The Peophin Incident: Part Five
Chaelian found himself gazing upon an incredible scene.
Miles and miles of nothing but mountains rose up from the earth, all of them formed
from the light brown stone commonly found in Tyrannia. The air was chill at this
high altitude, although nowhere near as cold as it had been on Terror Mountain.
The green Xweetok realized that he and his two companions were standing on a ledge
of a relatively small mountain. The pile of rocks disguised the hole in the side
of the mountain the three had just come through.
"So that's what the poem meant by 'earthen waves,'"
Chaelian realized, speaking out loud.
"That's incredible!" Kaerhas gasped. "I've never
been in this area of Tyrannia before!"
"No, few people actually come up here. There
isn't all that much to do around here anyway, and there tend to be wild Neopets
roaming around this area," Teirryn explained. "We'll have to watch out for those."
"Teirryn, you seem to know a lot about this place,"
Chaelian said, looking up at the Peophin. "And you're a Tyrannian Peophin. Are
you from around here?"
"Still don't trust me, eh?" The Peophin looked
Chaelian shook his head. "It's not that. I was
Teirryn shrugged. "Nah, I'm not from around here.
I just did some research about this place, that's all. Actually, I lived on
the border of the Haunted Woods."
"You're a pretty weird guy, you know," Kaerhas
said as he bounded over.
"I'm flattered, Kaerhas."
"You're welcome." The blue Bori looked out across
the expanse of valleys and peaks and sighed. "It's so big! It'll take forever
to find the cave."
"Well, the road most certainly won't be getting
any shorter by just standing around here," Teirryn replied as he glanced skyward.
"I'd say it's about late afternoon right now. We're still not entirely sure
where in the mountains we are, and we're trying to find a stream. Any ideas?"
Chaelian cast about with his sharp eyes. "There,"
he exclaimed, pointing with his prosthetic metal paw. Kaerhas and Teirryn leaned
over trying to see from his viewpoint. "Do you guys see it?"
"What, that mountain?"
"No, the valley right there."
"Yeah, what about it?"
"There's green stuff there."
Chaelian snorted. "No, it's probably the Spider
Grundo, out for an afternoon stroll. Of course they're plants! And where there
are plants, there's water. There aren't many places here in these mountains
that are green, so that'll probably be our best bet."
"Am I glad I brought you along," Teirryn said,
grinning. "Okay, we know where our destination is, so let's get going!"
The way down the side of the mountain was treacherous.
Loose stones and sand slipped out from under their feet, and it didn't help
that the mountain declined steeply and a cold wind buffeted them. After half
an hour, the three pets had hardly gotten anywhere, due to the caution needed
while descending. The companions stopped to rest on a convenient outcropping
of rock that was flat enough so they wouldn't have to worry about tumbling down
the side of the mountain.
"It's too bad there isn't snow on these slopes,"
Kaerhas commented as he drank from his water bottle. "Then we could make a sled
or something and go down."
"It's too bad an earthquake doesn't come along
and level this place," Chaelian answered wryly. "Or some random spaceship comes
and picks us up and drops us off at the cave."
"You're being unusually sarcastic today, even
for you," Kaerhas replied, his cheerfulness unfazed.
"I don't think I slept very well last night."
"Well, let's get a move on," Teirryn added in
with a wicked grin. "Maybe if we walk a few extra miles today, you'll be so
tired by the time we make camp that you'll drop like a stone."
"Good idea," Chaelian retorted, smirking as he
stood up and slung on his pack. "Of course, you'll have to keep watch the entire
night in case we get attacked by a wild beast because Kaerhas and I will be
too tired to help you."
"Oh, I like that idea." Kaerhas bounded after
the Xweetok. "Come on, let's go so we can sleep on level ground tonight!"
Teirryn simply smiled and shook his head as he
followed his companions.
By dusk, the pets had reached the base of the
mountain. All three of them were vastly relieved that they wouldn't have to
travel the steep slope in the dark. It was decidedly warmer and more humid at
the bottom of the mountain than at the top. They rested for a bit in the valley,
then reached the decision that they would continue their journey for as long
as the light allowed them to see.
