dagger. She face perked up instantly. “We get our money back! Not bad considering all the trouble we went through.”
“Of course you’re worried about money.” Rafe smiled at her friend as she walked out of the room. “Simon, quit kicking the mannequin. As if it hasn’t gone through enough.”
Simon looked up and saw that he was being left behind. He gave the mannequin one last kick before he joined his friends.
The Dark One set his crystal ball down and sighed in disappointment. He had watched the whole operation. He thought for sure that he was finally going to be through with the wizard apprentice. That kid was one of the luckiest people he knew. He killed everyone in that entire town for nothing. Oh well, he thought, better luck next time.
He was annoyed that he still hadn’t heard from Lyssa. She was one of his best minions. He hoped that the boy hadn’t banished her from this dimension; that would be a pain in the neck to fix. It was doable, but painstaking. He decided that he would give it another day before he went looking for her. For now, he was tired and needed to rest. Perhaps, he would dream of another way to destroy the boy. Tomorrow was another day.