Legacy of Ice: Part One
What was this place? The sand under her feet was burning her delicate paws and the sun over her head was relentlessly heating her back. This was nothing like her home, where the sun above was cool, only providing light, and a soft white carpet was always underfoot. She missed it, and her family. She was sure they would still be there; two older brothers, one older sister, and her grandparents. Her parents had gone missing a month ago, apparently vanishing off the face of Neopia. Mist missed them terribly, as did all her family. None of her siblings knew where their parents had gone, and though their grandparents seemed to know, they refused to tell. She wished that she was with them in their beautiful home, instead of alone out here in this horrid place. Absently, she glanced at a paw and let out a short moan of dismay: she was starting to melt.
The small ice Wocky shivered and curled into a tighter ball. She had found a cave in which she could shelter from the burning heat, but the cave could be the death of her just as easily. She had found the cave by complete accident - stumbling over a dune, the Wocky had slipped and rolled down the dune's other side to a ditch at the bottom. The force of her fall shifted the sand underneath her - It took her a moment to realise that the sand, instead of settling again, was actually slipping below her and falling through to a small cavern reopened by her fall. By then it was too late, and she fell down several metres before landing, her fall softened by the pile of sand that had fallen before her.
The cave was cool, and she had stopped melting at last. The ice on her paws had melted the most, but they were becoming thicker again, slowly. The icy creature had searched all around the cave, which rose high above her head, and widened as it reached the ground, creating a fairly large chamber. She had searched the walls over and over, her stubby paws feeling all around the rock, eyes desperately searching the stones by the light that came from the hole she had fallen through. She had found one small tunnel leading away from the cave, but it was out of her reach, and there was nothing she could use as a step up to it. She had given up when night had fallen and the cave became dark - No longer able to see her paw in front of her face, the Wocky had crawled to a corner of the cave, and huddled there. She was shivering, not from the cold dampness of the cave, but from fear. Fear that she might never leave it.
With a groan, the desert Ruki propped himself up on his elbows and blinked blearily in the direction of the voice. It was his mother, he had no doubt of that - No one else would wake him up at midnight, knowing he had to get up at dawn to practise fighting.
Again, the clear commanding voice cut through his thoughts. Rathua yawned and stretched, taking his time, knowing his mother wouldn't really punish him and she would just want him to give his baby sister a bottle. A figure with a lit lamp marched into the room, causing the Ruki to stare and then leap out of bed and stand to attention. Of course it wasn't his mother - How could he think it was? He had left his home to live in the barracks of the Sakhmet Palace Guard years ago. And as for the person he had thought his mother...
"Sir?" Rathua addressed his commander warily. There was no way for the Sergeant to know that the Ruki had been ignoring his commands, and, very fortunately, no way for the Sergeant to know Rathua had thought he was his mother. But Rathua's commander never woke up his troops without a good reason - he was one of the few Sergeants in the Guard that respected the hour his troops got up at. Of course, there were watches and patrols running all through the night, but they had the easier tasks during the day.
"One member of the midnight patrol returned. He says that his fellows fell through a hole at the base of a dune and that they were dumped into a small cavern. It's pitch black down there. None of them had a lantern; they were letting the soldier that escaped carry the only one. He couldn't throw it down to them, because throwing a lit lantern would be foolish, and if he extinguished it they wouldn't be able to re-light it. We're sending two groups to rescue them, one overland, one through the tunnels in case the patrol member can't remember the correct way back. I'm sending you along with the group going through the tunnels - You know them better than most. Report to the main hall in ten minutes."
The Sergeant nodded; Rathua saluted him. As soon as his commander had left, the Ruki collapsed on his bed with a groan. The Kougra in the next bed over lit the lamp he shared with Rathua. When the Ruki looked at him, the Kougra gave him an evil grin. "This's what you get for exploring down there on our days off!" he taunted. Rathua cuffed him, and started searching for his uniform.
"Think they're coming?"
"He's a fast runner. He'll have us help in no time."
"Wish it wasn't so dark in here..."
"Then you should've offered to carry the lantern."
"But then he would have fallen with it. Now that would've been messy."
