Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 115,191,906 Issue: 230 | 9th day of Running, Y8
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Treasure of the Caves: Part Six


by ssjelitegirl

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The path went on for what felt like an eternity. Saura was now in front of the others, still carrying Ace. The Wuzzle seemed a bit dizzy and its flames were smaller than before. Tsuki was nowhere to be seen, he could see well in the darkness and didn't need Ace's light but suddenly he showed up next to the Zafara.

     "What's wrong with Ace?" he asked.

      "No idea, he's been like that for a while now," Saura replied with a concerned frown. "Maybe he's caught an illness or something."

     "Naw," Ice's voice gasped behind them near the floor. "Oxygen." She was smaller than the others and used more energy to keep up with the rest; now she seemed a bit pale and very breathless. Saura stopped and looked around.

     "This cave must be very long and apparently there aren't many airholes here. We need to be careful, there's no telling if we ever get out once something goes wrong. Daggers most likely added several little traps to guard his treasure."

     Something flashed in the darkness. Tsuki was now in front of the rest; he was barely to be seen but Ace's light still reflected on his golden rings, and next to those something silvery flashed as well. But there was no sound.

     "Tsuke!" Kat shouted. She was behind the others, carrying their supplies and keeping an eye out for anything unexpected. "Are you still there?"

     An absent murmur assured them that the Shoyru was still there but buried in his thoughts or tracking something. The pets walked on patiently for a while, knowing their stepbrother well enough, and in a few minutes the answer came: "Yes, I think I now know what may be expecting us."

     "Do you know where we're going?" Saura asked.

     "I haven't been here before," the Shoyru answered laconically and flapped his wings, disappearing to examine the caves again.

     "I wonder if there are any monsters and traps to guard the treasure," Shad said, sniffing the air curiously. It was damp and smelly.

     "I don't think he went for something that cliché," Kat muttered. "Didn't the note on the wall mention something about passing another skeleton?"

     "It's over here, don't step on it," Tsuki's voice echoed in the shadows. The pets sneaked past a fistful of old bones and shuddered. "Be careful now, we're getting close. Every hidden treasure has a guard. I think we're about to run into ours."

     Ace the Wuzzle gave a quiet hiss and suddenly stopped giving light, flaming only enough to cover its little body, highlight Saura's face and paws a little and keep him warm. The Zafara stopped in the middle of the path and the others quickly gathered around him. Tsuki came closer, though only his blue eyes were to be seen in the darkness.

     "It can sense something," Saura said quietly, gazing into the dark. "It's afraid of something out there." Ace hissed again.

     "I can't hear anything," Shad snarled, pricking up his ears. Kat nodded slowly and raised her head. They stood there quietly for a while but heard nothing.

     "Let's keep going," Ice finally said, reaching out her hoof and poking Ace to annoy it. The Wuzzle who usually flamed like a torch when poked just gave a silent grunt and curled up in Saura's paws.

     "Something is definitely wrong," Shad stated when they started moving again. "Listen. And smell."

     "I can't hear anything… or smell," Saura replied after a short pause. The Lupe nodded even though nobody could see it.

     "Exactly. Not even our steps? Not even the fungus? Something happened in here when Ace put itself out. Tsuki, where are you?"

     "Here." Tsuki's voice was muffled. "Even though I'm not sure where that "here" is. I can't see much. Something is definitely wrong here. Stop, all of you." Ace's flames were now nothing but a glow. As the pets gathered around its vague comfort, the Shoyru lurked around in complete darkness for a few minutes. He was concerned. All of his senses were failing on him. But there was still one that didn't let him down, though it didn't make things better either. Tsuki felt relieved when he found his way back to his siblings again.

     "The walls are gone," he said. "The cave wasn't wider than the length of a Uni but now we're surrounded by nothingness."

     "Not just any nothingness; it has taken away our senses," Ice muttered. "No need to go on, there's no telling where we might end up."

     "I don't think we're moving anywhere at all," Shad replied. "This here is some odd magic. Tsuki, can you do anything?"

     The mage's eyes flashed in the darkness. "If I knew what this here is about… let me think." He closed his eyes - not that it made a difference - and concentrated. Most of his magic was based on pure logic. What are shadows afraid of? Not light, that can be scared off like with Ace. Enough darkness takes the light over. But there are other ways for seeing in the dark. He stood up.

     Cling! A crystal clear sound echoed through the darkness. Tsuki had hit the two rings around his paws together and the sound didn't seem to fade. It rang everywhere around them and somehow managed to give them courage. Kat raised her head and narrowed the eyes. The shadows weren't that thick any more. Shad's nose picked up a scent of fungus. The caves had come back.

     "What was that?" Ice asked, falling backwards as Ace's flames roared up right in front of her nose. Tsuki looked around and touched the wall carefully, as if making sure that it was solid.

     "Some magical shadow," he said, turning to carry on down the path again. "I don't think it's the only guardian in those caves, so we better stick together."

     "Said the Shoyru who never nears his family more than twenty paces when it comes to lurking in spooky old caves," Shad commented.

     "This is just great," Saura muttered, placing his petpet on his shoulder. "We're lurking in an underground cave looking for some impossible-to-find treasure and being attacked by every possible menace Neopia has ever seen. Things like these only happen in our family."

     "So far it was only a shadow; what do you mean with every possible menace?" Shad asked. "I'd much rather meet a shadow than Eliv Thade or someone like that."

     "Don't jinx it, those caves would be my first pick if I had to guess old Thade's favorite place to go on a vacation," Ice warned him. "What was that?"

