The Peophin Incident: Part Two
Kaerhas opened his eyes. Blindingly bright light met his
vision, and the Bori's head throbbed. Groaning, he quickly shut his eyes and lay
back down on a hard, cold surface.
Where am I? Kaerhas wondered. His memory
was fuzzy and his brain felt like it was bouncing around inside of his skull.
The Bori longed to go back to sleep, but he couldn't shake off a feeling of
danger. It set alarm bells ringing in his head and wouldn't let him sleep.
Slowly, Kaerhas opened his eyes again. This time,
he managed to keep them open, though it made his head ache more than ever. Once
his eyes had adjusted to the light, the blue Bori slowly stood up and looked
He was in a small room. The stone walls were
bare, devoid of any decorations. However, there were a few windows near the
tops of the walls, just below the ceiling. It was from these that the cold white
light was streaming in. A plain brown door marked the exit. Many cardboard boxes
were scattered on the floor, and among them was a small brown and green shape.
Kaerhas hurried over to his stepbrother and gently
prodded the Xweetok. Chaelian groaned. His reaction upon waking was almost exactly
the same as Kaerhas', and the Xweetok immediately rolled over again, his eyes
shut tightly. Kaerhas persisted.
"Chaelian, get up." Kaerhas poked the Xweetok
Chaelian sensed a note of urgency in his brother's
voice. The Xweetok sighed and opened his eyes to the light. Kaerhas helped Chaelian
to stand, then let go of him once the Xweetok was capable of remaining upright.
"You okay?" Kaerhas asked, concerned. Chaelian
"Apart from a debilitating pain in my head that
feels as if someone's whacking me with a hammer, yes, I'm fine." The Xweetok
shivered. "It's cold."
Kaerhas had noticed this also, but being of a
species that had originally come from the Ice Caves, it didn't bother him as
much as it did his brother. It did, however, give him a vague idea of where
they were: somewhere on Terror Mountain. The Bori spoke his theory aloud to
"You're probably right," Chaelian answered. "But
how did we get here?"
"That Peophin," Kaerhas said, his memory suddenly
returning to him. Chaelian's question had reminded him of their plight. "Teirryn,
wasn't it? Remember what happened last night? He said we were going to visit
a friend of his, or something."
Chaelian frowned. "Why would he drag us all the
way to Terror Mountain, though? This makes no sense." The Xweetok stiffened
as a sudden thought occurred to him. "Hey, where's Neji?"
Kaerhas looked around the room for the robot
Petpet or Chaelian's bag. There was no sign of either one.
"I guess he's not here. Maybe we should try to
get out of here." The Bori looked over to Chaelian, who looked rather dispirited.
"Where could he have gone? You don't think that
Peophin took him-"
Chaelian was interrupted by a blast of icy cold
wind as the door opened, admitting said Peophin. He struggled for a few moments,
trying to close the door, then managed to slam it shut against the wind. Teirryn
turned around to face Kaerhas and Chaelian.
"Oh, you're awake. Good." The Tyrannian Peophin
tossed a package he was carrying to the floor. "Now we can get started."
"Get started with what?" Kaerhas grumbled. "We
want some answers here. First you clonk us both on the head, and then you kidnap
us to Terror Mountain or wherever we are. And my head still hurts."
Teirryn tossed a bottle at the Bori. Kaerhas
caught it in midair and examined the liquid inside.
"It's a healing potion. Don't worry," Teirryn
said, in answer to Kaerhas' skeptical look. "If I'd meant you harm, you'd probably
be dead by now."
Kaerhas doubtfully raised the bottle to his lips.
As soon as he had swallowed some of the purple liquid, the throbbing in his
head eased. The Bori passed the potion to Chaelian and turned back to Teirryn.
The Peophin, seeing that he had Kaerhas' attention,
continued speaking. "And I meant that we can now get started on our quest."
Kaerhas brightened. The prospect of adventure
always got his attention. "A quest? What sort of quest?"
Chaelian cut his brother off. "What if we don't
want to go on a quest with you?"
Teirryn smiled grimly. "Oh, I think you will."
The Peophin held up a familiar-looking bag.
"Neji!" Chaelian made a lunge for his Petpet,
but the Peophin dodged to one side.
"Let's make a deal," Teirryn said, smiling irritatingly
at the fuming Xweetok. "You two can come with me, and once we reach our goal,
I'll give you this Petpet back. And who knows? You might find some other things
that would be worth your while. After all, we're going on a treasure hunt."
"Really?" Kaerhas asked, his eyes wide. "That
Much as he hated to admit it, Chaelian was intrigued
"A treasure hunt? Where?"
