Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 110,063,438 Issue: 169 | 10th day of Celebrating, Y6
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Whiteout: Part Three


by scarrift

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Whiteout: End of Time

I stood outside the wooden door that led to Arrazaddan's study, my paws hesitating on the doorknob. The memory of my first meeting with Arrazaddan was not one I would like to repeat. But if I knocked on the door then there could be a rehash of the kitchen incident with Captain Nivo and Arrazaddan. Oh, breadsticks, I thought to myself, this is very important. It's life and death! I'm sure he'll understand … I hope.

With that, I reached out and knocked on the door.

There was no reply.

I knocked again and yet there still wasn't any reply, not even a grumble. Curious, I turned the knob and entered the room. The study was very much the same as I had left it a week ago: cluttered, dusty and bone-chillingly cold. I waded through the pile of papers and scrolls, picking up a few books in the process before depositing them on a nearby shelf, as I headed for the table at the back of the room.

Finally reaching it, I immediately spotted the infamous diary, the one that belonged to Arrazaddan, situated atop a copy of the 'Book of Ice Magic'. Deciding against touching it, knowing full well the security features placed on it, I looked around for any signs of the Draik.

"Hello … Arrazaddan? Are you here?" I called out expectantly, hoping for an answer, but none replied. Only the sound of the howling winds answered my call. Scratching my head, I sat down upon the plush chair behind the table and leaned back. Where could he be? I asked the walls quietly, rocking carefully on the old chair's back legs. Where did the old Draik go every day? Certainly not outside, I reckoned.

Poor Arrazaddan, he was always so nice to me. Well, he did seem less nutty around me anyway. A few nights ago, in this very room, he'd once told me that Captain Nivo was not always his grumpy self. A long time ago, Arrazaddan had made an error in one of his experiments and ended up on an island in the middle of the ocean. Arrazaddan's teleportation spells, the Draik told me proudly, were attuned to the place the selected codestone came from, thus the desert island error. Without any other codestones to travel back, he was stuck. Then Nivo came along and offered him passage back to the mainland. It was his first time walking back home, I remembered the Draik as saying. We both had a laugh at that.

Then I remembered. Arrazaddan was out when I first arrived and it was only when I opened his diary had I heard him upstairs, screaming. Arrazaddan must have another codestone painting up there, I reasoned. I think I'll go upstairs and have a look. Still, I wondered thoughtfully, Arrazaddan said I couldn't go to the upper floors. I'll just have to risk it. I hopped lightly out of the comfortable chair and headed towards the door.

As I shut the door to the study behind me I thought I saw a shadow in the corner of the room. Intrigued, I quickly reopened the door and peeped in. There was nothing there. Shrugging, I closed the door and hurried upstairs.

The stone stairs curled like a Cobrall on a stick, turning in ever tightening circles. After about four flights of stairs, I finally reached a landing. Gasping from the long climb, I walked up to a door facing the landing and rested against it. As soon as I caught my breath, I turned and knocked loudly on the door. The door creaked open slightly on the third knock. Funny, doors weren't usually left ajar in Arrazaddan's tower. Hearing no sounds of movement within, I carefully pushed open the door and entered the unknown room.

"Wow," I thought aloud to myself as my eyes took in the sight before me. Codestones of various types floated in midair throughout the circular room. Six cupboards flanked the chamber walls and were occupied by various jars, each with some strange liquid or sand of different varieties floating within. The floor in the centre of the room was occupied by large concentric rings carved into the stony floor with a circular pane of green glass in the middle. And the roof was a solid window of stained glass.

I craned my neck left and right, trying in vain to look at everything at once. So this is where Arrazaddan spends his days. I wonder how much he's spent to redecorate this place? I asked myself in amusement. Shrugging, I wandered over to the centre of the chamber and curiously inspected the green glass.

I gasped and jumped back in shock, for within the crystalline surface I saw a large cavern, the riggings and masts of a huge ship staring back at me. A pirate ship! So this was the Black Quiggle. But surely a ship that size couldn't fit within this tower, even in the basement. Then it hit me. Of course! The green glass panel was just another portal that led to where the Black Quiggle was kept! And all this while I thought that Captain Nivo and his lot wandered in from the cold like I did.