"Let's see if we can at least find that stream
today," Chaelian said, turning back to Kaerhas and Teirryn. "We could refill
our water bottles, and if we're attacked in the night, it might provide some
protection at the back so we won't be circled and cut off by enemies."
"It's a stream, not a river," Teirryn pointed
out. "I doubt it'll be wide or deep enough to present that much of an obstacle
to any foes."
"Well, we still need to refill our water bottles,"
"Point taken," the Peophin conceded. "So, Chaelian,
do you remember the direction in which you saw the green?"
"Somewhere that way," Chaelian responded with
a vague wave. "Hang on, let me see...." The Xweetok's eyes caught a flash of
green. "Let's try over there. I'll go scout ahead."
Without waiting for an answer, the Xweetok leaped
off in pursuit of the green he'd seen, quickly outstripping Kaerhas and Teirryn.
He ran lightly over the dry, dusty brown ground, his striped green tail waving
behind him. Soon, his paws were landing on soft, mossy green plants that grew
closely against the earth instead of the rough, hard-packed dirt. Chaelian had
been right about the plant life.
As he traveled on, the small, scraggly weeds
turned into small, scraggly bushes, which became larger bushes and small, stunted
trees. Flowers and vines were everywhere; it looked very much like a jungle.
Chaelian could no longer see Teirryn or his brother, but he wasn't worried;
the Xweetok could hear the sounds of his two companions forging a path through
the undergrowth. Confident that they wouldn't get lost or separated, Chaelian
turned towards the front again and, blocking out the sounds of Kaerhas and Teirryn
crashing through the foliage, listened carefully for a sound.
There, Chaelian thought. That's the
sound of running water. And was it his imagination, or was there another
noise, something that didn't sound as natural as the howling wind or the trickling
stream? Frowning, the Xweetok crept forward again, paws barely making a sound
on the mossy ground as he slipped between the trees and shrubs. The sound of
water grew louder, as did the strange noise.
It sounds like... breathing, Chaelian
realized. Someone breathing hard... and the sound of footsteps. The stream had
to be within meters of where he was standing. The Xweetok could hear everything
clearly. Indeed, the sound of harsh breathing emanated from the direction Chaelian
supposed the stream was. Cautiously, the Xweetok pushed a couple of branches
with huge, showy white flowers aside with his paw and peered through, then froze.
As quietly as he could, he backed away from the place, letting the branches
fall back in place with barely a rustle of leaves. Then, swiftly but silently,
the Xweetok started running back to meet his companions.
* * *
Kaerhas trampled a small fern under his claws
as he foraged onward. Next to him, Teirryn was barreling through the underbrush,
mercilessly knocking around small trees and crushing bushes with his tail as
he went. "Do you see him?" the Peophin demanded.
"Nope," Kaerhas replied, panting. "He's probably
far ahead of us by now."
"Ahead, and back again." Chaelian popped up in
the midst of a small bush with wide, bright green leaves right next to Teirryn.
The Peophin started in surprise. The Xweetok grinned mischievously and twitched
his tail in a contented sort of way. "Oh, and the two of you had better quiet
down a bit. There's trouble ahead."
"What sort of trouble?" Kaerhas asked, his curiosity
"Trouble in the form of a pack of wild Lupes
having a friendly debate amongst themselves." Chaelian beckoned. "If we hurry,
they'll still be so occupied as to ignore us."
"We wouldn't want to get caught in their argument,"
Teirryn agreed, recovered from seeing Chaelian materialize right in front of
him. "They're probably deciding on a new pack leader. Still, if they scent us,
they'll go after us. We'll have to go cautiously, so they don't notice."
Chaelian cast a disparaging glance around at
the mess his two companions had made of the jungle around them. "What are the
odds of that?"
"Pretty darn low," Teirryn conceded.
"So let's just take them head on!" Kaerhas joined
the discussion. "It'll be more fun than skulking around in the forest anyway.