Teirryn smiled, knowing that he had the full
attention of the stepbrothers. "Does this mean you'll join me? I'm not going
to tell you if you won't. Competition isn't good for this sort of thing, you
Kaerhas and Chaelian glanced at each other and
made a silent agreement.
"Okay, we're in." Kaerhas spoke for both of them.
"And you will give me back my Petpet when we're
done?" Chaelian asked.
"Of course. Oh, and one last thing," added Teirryn.
"Once we start, there's no backing out."
"Agreed. Now tell us what you know."
"There's a legend I've heard of that hints toward
a great treasure hidden somewhere in the Tyrannian Jungle. It was in an old
song, and there seem to be clues in the words. Here, listen:
"In ancient times when legends were sung of
And stories were passed on of love and woe
A fable, a tale of a world long forgotten
Hidden beneath the mountain's ice floes
And spirits who come to take what they've lost
And peace sealed forever by their sorcerous touch
Till the key is found to release those souls
That remain in the wraiths' unrelenting clutch
And each item of magic was taken beneath
To the jungle, a place by the earthen waves
And the flow of clear water, leading within
To night beyond the entrance of the cave
Guarded by illusions and those that remain
To fend off outsiders and treasures keep
With deathly cold hands, they reach out to life
And pull them under to eternal sleep."
"That's only a part of the whole song, but the
rest of it has to do with other things," Teirryn explained upon finishing his
"And you memorized all this? Impressive," Kaerhas
remarked. "And so you've figured it out, right?"
"Not all of it," the Peophin admitted. "The Tyrannia
part was easy, but I guess it wouldn't have been a hundred years ago, or whenever
this song was written. We need to find a stream or a river or some body of running
water, that much is certain. And it leads into a cave."
"And what's with all that stuff about ghosts
and spirits?" Chaelian asked. "And a key?"
Teirryn shrugged nonchalantly. "It is only a
legend. But I wouldn't be surprised if the treasure was guarded, and by ghosts.
They seem to make a habit of doing such things."
"Well, what's an adventure without a bit of danger?
This'll be awesome!" Kaerhas declared. "Let's go!"
"Hang on, I don't even know where the cave is,"
"Do you know how to find out?" Chaelian asked.
The Xweetok found it hard to believe that Teirryn would have gone to all this
trouble if he hadn't known where the treasure was, or how to find out.
Teirryn smiled mischievously. "If I had a good,
detailed map, yes, I could find the location of the cave. There can't be too
many streams and caves in Tyrannia, after all."
Chaelian sensed something behind the Peophin's
glib words. "And where would we be able to find this good, detailed map of yours,
may I ask?"
"As you've probably realized, we're currently
in a house on the outskirts of Happy Valley. A few yards away is a house belonging
to a renowned mapmaker, famous for his 'good, detailed maps.' I'm certain he
wouldn't mind if we were to borrow one."
"What, you mean stealing?" Kaerhas asked.
"No, I mean borrowing," Teirryn retorted. "We'll
give it back once we're done with it. And besides, he's got so many maps, he
won't even know if one or two disappear for a few days."
Kaerhas looked unconvinced. Chaelian voiced his
doubts. "Are you sure?"
"No. Now come on, we haven't any time to lose."
Seeing his companions' doubtful faces, Teirryn added, "You did agree to my terms,
one of which was 'no backing out.' We're not actually doing any harm to anyone."
Chaelian sighed. "Okay, I guess. Let's go."
"Great!" Teirryn gestured to the package on the
floor in front of them. "There are jackets in there. Put them on, it's going
to be cold outside."
"So do you think we'll really find the treasure?"
Kaerhas whispered to Chaelian as the Bori tore apart the paper on the package
with his long claws.
Chaelian shrugged as he pulled out a jacket.
"Who knows? I guess we'll have to wait and see."
* * *
And so it was that Kaerhas and Chaelian found
themselves shivering in the snow just outside of a small cabin. Teirryn nudged
Chaelian in through the open door, pausing only to drop a bag in front of Kaerhas.
"It's some equipment," the Peophin explained
in response to the Bori's quizzical look. "Hang on to it; we shouldn't need
any of it right now."
Kaerhas nodded. "Good luck."
Teirryn grinned and tossed back his wild red
mane, then went inside the house, shutting the door behind him. The Peophin
moved forward a few steps and nearly tripped on Chaelian.
"Well, that was graceful," the Xweetok muttered.
"What are you doing standing in the middle of
the hall?" Teirryn hissed back. "Come on." The Peophin beckoned to Chaelian,
and the two crept silently down the hall.
