The Peophin Incident: Part Three
"Are you out of your mind?" Chaelian demanded. "We're going
to sneak into the Snowager's cave?"
"Relax. People do it all the time," Teirryn replied,
obviously not feeling any need for concern.
Kaerhas, on the other hand, agreed with his brother.
True, the Bori had been on a few trips to visit the Snowager with his owner,
but most of those journeys had ended up with him getting icicles pulled out
of his blue fur at the Healing Springs. No doubt Chaelian was thinking the same
"We could just go by more conventional means,"
the Xweetok suggested. Teirryn shook his head.
"No, that would make our journey twice as long,"
the Tyrannian Peophin replied.
"We're not in a hurry, right?" Kaerhas asked.
"The treasure's not going to go anywhere. And it would be safer."
"Actually, no. We'd have to travel a longer distance
through the mountains, and I've heard that the inhabitants there are quite aggressive.
So in fact, it would be safer going through the Snowager's Cave." Teirryn paused
for a moment. "And the sooner the better."
Kaerhas exchanged a look with Chaelian. Both
had the feeling that there was something the Peophin wasn't telling them.
"Anyway, there's no need to worry about that
right now," Teirryn added cheerfully, heading towards a corner of the room.
"You can sleep here until the morning, and then we'll go look for the shortcut."
The Peophin pulled his cloak on and grabbed his bag, then headed toward the
door. "I'll be back later."
"Where are you going?" Chaelian asked and Teirryn
wrenched open the door. The only response the Xweetok received was a "Goodnight"
before the door clicked shut, leaving Kaerhas and Chaelian in the warehouse,
dreading the coming of dawn.
* * *
"Come on, we don't have all day! The Snowager
isn't going to remain sleeping for long!"
Kaerhas looked ahead to see Teirryn plowing easily
through the snowdrifts. How the Peophin was managing to move so easily through
the deep snow with two legs and a fish tail (not to mention a large pack of
supplies) was a mystery, but the Bori was grateful for the path Teirryn was
making, which made it easier for him and his brother. As it was, the two smaller
pets had to hurry to keep up with the Peophin.
"Slow down a bit!" Chaelian remonstrated. Even
the agile Xweetok was having trouble catching his breath. "If we go into the
Snowager's lair like this, we'll probably wake him up with our loud breathing."
"You really should get out more," Teirryn replied,
but all the same, the Peophin stopped to wait for his companions.
The three pets were currently traversing road
from Happy Valley to the Ice Caves. Not only was the way steep and slippery
with ice, but a chill wind blew past, making the pets shiver violently. Even
Kaerhas, with his thick Bori fur, felt the biting cold.
"It's pretty cold today," Teirryn observed, pulling
his tattered but thick cloak tighter around him as the wind ruffled his auburn
mane. "There's supposed to be a snowstorm later today, so the lair won't be
crowded with treasure hunters."
"Well, that's good." Chaelian muttered, his teeth
chattering. "On the other hand, it might help to have some people there to distract
"We can't risk being seen. Now come on, we're
Kaerhas followed Teirryn up the last few yards
of the path with Chaelian trailing behind him. The blue Bori entered the hole
in the side of the mountain that led to the Ice Caves, pausing as his eyes adjusted
to the light change. The Caves seemed dark at first, especially compared to
the blinding white snow, but soon enough, Kaerhas found that he could see quite
well. The fact that the wind had stopped was a bonus.
"Which way to the Snowager's lair?" Chaelian
whispered, coming up behind Kaerhas.
"I thought you have been there before?" Teirryn
said, glancing behind him. "And why are you whispering?"
Chaelian shrugged. "I try to avoid it whenever
Kaerhas, who had not been paying much attention
to the conversation, pointed happily to the scratchcard kiosk. "Hey, let's go
get some scratchcards first!"
"No, we've got to get to the Snowager's cave!"
Teirryn led the easily distracted Bori away from the kiosk and dragged him off.
Chaelian followed behind, still trying to think of a way to get out of this
The Xweetok's efforts were in vain; the three
companions arrived at the Snowager's lair without a single backup plan. The
lair was a dark hole in the side of the wall, set back deep in the Ice Caves,
a short distance from the rest of the shops and buildings and tourist attractions
of the place. Kaerhas could almost hear the deep breathing of a monstrous ice
snake coming from within the cave.
