Sophie hummed as she and Basa Lo strolled down a sorry-looking street in the Haunted Woods. She just needed to get some ingredients, and Basa wanted play a few rounds at the Corkgun Gallery. It was very peaceful -- But Sophie was a bit on edge.

...Because she was starting to get used to the calm coming before a big storm.

Indeed, as she and Basa passed by Edna's Tower, of all places, they heard a loud screaming and several crashes. Sophie paused...Did she really want to head in? Edna had probably just slipped up on a potion and made a monster. Sophie hated the old Zafara, but trusted she could handle anything from her own cauldron. But then, as Basa Lo's expectant look up at her started to make her reconsider, what she heard next cemented the decision to go in:

A male voice could be heard yelling something, followed by a high-pitched wail from Edna.

Sophie immediately rushed up to the tower, trying the door. There, she found the door locked tight. She was about to cast a spell, before she caught a movement from Basa Lo.

The Bori's claws glowed a shining white as she slashed the door. The wood was splintered open, making a way in. Basa immediately dashed in, and Sophie followed her soon after. What the two found gave them great shock.

Inside was a large figure holding Edna by the collar of her dress, as she struggled and cried. He turned to Sophie and Basa, showing that he was a huge orange Lupe, with a small part of his left ear missing and his right eye scarred and an empty white. He was wearing a dark blue uniform of some kind, and had a build that matched Zev's. The Lupe spoke in a strained, angry voice.

"Go away. None of your business." As Edna began to say something, he shook her violently, causing her to scream loudly. He turned back to her, thinking that it would be simple as that. However, he didn't know what happens when you piss off the Swamp Witch.

With a shrieking noise, the Lupe found his back exploding in pain. He grunted an turned back to Sophie, only to get a blast of lime green magical energy straight between his eyes. The massive individual howled, dropping Edna and grabbing his face with both hands. Sophie bared her teeth at him, her fingertips abolutely blazing with magical energy.

In a voice that trembled with rage, she said, "You won't be telling me what is and isn't my business, you big dumbass!!" She then began weaving a spell, as the Lupe struggled with his further-impaired vision. Sophie recited an incantation.

"Carriage of thunder, blue line, bridge of a spinning wheel. With light, divide this into six!" She then swung both hands. From her motion, six rods of green energy shot out, latching onto the Lupe; two on his chest, one on each bicep, one on his left thigh, and one to a shin. As he tried to attack her, he found that he was frozen in place, unable to move. But Sophie wasn't finished yet.

Continuing into another incantation, she said, "Ye Lord! Mask of flesh and bone, severing of limbs, ye who bares his fangs at darkness! Inscribe a lotus upon the conflagration and wait at the abyss!" All the while, she had been gathering a large sphere of fiery green energy in her hands. At the end of the incantation, she thrust her palms outward. This unleashed a spearing beam of green fire that detonated violently upon striking the Lupe.

He fell from the smoke, charred all over, to be met with yet another spell. This one caused him to shrink and deform, into a tiny little shape. Sophie sneered down at the unconcious Slorg distastefully. "Bullying women…I'd think such a large fellow wouldn't need to sink so low," she said hatefully. As she stuffed the transformed Lupe into a pouch, Edna approached.

The old Zafara said, "…While you have my thanks, why did you help me?" She narrowed her eyes. "You have nothing to gain…You don't even like me…With me gone, you wouldn't have any competition. Care to explain to a woman narrowly saved from death?" She quirked an eyebrow as she awaited a response.

Sophie crossed her arms with a huff. "It should be obvious," she said. "Wuitches are to be respected and feared. I can't simply let such a gross showing of irreverence for our power and influence simply go by impune. So don't get the wrong idea!" She grabbed Basa Lo by the arm. "Let's go," she said as she dragged the Bori out of Edna's Tower. The old Zafara watched after them for a while, before a wispy smile crept across her face.

"…That's youth for you," she said dryly. Edna then began preparing to clean up the mess.

