Legend Seekers: Mysterious Magic - Part Five
It had been three long days since Jen’s arrival on the island. She was hungry, exhausted and stressed, but she kept moving. She sensed that she was drawing closer to her goal. The silky-pale moonlight blanketed the grey, flat landscape. I’m going to have to turn back soon and look for another ship, she thought desperately. There must be something... something made me come here... what is it?
As she had so many times in her youth, when she was lost or in need of guidance, she knelt down and allowed her eyes to close. One by one, the frantic images tucked themselves away at the back of her mind, leaving her serene. In this trancelike state, she leaned forward and swept a circle in the dust around her.
For the next half hour she drifted in a separate consciousness. A flood of images rushed past her, a stream of magical knowledge from which she could borrow at will, having connected to it. In this place there was no pain, no fear, no hatred or destruction. Only silence – not oppressive, but completely relaxing.
Finally she stood, knowing but not understanding, and knew exactly where to find what she was looking for. Several miles to the left of her stood the remains of Techo Mountain, and just beyond it lay the sleeping village of Geraptiku. Forgotten to all, now, were the legends it held and the people who perhaps once inhabited it. She was sure of only one thing – it was as it always had been. When she arrived the few trees around it would not be lifeless stumps, the earth would be a rich red-brown and there would be long grass growing in patches of light. Silent in mind and voice, the young Wocky turned to face the mountain and gazed upon it solemnly.
“I will put this right,” Jen said, “if it takes me a thousand years to do so!”
The silent shroud of night crept over the five pets. Now the streets were deserted – nothing stirred, save for the gentle rise and fall of their chests as they struggled to regain their breath. It had been a close call. Almost too close. They could no longer stay here; their cover was blown. It was run or die.
“Down here.” Four shapes bolted into what looked like a perfectly cylindrical tunnel just large enough for an Eyrie to squeeze into. Their cloaks had been tossed aside in haste and fluttered nonchalantly in the harsh winds of early autumn. Pemero stood for a moment, gazing into the narrow space, eyes wide and fearful. Then, as the sound of screeching footsteps filled the air behind him, he also shed his cloak and dove into the pipe.
“Pemero? Are you there?” Seth was leading the group. His voice echoed around the tunnel and stung Pemero’s sharp ears.
“Yeah. I am now. They were right behind me...” He shuddered. “Do you think they recognized me, or...?”
“Without a doubt.”
“Then we can’t go back?” Afton said sulkily. “I was just getting used to that place. Oh, man...”
The dark tunnel inspired wonder in Pemero – the whole structure was made of stone that looked as though it could be ancient. It was too dark to see if they were being followed; all he could do was move forward. He was living in the hope that an exit would find them before their foes did.
Three hours later. The darkness was playing on his eyes now, and there was still no sign of a way out. Phantom footsteps chased them doggedly, unwilling to give up their pursuit.
“I’m... so tired,” Harold said. “Not used to this much exercise...”
“Well, I’m not stopping. We’re all tired but to stop now, so close to our goal... that would be madness.”
All five continued the march in silent agreement. Though they had no way of knowing how far they were from the light, it had to be closer than the one they’d left behind them.
“I wonder where this tunnel leads,” Pemero said to himself. “Maybe it’ll be someplace new, that no one’s ever seen before.” Sustained by this thought, he was able to stop his head from drooping and pick up the pace, if only for a minute or two.
It seemed so hopeless. Their pursuers were bound to be waiting for them at the other side. They would be trained to know the streets, including the pipes that ran beneath them and all the possible ways a wanted criminal could use them to escape justice. And what would they do to him, if he was found? What would they do to his friends, once they realised they were helping his escape?
“Look! There’s a light up ahead!” the white Eyrie called out enthusiastically.
“Good job one of us has good eyesight!”
Seth sped up and reached the round patch of daylight first. The sun had risen during their journey, and now illuminated the mouth of the great tunnel. Pemero waited for the go-ahead; when none came, he called out in alarm.
“Seth! What is it? Is something wrong?”
“You better come take a look,” he called back weakly.
It was just before twilight fell upon her, for the fifth time since her arrival, that she realised: Something was horribly, terribly wrong. Never before had she been so sure of anything. Was it her mistake, had she done something to cause this fear? Had she been mislead? There was only one way to know for sure. So, in place of curling up in fear, she pressed on until morning. The mountain had been impossible to climb – the surface of the rock was new and smooth and completely black. She had simply walked around it.
“Nearly there,” she coaxed, looking down at her aching paws. “Just another mile or so, that’s all.” She had reached the far side of Techo Mountain; now a speck of vibrant green glimmered on the horizon, near and yet far. The sun was shining through the remains of the electrical storm that had lingered for so long, looming over her, threatening to strike her down. Even when the clouds were gone entirely that feeling would remain.
Black dust tangled her long, black fur; it no longer shone where the light touched it, and her skin felt dry and itchy. She hoped there would be water near Geraptiku that she could use to wash herself and quench the fires in the pit of her stomach.
As the day drew on, the black sand became ever warmer until it was scorching to the touch. The young Wocky was forced to scurry on tiptoe the rest of the way to the shade, which was thankfully only a short distance away. Safely under the tree, she paused to catch her breath and cool down – but she could not stop for long. Whether her first instincts were right or wrong, there was something going on... and unless someone did something to stop it...