"Any idea where we're going?" Chaelian whispered.
"Nope. But there's sure to be a room somewhere
where the Usul keeps his maps... ah, there!" Teirryn carefully stopped in front
of a door and slowly opened it. Peering in through the crack, the Peophin shook
"No, that's the kitchen. Careful, watch your
step!" The Peophin caught Chaelian as the Xweetok stumbled over a rug, closing
the door at the same time. "Let's go look over there."
Teirryn and Chaelian continued to look into various
rooms. Luckily, it was a rather small house, so it wasn't long before the two
found the room that seemed to be the place where the mapmaker did his works.
There was a sturdy-looking desk, covered with pieces of blank parchment and
bottles of different colored ink. Finished maps were proudly displayed on the
walls, while others were rolled up neatly and stacked in shelves or in the corners
of the room. Chaelian felt a sinking feeling as he looked at all of the maps
they would have to search. Teirryn, on the other hand, wasted no time but immediately
began to examine the shelves.
"I think... yes, these are sorted by regions,"
the Peophin muttered, more to himself than to his companion. Teirryn quickly
scanned the labels on the shelves. "Here: Tyrannia. Let's start looking for
one of the jungle."
Chaelian pulled a map from the shelf, unrolling
it carefully. It was a beautiful work of art; each landmark was carefully marked
and labeled in elegant, flowing script, a key was drawn to the side, and the
whole thing was colored with various pigments and inks. Unfortunately, it was
not a map of the jungle, but of the plateau. Rolling the parchment up again,
the Xweetok put it to one side and picked another map from the shelf.
To the left of Chaelian, Teirryn was busily searching
through the pile of maps. The Peophin had no time to stop and appreciate the
artwork; he had only one thing in mind: find the map. His efforts were soon
rewarded: Teirryn unfurled a map of the Tyrannian Jungle. He rolled it up and
thrust the rest of them back on the shelf. Prodding Chaelian in the back, the
Peophin led the way back to the hall. To his dismay, he found it blocked.
"A Tasu!" Chaelian breathed. And it wasn't a
friendly-looking, cuddly Tasu either. It was quite large, with sharp white teeth
that could certainly leave scars. The Petpet growled menacingly at the two pets,
crouching down, ready to pounce.
"We can take it," Teirryn whispered back.
"Not without waking everyone in this house,"
"Sheesh, you sure are irritable when you don't
get enough sleep," Teirryn muttered. "Okay, you're faster than I am, so distract
it and I'll sneak up behind it."
"Don't hurt it!" Chaelian hissed. "You've done
enough damage for one day."
"Fine, fine. Just go." Teirryn turned his eyes
back to the Tasu. "You'd think we were planning an attack on the Snowager instead
of one little Petpet."
"Shut up." Chaelian suddenly sprang towards the
door, slipping past the startled Tasu. The Petpet tried to turn around and go
after the Xweetok, but Teirryn blocked its way. Chaelian wrenched open the door,
nearly tripping over Kaerhas, who had been waiting anxiously for his two companions.
"What? What is it?" Kaerhas asked as he helped
his stepbrother up.
"A Tasu attacked us," Chaelian explained, turning
back towards the house in time to see Teirryn gently tap the Tasu on its head
with his heavy fish tail. The Petpet immediately keeled over, unconscious, and
Teirryn quickly went outside, closing the door behind him.
"Come on, let's get going," the Peophin said,
leading the way back to the abandoned warehouse that he'd proclaimed their headquarters.
"I think we woke the Usul."
Kaerhas and Chaelian hurried after the Peophin,
their breaths coming in misty gasps as they struggled through the snow. It was
with some relief that the two gained the relative warmth and safety of the warehouse.
"Now, let's take a look at that map." Chaelian
turned to Teirryn, who unrolled the "borrowed" map and spread it out between
the three of them.
Kaerhas narrowed his brown eyes, trying to make
out the Usul mapmaker's tiny print. The Bori started searching the northwest
corner of the map. "There," the Bori proclaimed, tapping the parchment with
a claw. "There's a stream leading into a cave right there. It looks like it's
deep within the mountains though... that's going to be quite a hike."
Teirryn didn't seem to think so, though. On the
contrary, the Peophin looked pleased. "Excellent. It just so happens that I
know a shortcut that leads straight into the mountains. And, as luck would have
it, the shortcut can be found right here on Terror Mountain."
"Oh really?" Kaerhas looked up from the map.
"Where is it?"
Teirryn grinned. "In the Snowager's Cave."
To be continued...