In a dark, hot chamber, a female figure stood. She was an orange Zafara with prominent, curved bangs hanging forward over the left side of her face, a substantial bossom, and enticing hips. She was dressed in a dark gray uniform, customized with no sleeves and an opening that revealed a gratuitous amount of her cleavage. She would indeed seem very inviting.

Were it not for how she was pressing her boot down into the side of a bruised orange Krawk's head, ignoring his wheezing grunts of pain and cries for mercy. The Zafara spoke in a soft voice with a faint Italian accent.

"I will let you go, Third-Rank Officer Rudobon…Once you do something for me," she said detachedly. "You will tell me why I am punishing you, you will apologize, and you will tell me what you will do to remedy this situation our family is in." She let up a large amount of the pressure on Rudobon's head, enough that he could speak freely.

The Krawk trembled, before speaking. "I am being punished because I overestimated my squad's abilities and underestimated the abilities of my target and her allies…Words cannot express the shame I feel, nor how truly sorry I am, Sir." When he felt just a bit more of the pressure being let up, he took that as his cue to finish. "To resolve my mistake, I…I shall form a professional team of other Third-Ranks instead of drawing from the Millions, and form a plan that I shall only put into effect with the approval of my superiors," he said, slightly speeding up at the end. He winced as the Zafara remained silent. A minute passed. Half a minute passed after that.

Finally, the Zafara removed her boot from Rudubon's head, and proceeded to roughly grab him by the arm and drag him to his feet. She then said to him, "You will gather Officer Duff, Officer Racas, Officer Rotor and Officer Reuben. Tell them they have been chosen specifically by South Base's Director, First-Rank Officer Fiora Aranciona. They have no option to decline – Make sure that much is clear to them. Also, make preparations for Second-Rank Officer Velky Vilk's replacement to be located and examined – Sources tell me that…Outside factors led to the failure of his mission." She ended at that. Nodding, Rudobon was quick to leave.

Fiora simply stood there in the darkness, silent. She made no noises or movements. Suddenly, the darkness could be seen to move. Before her, three narrow, vertically-aligned eyes arranged in a triangle appeared, gazing at her. A very soft, but far from comforting voice spoke.

"Dear child of mine…Tell me how the initiative goes."

On Krawk Island, a large fellow left the Swashbuckling Academy. He was a green Kyrii of broad, sturdy frame, dressed in a black tuxedo, black tie, polished black dress shoes and black derby. He adjusted his tie, and began walking down the avenue – However, he didn't get far.

Suddenly, five unruly individuals moved out of a pair of alleys that the Kyrii was right between, three behind him, two before him. The three behind him consisted of twin Meercas and a portly Lupe, the two ahead were a Krawk with a bandana and an eyepatch and a lean Gelert covered with stitched-up scars. The Gelert was apparently the leader, as he drew a broad dagger and breathed, "Alright, big guy…Give us anything worth cash, and we won't hurt ya…" However, the Kyrii remained completely calm.

The large Neopet simply removed his derby, gently tapping its brim against his palm. He turned slowly to the two Meercas and the Lupe, who each brandished clubs at him and growled. It seemed the Kyrii would do nothing.

However, he suddenly lashed out, throwing his derby. The hat impacted the Lupe's temple, ricocheted to hit the Meerca on the crown, and spun off to return to the Kyrii's hand, all in a matter of seconds. The remaining Meerca pushed off of the ground with its tail, swinging its club towards the Kyrii, but he simply brought the top of his hat up to block. The deflection was followed by an uppercut that knocked the Meerca back to fall unconcious with his two allies.

Immediately after the Kyrii spun, slamming his derby into the temple of the Krawk and saving himself from a sneak attack. He quickly approached the dumbstruck Gelert, jabbing the derby's brim into his chest. The Kyrii followed up by bringing his knee into the would-be thief's gut, before delivering a chop to his temple to knock him down. Ignoring the gathering crowd, the Kyrii simply placed his derby where it rightly belonged and walked off.

"I hope I don't miss that ship to the Haunted Woods," he said under his breath.