Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 124,888,518 Issue: 252 | 11th day of Hiding, Y8
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The Peophin Incident: Part Three


by kyrinn

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"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 thing.

     "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 the Snowager..."

     "We can't risk being seen. Now come on, we're almost there."

     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 possible."

     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 crazy venture.

     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 gold goblet.

     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...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Peophin Incident: Part One
» The Peophin Incident: Part Two
» The Peophin Incident



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