Suddenly I heard a noise behind me. It's one of the pirates! Quickly, without another thought, I jumped onto the glass circle. As expected, my feet glided through the watery surface and I felt myself falling rapidly through the same icy passage as the other portals. Suppressing a shudder, I steeled myself for the landing. Then the icy feeling disappeared and I lurched forward, landing on all fours. I looked up immediately and and came face-to-face with Captain Nivo. It was not a face I expected.

The look on his face betrayed his surprise. I looked around quickly and saw the other crewmembers frozen in their tracks. Dan and Murray, their mouths agape, dropped the crate they were carrying with a loud thump. Shin looked dumbfounded and Mary looked positively aghast at seeing me here. A cold wind blew and I turned around to find Ferrod right behind me, a sinister smile on his face. A strangled sound suddenly drew me back to Nivo.

There was no denying the look of anger on his red face.

"What are yeh doin' 'ere?" Nivo hissed as he made a move in my direction. I moved back a step and bumped into Ferrod. I squeaked and leapt aside as the Kougra made a grab at me. I backed up ever slowly as the pirates moved closer towards me, until I felt the cold, slimy wall of the cave at my back. I was trapped!

"Well, Capitan? What do you think now?" said the Kougra, his honeyed voice dripping with malice. Captain Nivo rubbed his chin.

"Please … please, I meant no harm. It's … it's and accident. I didn't meant to -" I stammered in desperation.

"Captain, please, she doesn't know anything 'bout us," Mary suddenly interjected.

"Shut yer trap!" Nivo snapped forcefully. Then he fixed me with a steely gaze. "So, yeh finally know 'bout us. Now wha' am I going ter do with yeh?"

"B … but I didn't mean to come here," I said hesitantly. "I told you it's an accident. I'm not … I'm not trying to interfere with your operation."

"Ah ha! Capitan, she knows about us after all!" Ferrod exclaimed. I stared at him incredulously, then to Nivo.

"But … but I already told you -"

"I'm sure she's tellin' the truth, captain," Mary added quickly.

"Quiet!" Captain Nivo shouted. His hand moved to a scabbard on his right hip and I gave an involuntary shudder. "I think this 'ere Kacheek knows all 'bout our plans to use Arrazaddan, don't yeh?"

Please, not me. I didn't do anything wrong! I don't know anything! I'm telling the truth! I begged silently, for my mouth had suddenly gone incredibly dry and I wasn't capable of even a croak.

"Err, captain, suh," Shin said abruptly. "Perhaps this ain't the right thing ter -"

"I know what I'm doin' so shut yer yap," Nivo snarled. "And yeh too, Mary." He added, seeing as the Zafara was moving towards me.

"But captain, she's scared out of her wits -" Mary tried to reason but Ferrod cut her off.

"And why are you trying to protect the girl?" the Kougra growled accusingly. "Perhaps you're in league with her."

"You know I am not -"

"SILENCE!" Captain Nivo shouted. He pointed at me with his left hand and drew a gleaming scimitar with the other. "Yeh've caused me a lot of trouble an' lost time. I'll be glad ter be rid of yeh, girl. Don' worry, I'll make it quick."

Then, before I could even move, the Nimmo darted towards me with the speed of an arrow. I backed up against the cold cave wall and closed my eyes, letting the cold chill of the cave wash over me, praying for it to be over. Then I felt my body go cold all of a sudden and I heard Mary scream, her voice suddenly very distant. This isn't so bad, I told myself, my eyes still wrenched shut, I don't even feel a thing. Hmm? Don't feel a thing?

I quickly snapped open my eyes and saw a thick wall of ice directly in front of me, so thick that all I saw of Nivo was a blurred form. Arrazaddan. I heard Nivo roar in frustration and suddenly a cold gust of cold wind assailed me. I felt something cold brush my shoulder and I turned abruptly to see Arrazaddan standing beside me, a worried look on his Draik face.