“Hey! You! Just what do you think you’re doing here?” A shrill voice shocked Jen out of her thoughts. Her head jerked towards the source of the voice, eyes wide, fur stood on end. The speaker was a Faerie with golden wings and long, silky, white-blond hair. Her expression, to Jen’s surprise, mirrored her own shock.
“Um... I... er... I was looking for something,” the Wocky stuttered. The Faerie favoured her with a suspicious glare.
“I don’t get along well with nosy pets.”
“Sorry, miss Faerie. I didn’t mean to intrude on your peace. It’s just that my friend has been missing since the attack on Mystery Island, and... well, I thought maybe I could find some clue about who was responsible for the attack and stop it from happening again.”
“You’d be better off leaving that to us, little one. You know nothing about what makes Neopia tick; how could you? No, your place is with your family. If you are lost, I can give you a ride home.”
“No, I’m not leaving until I find out what’s going on, and that’s that.” She was thoroughly annoyed by the condescending attitude of the Faerie--this, combined with her determination, led her to turn tail and head for the abandoned city.
“It’s not safe! Get back here!”
Hold on... I’ve heard that voice somewhere before...
“I don’t care. If you’re not going to help, just leave me alone. I have work to do.”
Or have I?
Pemero moved ahead of the others, cautious and curious, ears pricked for any unusual sound, eyes scouring the walls, floor, ceiling. The tunnel was wide enough, at the end, for him to stand. His claws clenched with panic, making movement uncomfortable – now that his mind was no longer occupied with escape, it bothered him.
As he reached the sunlight, he felt his stomach drop several inches towards the stone floor. The tunnel was engraved from top to bottom with wild symbols – not Sakhmetian, maybe Geraptikan or similar – but his attention was held by something else. With the others in tow, he drew as close to the exit as he dared, and peered down. It appeared that the tunnel had been carved into the side of a wall of white stone. A chalk cliff overlooking the ocean.
“Whoa... the ground has to be at least three miles down!” Even a soft landing from such a height could prove deadly.
“Two was my estimate.” Seth bit his lip and gazed upwards, deep in thought.
“What are we going to do?” Afton sighed, gazing down at the bed of golden sand.
“Angela... do you think you could fly us down?”
The white Eyrie leaned over the edge, gauging the distance. Harold looked impatient. Seth still seemed thoughtful.
“Well...” She shuffled her white paws uncomfortably. “Maybe I could. But I can only carry two of you at a time, and it’ll take a while to get everyone safely down...”
“Fine,” the Kyrii muttered decisively. “Be as fast as you can. We have to be there on time, earlier if possible. It’s bad enough that we had to take this detour.”
“I’ll try my best,” the Eyrie promised. “Pemero, Afton, you go first, okay?”
“Okay.” With great care, Pemero lifted himself onto the back of the Eyrie and gripped the mane tightly with both paws. The scrawny Meerca hopped on a moment later.
“Ready,” Pemero confirmed. With infinite speed and grace, Angela leapt from the edge of the cave and stretched her wings as much as possible, catching the air, gliding in a spiral towards the golden beach. Wind raced past, dashing tears from Pemero’s eyes and dancing in his fur. The trip down was slow and deliberate; the tiniest mistake could have meant disaster. Afton remained silent, with both paws pressed over his eyes, until they drew close to the sand.
Finally, they were on the ground again. The sand, still wet from the retreating tide, was dotted with huge white stones the size of Angela’s paws.
“What a flight...” the Eyrie panted. “Are you all right?”
“Never better!” Pemero exclaimed enthusiastically. His fur was still sticking out at odd angles where the wind had brushed it, and his claws left deep trails in the sand where he walked.
“I’m going to be sick,” Afton muttered queasily.
Angela smiled briefly before leaping back into the air for the return journey. Seth waved from the tunnel mouth, urging her to move faster.
“Tomorrow, Jhudora. I need that potion done. I have a lot to worry about at the moment without you.” By way of ending the conversation, Fyora turned her back on the Dark Faerie and went back to gazing out at Faerieland.
“Don’t be so quick to dismiss me, Queen. I have knowledge that might prove useful to you.” Jhudora grinned wickedly.
“Spit it out and get out, then. I have a class to teach in five minutes.”
“One of your students is missing. Can you guess which one?”
“I tire of your juvenile games. Tell me.”
“Fine, fine. It’s the newbie – that cub you took from Mystery Island.” A scowl twisted her features. “The traitor.”
“He is no such thing,” the Queen snapped calmly without turning from the window. “Why was I not informed earlier of this?”
“You’ll be surprised when you find out what he’s done.” This last line threw Jhudora into a fit of cackling. “Why, he could almost be my apprentice!”
“Enough. Is a search party looking for him?”
“I don’t think you could call them that, but yes. The three incompetents are on the case.” There was more to tell, of course, but her lips were firmly sealed. The blow would hit hardest if it came from the blue.
“Then return to your lair, Jhudora, and leave me in mine. The class cannot be called off on account of one missing student, no matter who he happens to be.”
“As you wish, Fyora.”
A puff of purple smoke filled the room. Jhudora was gone. Coughing, the Faerie Queen swept the smoke out of the window with a palm fan. Once it was gone, she prepared her lecture notes for the beginning of term and swept off, mind ablaze with apprehension.
To be continued...