These claws aren't made for sneaking."
"We're not charging into a pack of fifteen Lupes!"
Chaelian stated firmly. "If they hear us, we'll try to outrun them."
"Easy for you to say," Kaerhas mumbled, but his
brother had already left, the Xweetok's brown-and-green fur blending in with
The Bori found that trying to walk quietly but
keep up with Chaelian at the same time was no mean feat. Next to him, Teirryn
was encountering even more difficulty, as the Peophin couldn't just crash through
any obstacles in his way anymore for fear of making too much noise and alerting
the Lupes. Kaerhas sincerely hoped the Lupes were as distracted as Chaelian
believed they were.
Within a short while, Kaerhas and Teirryn had
joined Chaelian at the spot where the Xweetok had stopped earlier. Kaerhas peered
through the bushes that screened them from view. Teirryn did the same. Chaelian
was right: a pack of mean, rangy Lupes stood in a circle. In the middle, two
more circled each other, growling warnings and baring their long teeth threateningly.
Both bore the marks of a recent fight: long, painful-looking scratches, bite
marks, matted fur.
"They've been like that for a while, and hopefully
they'll stay that way for another hour while we make our escape," Chaelian said
in an undertone.
"I don't fancy being chased by that group in
the dark," Teirryn muttered, pulling his head back.
"There's only fifteen of them," Kaerhas whispered.
"If we each take out five of them..."
"I said no," Chaelian responded. "Now come on.
This stream leads north. If it's the one we're looking for, we'll come across
the cave soon enough."
"We can move along the bank once we're out of
range of our friends here," Teirryn decided with a nod towards the Lupes. "We'll
stay hidden in the jungle here in the meantime." The Peophin started moving
along the trees. Kaerhas sighed and trotted after his friend. He sensed his
brother following him, and, from a bit farther behind, he heard a blood chilling
howling and snarling and yelping. It seemed that the fight had started.
Ahead of him, Teirryn uttered an oath. The Peophin
"Why have we stopped?" Kaerhas asked, peering
over Teirryn's shoulder.
"The jungle is thinning out. It'll probably end
in a few yards, and we'll be completely exposed," Teirryn replied grimly.
"Keep going," Chaelian whispered. "Maybe we're
far enough now."
"Maybe," Teirryn said doubtfully, but moved on.
The Peophin's prediction proved to be true: the jungle descended until it was
little more that moss clinging to the otherwise bare stones of the valley. Behind
them, the sounds of fighting ceased.
"Darn it. Let's go!" Teirryn charged forward,
his hooves ringing against stone. Chaelian risked a glance over his shoulder.
The Lupes had caught their scent now that it was no longer masked by the pungent
perfume of the jungle flowers and were running after them, howling. Apparently
they had united in the face of a common adversary.
"If we get out of their territory, we should
be okay!" Teirryn called back, not slowing in his mad dash. From behind, the
harsh, rasping voice of one of the Lupes called out, "Halt!" but the companions
paid it no heed. A yelp sounded over the noise of hooves and paws beating against
"Kaerhas! Are you all right?" Chaelian paused
to wait for his brother.
"Yeah," the Bori gasped, up and running again.
"Tripped over a rock. It's too dark to see clearly now!"
"Some of them are catching up!" Teirryn's warning
made Chaelian and Kaerhas look up sharply. Indeed, a rangy young Lupe was outdistancing
the rest of the pack, grinning as he bore down on the three adventurers. Just
a few inches behind him was another, older Lupe.
"I'll handle it," Kaerhas called back. The Bori
dashed forward to meet the front runner head on, his Immense Rubber Axe of Doom
appearing in his paw. Next to him, Chaelian leaped into the air, landing with
his usual precision on the second Lupe who was about to team up on the Bori.