"Ye all right there, Samantha?" he asked concernedly. My nod could barely express the gratitude I felt towards him. "Good, I'll get ye out off here. Just bear with me." The tone of his voice left no space for objection. He suddenly grabbed my shoulder and an icy wind blew over me. Before I could even shiver, I found myself atop the deck of the ship, the Black Quiggle. A short ways below I saw Captain Nivo trying angrily to extract his scimitar from the wall of ice that encased it.

"O'er here ye cowardly Warf!" Arrazaddan shouted in a merry tone. I looked at him incredulously before I noticed the happy face being replaced by a mask of anger. Arrazaddan seemed to be fighting against himself, his face screwed up in concentration, as he turned towards me. Behind him, I heard Captain Nivo shouting something to the rest of his crew before I turned my attention to the Draik.

"Samantha, I don't have much … he he, isn't this fun … time to explain. I need ye to leave … playtime's here … the same way ye came in and … this is real fun … press the Main codestone to yer left. That will seal the portal behind ye." Arrazaddan gave another short laugh before continuing. "The portal going out of Terror Mountain is … won't tell you, won't tell … behind the pile of sacks. Just push the Vo codestone picture." The Draik grimaced as if in pain.

"Arrazaddan, I'm sorry," I said quickly. "I was going to warn you about Nivo. He's just trying to -"

"Use me, I know," Arrazaddan replied clearly, a wry smile on his face. "I have known Alastor for a year now and …" Arrazaddan twitched involuntarily. "… and I know what he's planning. I was planning to do something about but I was not in the right state of mind to do so. Haven't been fer decades." I made to say something but he held up a clawed hand. "But yer presence has helped me to stay myself, to clear me head, and fer that I'm grateful. Ye are innocent in this mess, a mess I should 'ave cleared up long ago. I wish I could repay ye but -"

"ARRAZADDAN! Yeh won't escape me this time!" Captain Nivo had climbed over the side of the ship, right behind Arrazaddan, followed by the rest of the pirates. The Draik spun around, his icy rod held tightly in his right claws.

"Samantha, go NOW!" he yelled over his shoulder before flying towards the Nimmo. I hesitated for a moment, looking apprehensively at Arrazaddan, before moving in the opposite direction. Just as I approached the edge of the deck I heard Ferrod's obnoxious voice.

"Ha, we meet again, Kacheek," the Pirate Kougra said as he swung up onto the wooden deck. I retreated backwards as fast as I could but the Kougra was bearing down on me as fast as any Kougra. Suddenly there was a blue flash and Ferrod bounced back with a yell as a wall of ice sprang up from the deck, splintering the wooden planking.

"Up the mast, Samantha. Hurry!" Arrazaddan shouted. Without a second thought, I grabbed a hold of a nearby rope and swung onto the nearest rigging.

"Get the girl!" Nivo screamed at the two twins. Dan and Murray nodded and quickly and rushed to the nearest rigging. I knew I could never outrun the seasoned Kacheeks.

"Argh, Mary, what're yeh doin'?" Dan suddenly yelled. I felt the mesh of hemp rope tremble violently and quickly looked down. Mary had swung onto the rigging right between the Kacheeks and I.

"Sorry, I can't let you hurt 'er," Mary said into the twins' stunned faces. Then she turned to face me. "Go on Samantha. I'll take care of this 'ere scallywags." In a flash, she slashed at the ropes above her head. The twins screamed as they and Mary fell to the floor. I hung on tight as the rope mesh swung towards the mast. Cringing slightly as I hit the mast, I clambered up further. Finally I reached the top of the mast and swung into the crow's nest.

Breathing deeply, I looked down past the platform and saw Arrazaddan looking up at me. He gave me a smile and pointed a claw at the mast. The mast creaked as its base was frozen solid. The wood splintered and cracked dangerously as I hung on precariously on the top of the platform. Then I felt another shudder and the mast started falling. I screamed loudly all the way down and before I knew it I was thrown off as the mast smashed into an icy stalagmite.