"You sure this is a good idea?" Kaerhas whispered
to Teirryn as the Peophin turned to look at the brothers.
"Positive. Now let's go."
Without another word, Teirryn turned and entered
the cave. Kaerhas exchanged a glance with Chaelian, who sighed and nodded. The
two of them entered cautiously after the Peophin.
Kaerhas found himself walking down a long dark
tunnel that apparently led to where the Snowager was sleeping. He kept one paw
on the side of the tunnel to keep himself from slipping. Luckily, the tunnel
was quite narrow, so even if he fell, the Bori would have been able to catch
himself on the walls.
Gradually, the light in the tunnel grew brighter.
Kaerhas realized they were nearing the center of the cave, where the Snowager
was. Ahead of him, he could see a dark shape pressed against the side of the
tunnel: Teirryn. The Peophin turned and looked back impatiently for his companions.
"Is he sleeping?" Kaerhas whispered as quietly
as he could as he drew level with the Peophin. Teirryn nodded.
"We should sneak around behind him, maybe hide
behind some piles of treasure, so even if he wakes up, he won't see us," Teirryn
whispered as Chaelian joined them.
"Wow, look at all this stuff he's hoarded," the
Xweetok whispered. "You know, we could just take some stuff from here and call
it a treasure hunt without having to go to Tyrannia. We'd still be rich."
"Yeah, and what if he wakes up?" Teirryn whispered
back. "Besides, there's something I need."
With that somewhat vague reply, the Peophin crept
out of the tunnel and slowly made his way to a pile of treasure. Teirryn ducked
behind the mound, then motioned to Kaerhas and Chaelian. Kaerhas made a dash
for the treasure and dived behind it. A few coins came loose and fell, clattering
to the icy floor. Chaelian winced, but apparently the Snowager was in a deep
sleep, for it didn't seem to notice. The Xweetok padded softly over the hills
of coins, silver chains, golden plates and various plushies and neggs.
I guess it'd be a shame just to leave all
of this lying around here, Chaelian thought to himself. The Xweetok carefully
swiped a scroll and a handful of coins before going to join his friends. The
Snowager's head moved slightly, but it gave no indication of waking up.
Teirryn gave Chaelian a glance. The Xweetok shrugged.
The Peophin shook his head, but motioned to Kaerhas and Chaelian to stay where
they were, and started moving toward the back of the cave. Teirryn was carefully
scanning the ground as he went, once in a while casting anxious glances at the
Snowager, who was still sleeping blissfully. Suddenly, the Peophin stopped.
He was at the farthest corner of the cave, hidden in a dark alcove. He tapped
the ground with his hoof, then nodded, looking pleased. The Peophin looked up
and gestured to Kaerhas and Chaelian to join him.
Chaelian and Kaerhas both hurried over, neither
wanting to stay in the lair any longer. Chaelian quietly slipped between piles
of loot, and was soon standing by Teirryn's side. Kaerhas moved a bit more slowly.
The Bori's huge claws were not used to sneaking around, and he was having a
bit of difficulty. Chaelian held his breath as he watched his stepbrother trying
to navigate through the maze of treasure.
Come on... just a little more... Chaelian
thought to himself. And then, something happened that nearly made the Xweetok's
heart stop. Kaerhas' long, slender tail twitched. It was a slight movement,
barely detectable, but it was enough: the Bori hit a shiny, expensive-looking
The goblet wobbled, and for a moment, Chaelian
thought that it would stay in place. Mentally, the Xweetok tried to keep it
from moving, but that, of course, was useless. The cup fell, bouncing and clattering
down the pile of treasure. The sound reverberated around the whole room, magnifying
as the echoes bounced off of the icy walls. At the same time, something huge
moved. A heart-stopping roar sounded, the noise completely drowning out the
clanging of the goblet.
Kaerhas felt his blood run cold. Frozen in place
by terror, the Bori slowly lifted his head, dreading what he'd see. Towering
above him, a massive ice worm was uncoiling, angry at having its rest disturbed,
determined to deal with the thieves who were always creeping around the cave,
trying to steal its treasure. Another roar sounded, even louder than the first.
Kaerhas quickly closed his eyes again, his worst fears realized.
He had woken the Snowager.
To be continued...