"Good point. I'm glad it's dark in here."
As the strangers laughed, the ice Wocky pressed closer to the wall, as if she could sink through it. She didn't think that they would hurt her, or be cruel. She was just being extra cautious, even though she was usually timid, because she was alone in a new, frightening, place. The part of her brain that never got excited, that could always tell her the best thing to do, was saying, People are coming to rescue them! You should go with them. They might be able to help you go home! The part of her brain that she listened to more often, that she was listening to now, told her, They're probably evil! You don't know them; don't trust them! Stay in your corner. Don't let them see you!
She thought there might be four of them, from the different voices, though there could be more that were staying silent. There was no light, and they hadn't searched for an exit like she had, so she remained undiscovered. They had given her the fright of her life when they had fallen down - It had been silent, then she had heard faint singing and chatter, and then suddenly there was a large THUD as a number of people fell down into her hole. They had called to someone above, who must have been carrying a lamp, as a dull light reached about halfway down into the cave, leaving the pets at the bottom shrouded in darkness. The other victims of the hole had told the person with the lamp to fetch help, and so he had, leaving them all sitting in complete darkness.
"Hey... Hey, guys. Can you see that?"
"What? There's nothing - Oh!"
Turning cautiously to see what they had noticed, but more importantly, to see if it was her they had noticed, the ice Wocky saw that they weren't looking at her, the were looking in the opposite direction. Then she realised that she could see them.
She gasped, but they didn't notice, too busy welcoming the light flooding in from the tunnel she had noticed, and the party of people behind it. When the first pet, the one that held the lamp, reached the edge of the tunnel, he measured the distance between the floor and the tunnel, then called for some pets behind him to get some ropes. Then, turning back to the group on the floor, he caught the eye of a Scorchio and grinned.
This was the Wocky's first glimpse of the party that had spent the last few hours with. They all looked strange, in lightweight uniforms of gold and blue. Their fur ranged from light gold to dark brown. One Scorchio was even a dark red. The pet with the lantern looked even stranger - Some kind of giant brown insect! He was smiling at the Scorchio, though, and through the relieved chatter of the other pets the Wocky caught the words, "...said you'd never live it down if you were rescued by your own brother..."
A Shoyru holding some ropes emerged from the tunnel and threw them down to the trapped pets. They climbed up and shook hands with their rescuers, gratitude shining on tired faces. The insect-like creature at the front grinned and hugged the last pet to climb up, the Scorchio. The Shoyru coiled up the ropes, and the group began to move back down the tunnel. The Scorchio and the insect were at the back. Just before he followed them, the insect turned to have a last look around the cave - and saw the Wocky. With a gasp, she flung herself back into her corner, curled up tightly, and hoped he wouldn't come after her.
The Scorchio turned to look at Rathua, who had just rested a hand on his arm to stop him.
"What? Can't we go back? I'm exhausted, Rathua!"
"No... Flame, I saw something over there... and didn't you hear that gasp?"
The Ruki looked at his brother seriously, but only received a cynical look in return.
"Rathua, I didn't hear anything. I've been stuck down there for hours. Can't we just go back?"
"No," was the reply as Rathua jumped down into the cave. Ignoring his brother's calls to 'just come back already', he walked to the corner of the cave where he had seen a flash of icy blue. There was a small wall of rock there, which meant the corner of the cave was only visible if you were pressed against the cave wall opposite. The Ruki paused, wondering if he had really seen something, and what he could do if he really had.
Frozen with terror, the Wocky stayed perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe as footsteps approached her hiding-place, and then stopped. It had to be that insect-creature, the one that had seen her before. What would he do? Would he help her find her way home? She didn't dare to hope.
A whole minute must have passed before the footsteps returned, quicker, and heading straight for her. She dimly recognised the Scorchio telling the insect to stop messing around and leave, but by then the creature was right in front of her, looking down on her with surprise, and she had other things on her mind.
To be continued...
Author's note: Just letting you know, Rathua and Flame (Flamertheorn) are mine, mine, mine, but every other character is a figment of my sugar-fueled imagination. Neomail me about anything. ;D