I cringed as I slowly got to my feet and saw, to my surprise, that I was only a few feet from the green glass panel, set delicately into the snowy floor of the cavern. I heard the sounds of chaos behind me and remembered Arrazaddan's words. Without another look back, I jumped onto the glass circle. The watery surface swallowed me up and yet again bitter cold held me in its grip. Then it left and I found myself once again in the codestone chamber. I wasted no time, my eyes darting in every direction, as I searched for the codestone Arrazaddan was referring to. Then I saw it; a Main codestone suspended in midair, glowing a strange incandescent blue. I suddenly heard a commotion behind me and, turning around, saw that the green portal was radiating an intense white light that was growing brighter by the second.

I hesitated, my paw inches away from the Main codestone. I knew that closing the portal would mean I would never see Arrazaddan or even Mary ever again. But Arrazaddan trusted me with the task. I couldn't disappoint him. Shutting my eyes, I touched the codestone.

The bright blue light vanished immediately and the steady hum emanating from the green glass dissipated. I hurried over to the green circle and stepped on it but the surface didn't yield. The portal was closed.

I stumbled backwards and leaned on a shelf. I couldn't describe what I felt at that moment. I was elated and excited that I would be home soon, that I would be free from this desolate highland. Yet I was unhappy, to say the least, for what I had done. Had I left the portal open maybe Arrazaddan and Mary could have escaped. I felt guilty for leaving them, for, in those last moments, I had cared only of my own safety. They saved me; they should be here, not me, a lowly Kacheek. I should go back. Maybe they're still alive.

Then I remembered. 'Ye are innocent in this mess' Arrazaddan wanted to make amends for his mistake. He wanted to get me to safety, to ensure I would no longer be involved with the likes of Captain Nivo and Ferrod. To go back would only mean that I didn't appreciate his help, to belittle his sacrifice. No, I couldn't do that to Arrazaddan and Mary.

I leaned back and stared at the crystalline ceiling, listening to the howl of the snowstorm outside and the creaks around the tower. With a sigh, I walked to the door and started down the stairs. If I was going home I might as well start packing.

Later that day, I stood in the musty basement below the kitchen. Before me lay an old curtain, two pile of sacks neatly stacked on either side. I pushed aside the curtain and reached out to touch the picture of a Vo codestone. A shimmering portal appeared where the picture hung a second before and I quickly grabbed my backpack. There was no measure of excitement in my heart. Gloomily, I put one foot forward towards the portal. Then I froze. Twirling around quickly, I reached for a nearby table and picked up the book lying upon it. I carefully held the book and brushed its title. 'Property of Arrazaddan: Do NOT Disturb'. I moved my paw lower and brushed the dust off the lower part of the book to reveal some additional words, written in Arrazaddan's graceful handwriting.

The title now read: 'Property of Arrazaddan: Do NOT Disturb … unless ye are Samantha the Kacheek.'

With a smile, I looked at the portal and saw the mirror-like images of Happy Valley lying before me, as calm and serene as I had left it. I doubted whether I would ever see the tower again, but I knew I would miss it, despite the things that happened here. Never once looking back, I stepped through the watery surface of the portal.

A few months later

"Thank you for doing business. Please come again."

I watched as the Yurble hustled out of the shop door, a wooden case with a treasure map within clutched tightly in her paws. I set about dusting the counter and arranging some items when I heard the tinkle of the bell hung above the door. I turned around to see a hooded figure wandering about the shop.

"Can I help you?" I inquired, but the figure just waved me away. The figure suddenly stopped in front of a display in the corner. I noticed what the item was and hurried to the customer.

"I'm sorry, but that item is not for sale," I said quickly, snatching Arrazaddan's diary off the display. "I'm kind of attached to this piece." The figure cleared his throat.

"Oh, that's quite all right. It's just this 'ere book reminded me of something I once owned."

There was something really familiar in the customer's voice. The hooded figure turned and seemed to notice me staring.

"Is there something I could do for ye?" the stranger asked. My jaw dropped.

"Arrazaddan?" The stranger smiled.

"I'm glad ye remember this old Draik, Samantha."

Feeling tears welling up in my eyes, I ran towards the Draik and hugged him.

The End.

Author's Note: That's it. Feel free to Neomail me your comments, suggestions, reviews etc. I welcome all feedback ... with a good basis in fact ^_^

 
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» Whiteout: Part One
» Whiteout: Part Two



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