     There had been a quiet "click" somewhere near the floor and the pets quickly stopped to wait and see if anything else was going to follow it. Shad's yellow eyes peered around nervously, gleaming like two candles.

     "Sitting here isn't a good idea, you know," he remarked, looking up, down, around and up again. "Haven't you read any books? If something goes "click" in a dark cave, it's usually followed by "crack" and then…"

     There was a muffled "crack" near the ceiling, followed by another one. The Lupe turned around and dashed down the cave like black lighting, face-first into the darkness but he didn't care about that. On the next second there was a dim "boom" and the three Neopets found in the light of Ace's flames that their way both back and forward was cut through. Two gigantic stone blocks had fallen down from the ceiling and they were nicely trapped like Miamice.

     "Followed by a "crack" and then you need to run away very fast before the "crack" is followed by a "boom"," Shad's voice announced behind one of the blocks. "Seriously, you guys act like you've never heard anything about underground traps. Goodness, it's dark in here… Tsuki, where are you?"

     "Right here," Tsuki replied beside him. "Shad is right, how come you guys didn't manage to cope with something so obvious?"

     "Put a sock in it," Ice grunted. "Are you able to get us out?"

     "Using magic?" Tsuki asked back. "I can try, but my Battledome spells work better with unsolid things if you know what I mean."

     "You mean that when it comes to breaking rocks, there's nothing like some good old-fashioned smacking," Kat commented. "Stand back." There was a quick sound of thudding hooves, then something heavy crashed against the wall. Shad took a few careful steps back and Tsuki floated up again. The Uni's sharp horn drilled itself into the stone and as Kat bent her head up and down, thin cracks started running all over the block's surface.

     "Careful, no need to break your neck there," Ice suggested. "Do Uni horns grow back?"

     "No idea," Kat gasped, slamming her front hooves against the rock. "Come on, break!"

     As if the block had heard her, the cracks got wider and longer, small pieces started falling down and all of a sudden the rock collapsed. Kat jumped back and shook her head fiercely.

     "Ow… now I need to sharpen my horn again."

     "We need to get back somehow as well," Saura reminded them, stepping over the stones and bringing Ace's light into the cave.

     "First we need to get there somehow. Where there are two, there will always be the third," Ice remarked. "Get ready for another guardian."

     "Maybe it'll just be a stupidly easy riddle like back in Geraptiku?" Shad asked hopefully, referring to an old adventure the pets had had some months ago when looking for a cure for their sister in the lost city of Geraptiku.

     "Who would possibly sit down here waiting for Neopets to solve some riddles?" Kat asked back, looking around. Tsuki was gone again. No wonder though. Shad had run forth as well. His eyes had gotten used to the dark while he was on the other side of the block and now he used the chance to examine the caves a little. He sniffed the walls, the floor and suddenly ran into something.

     "Whoever it is, they must've taken a lunch break some time ago," he declared as the others caught up with him. The cave ended with a massive door and the Lupe was sitting in front of it. There were some symbols on the door and something was written above them. Kat had to rear up to read the words.

     "The treasure is mine, do not pass," she said. "Interesting."

     "Interesting indeed," Tsuki agreed, floating up next to her, "as these words have been carved here some short time ago, only a few years or so. Whoever wrote this had to be able to pass the shadow, the blocks and this door here too."

     "Well, if we manage to get past this door, maybe we'll finally find out something new about this mystery," Ice said. "Does anyone have any ideas?"

     They looked at the door. It was smooth even though it had no visible signs of any artificial treatment. There were seven small squares on it, each made of some dark material and bearing a symbol on it. Tsuki looked at those while the others looked at him.

     "Look like Sakhmetian hieroglyphs," he finally said, landing again.

     "Can you read them?" Saura asked.

     "I said "look like"," the Shoyru replied. "I can read Sakhmetian but these are new to me. Besides, something tells me that here the pictures are a riddle."

     Saura stretched himself and almost pushed his nose against one of the squares. "They're magnets," he said with surprise. "Do we have to move them in some way or something like that?"

     "Got other ideas?" Tsuki hopped up again and remained floating in front of the door. "So here we have two little circles inside each other, an arrow, a rising sun, a skull, an arch of some sort, a heart and two horizontal lines - or an equalization mark, maybe that's what it's supposed to mean. Shad, you were the ultimate riddle master, can you think of anything?"

     The Lupe glanced at the door. "I don't see a "TRY ONCE ONLY" sign here, do you? In that case…" He reared up, placed his paws against the squares and started moving them around on the block's surface.

     "This could take forever," Ice snarled.

     "Naw, this has some clues in it, even if it seems clueless," Shad explained with a grin. "We're looking for a sentence, aren't we? Some symbols are clear nouns here, like the heart, skull and sun. The arrow could mean anything, and the lines too. Let's just assume that the sentence begins with a noun, which makes the riddle a bit easier to solve already."

     Click! The door slid open quietly, revealing a small room behind it. There was another door at the other end of the room.

     "I was just about to say that the sun may mean both "sun" and "to rise", or maybe "birth"," Tsuki commented with admiration. "What did we get here then?"

     They looked at the door. The sun, two lines, two circles, the heart, the skull, the arrow and the arch.

     "We need to solve this if we want to get past the other door, one thing is certain," Ice said, coming back to the others - she had already been to the other door. "That thing is like part of the wall. Not even a scratch on it. If there's any clue to opening that door, it's on this one. Suggestions?"

To be continued...

Author's note: I'm not able to come up with anything too complicated so the puzzle is actually pretty easy... are you able to solve it? :3

 
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Other Episodes


» Treasure of the Caves: Part One
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Two
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Three
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Four
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Five



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