Kaerhas gave his Lupe a heavy blow on the head with his paw, then sent the Axe
skimming through the air to knock aside the Lupe who had been about to take
a bite out of Chaelian. During the scuffle, another Lupe had caught up with
them, and, snarling, clawed at Kaerhas. The Bori was saved by Teirryn, who joined
the fray, kicking and lashing out with his heavy hooves and tail, a poison tipped
dagger clenched between his teeth for good measure.
The rest of the Lupes paused for a moment, seeing
that the companions wouldn't be easy prey, and gathered around their leader,
perhaps discussing tactics. Teirryn, Kaerhas, and Chaelian didn't wait; they
immediately turned around and dashed off in the opposite direction.
"I saw the cave," Teirryn said, the wind ruffling
his mane as they ran. "The stream leads right into it. It's not too far."
"Good," Chaelian gasped. Kaerhas looked at his
brother in concern. Several long, wicked scratches marred the Xweetok's fur
along his side. Out of the corner of his eye, the Bori caught movement. The
Lupes were surging forward again, this time with a more organized attack, it
"They're coming again!"
Teirryn didn't even bother to look back. The
Peophin was struggling with the straps on his bag as he ran, trying to undo
"There," he panted as the ties came loose. Reaching
into the bag, he pulled out a small bottle. Its contents were glowing a fiery
red color. "This should hold them off for a while," Teirryn said, uncorking
the bottle and tossing it at their pursuers. The red liquid spiraled out as
the Fire Jug spun through the air. The Lupes drew back, but those in front didn't
react in time and yelped in pain as the burning liquid splashed over their fur.
"I see the cave!" Chaelian yelled. Kaerhas tore
his eyes away from the sight of the Lupes squirming on the ground, trying to
get the Fire Jug's contents off their fur and faced forward again. Sure enough,
the cave was in sight: a dark hole in the side of a small hill. The stream flowing
into it gave the impression of a thirsty mouth drinking up all of the water.
Within moments, the cave loomed before them.
It was dark inside, and Kaerhas was reminded of their unpleasant experience
in the Snowager's cave. It certainly looks like a place where ghosts would hang
around, the Bori thought to himself.
"Get in!" Teirryn called, and threw himself into
the cave. Within seconds, the Peophin was lost in shadows. Kaerhas made sure
Chaelian was right behind him, then entered the cavern himself, bumping into
Teirryn. Chaelian stumbled in last.
"The Lupes?" Teirryn questioned. Not waiting
for an answer, the Peophin glanced outside. It seemed oddly hazy and slightly
distorted, as if looking through glass. The Lupes were prowling around the cave.
They all looked rather amused, and seemed to be exchanging jokes. The leader
barked a command, and the pack gathered together and moved off.
They think we'll die here, Teirryn realized.
The Peophin shrugged. No use worrying about such things until they were faced
with them. He looked around at his companions. They were watching anxiously.
"They've moved off," Teirryn explained. The brothers
breathed sighs of relief. Kaerhas thoughtfully peered at the stream, tasted
the water, then took out the water bottles and refilled them once he was convinced
the water was safe. Teirryn went over to check on Chaelian, who was washing
"Not too deep," the Xweetok asserted, wincing
as Teirryn smeared ointment on the scratches, then helped bandage them. Kaerhas
appeared next to the Peophin, handing Chaelian a healing potion from the pack.
"How is it?" the Bori asked worriedly.
"I'll live." The Xweetok fell silent, and for
a few minutes, there was no sound but the gurgling of the stream running past
"We'll sleep here for the rest of the night,"
Teirryn said, breaking the silence.
"Should we keep watch?" Kaerhas turned to his
Teirryn shrugged. "Common sense tells us to,
but quite frankly, I'm too exhausted to even think of anything other than sleep.
And we'll need all our energy for tomorrow if were to face the alleged traps
and ghosts that are in this cave. So I say we just trust in luck."
"It's been on our side so far," Chaelian said,
curling up on the rocks.
Kaerhas yawned. "Sounds like a good plan to me."
Teirryn pulled his tattered cloak around his
body like a blanket and settling down on the hard stones. "Then it's decided.
We attack at dawn."
To be continued...