Book of Wisdom: Part Three
Hannah looked up to see the icicle that she had knocked the tip off of during the snowball fight with Armin. She scooped up some snow from the ground. She began patting it with her gloved hands, forming a snowball. When she finished, she took a few steps forward, then hurled the snowball at the icicle. The snowball hit it with incredible precision, but collapsed against the ice.
The icicle wobbled, then fell. It went behind the hill, until Hannah could no longer see it. Suddenly, there was a muffled cry. Startled, she ran toward the scene. An orange Kougra lay in the snow with a purple bruise on his head. The icicle lay next to him. She realized that the icicle must have hit him and knocked him unconscious.
She established a firm grip on his front paws and pulled. She dragged him to her temporary home, which was only about twenty or so feet away. Even so, every time she took a step, pain lanced up through her entire body. She finally dragged him into the hole, and collapsed against the icy wall. Striking her piece of flint with her knife, she managed to start a small fire without setting the leather insulation that covered the hole. She scooped some snow up, and dumped it unceremoniously into a small kettle that rested atop the fire.
She pulled a stone slate from beneath a thin layer of snow. It was what she used to eat off of when she was in this makeshift home without a plate. She dug a little deeper, and uncovered a wooden box. When stored in the snow, this acted as refrigeration for food she would keep for any length of time. From it she removed a wedge of cheese, a small loaf of flat bread, and an onion the size of her fist. She set this all on the stone slate and set it aside.
After she had carefully closed and reburied her box of food, Hannah let out a sigh. She slumped against the wall once more and removed her coat. It felt good just to lie there, absorbing the warmth from the flickering flames that danced across a small pile of wood. After a few minutes, the Kougra in the corner began to stir. He sat up and rubbed his bruised forehead.
“Are you alright?” Hannah asked, worried. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t see you when I threw that snowball.”
“I’m alright... but I’m not quite sure how I got here,” he said tentatively.
“Oh, I brought you here so you wouldn’t just lie there out in the snow.”
The Kougra meant something entirely different than what Hannah thought, but he said nothing. Hannah wordlessly handed him the stone slate with food on it. He thanked her with a quick nod and tore into the bread.
Hannah extended a hand. “I’m Hannah.”
The Kougra put the bread down, and shook her hand saying only one word. “Awohi.”
When Awohi had finished his meal, Hannah said critically, “You aren’t dressed very warmly. Don’t you get cold?”
He looked at her blankly for a moment, then said, “Actually I didn’t know I’d end up here. I was in Tyrannia and I found this book, and I touched this picture of an icicle, and then I woke up here, and—”
“Wait...” Hannah stopped him. “Where did you get the book?”
Awohi paused to try to remember. “Some Tyrannian Usul gave it to me and said Ugg-ep or something.”
Hannah swore explosively and said, “Uggtep. It means wisdom.” After a brief pause, she said, “Where is the book now?”
Awohi scratched his head. “As far as I know, it’s still out in the snow.”
Hannah leapt out of the hole with incredible speed and looked around. Her eyes came to rest upon a leather-bound book with a picture of Neopia on the front. She hastily picked it up, and saw that the cover depicted not modern-day Neopia, but ancient Neopia. No Neopia Central, no Meridell Castle, no Kreludor. She padded back to the hole and sat down by the fire.
“Found it,” she mumbled. She inspected the lock, and asked, “Do you have the key?” She saw the key dangling around his neck, and without waiting for an answer, she unlocked the book without removing the key from around Awohi’s neck. She stared at the illustrations on the second and third pages, and asked quietly, “Is this where you were when you touched the picture?” She turned the book around. Where the picture of the icicle had been, there was a picture of a splintered wooden box resting on a stone floor.
“Yes,” said Awohi, surprised.
Hannah sat still, and muttered, “Three great beasts, serving their sole purpose...” She sat up. “There are three keys to unlock Neopia’s past, and they are each guarded by a great beast. The reason the picture of the cave is here is because we are already at the place where the picture leads. You touched it and activated a portal.” She thought a moment. She turned the page back to the first, and inspected the back of the cover. Awohi leaned forward. On the scarred leather, there was a golden sheet of metal, with three keyholes in it. Hannah knocked on the metal.
“The history must be in here. Some people would pay a lot of money to buy actual documents of Neopia’s past, before we ever came here.” There was another long pause. Hannah sat and stared at the book, apparently deep in thought. She sat up, as if she had awoken from sleep. Wordlessly, she stepped outside. The sun shone brightly through a large open cave, revealing a busy Happy Valley.
Awohi followed Hannah, curious. She stopped and took a deep breath. A single drop of water slid its way off of an icicle above, and flew through the air like a teardrop-shaped bullet. The projectile hit her on the nose, startling her. Confused, she looked up and swore under her breath. A thin layer of water covered each icicle. A reflection of the sun was visible in every one, making the roof of the cavern seem like a shimmering sea of diamonds.
Awohi looked up and smiled. After gazing appreciatively at the sight, he asked, “What’s wrong?”
Hannah muttered something under her breath and started walking quickly towards the Ice Crystal Shop. He had to walk to keep up with her.
“Hurry, we need to get under a roof. The icicles are melting.”
Awohi knew what happened when icicles started to melt. They fell, and a shower of frozen spikes hit the ground in every direction. He walked faster, now. Another drop fell through the air, and then another, as if it were starting to rain. They walked towards the nearest shelter, which in this case happened to be the Ice Crystal Shop. Suddenly, there was a sickening crack.
Hannah whirled around, hair flying. The roof of the Ice Caves fell. Icicles drove downward with incredible speed. Following them, was a wall of solid ice. Everything was silent, as everything fell. Hannah grabbed Awohi by the arm, and ran. Behind them, the ice hit the ground. Thunderous roars flew through the remaining parts of the ice caves. Hannah could feel chips of ice hitting the backs of her legs as the roar became louder and louder.
She dove into the igloo, twisting through the air. Awohi leapt in afterward, but his leg stuck out behind him. He cried out in pain as sharp pieces of ice, and piles of snow slammed against his leg. The igloo shook like a roller coaster, and icicles protruded from the ceiling. Armin was there, taking his dagger from a very surprised looking Shoyru shopkeeper. He whimpered.
Awohi pulled his leg out from under the rubble. It was bleeding badly. Not only that, but it was bent in a way it really wasn’t supposed to bend. Awohi gasped, and Armin rushed over. Muttering something under his breath, he produced a tiny glass vial from within his tattered shirt. He poured a crystal-clear liquid onto it, ignoring Awohi’s whimpers. When he was done, he tore off the cuff of his shirt. After squeezing it in some snow, he wrapped it around the wound. Awohi yelped as the makeshift bandage rubbed against his wound.
The Ice Crystal shopkeeper stepped forward, and held out a piece of stale bread. “Here, it will probably make you feel better.”
Awohi nibbled it gratefully. Armin took what looked like an ax made of ice, and held it above his head.
“What are you doing!?!” the shopkeeper shouted in alarm. Armin stopped and glanced at him.
“Getting us out of here.” He looked determined, and flung the ax at the wall of ice blocking the door. He yelped and put his hands over his head as it bounced off of the ice. Hannah picked it up.
“Maybe I should do this.” She swung the ax as hard as she could. It cut through the ice as if it were warm butter... except for the enormous crash. Warm butter doesn’t usually crash when you cut it. An oval-shaped crack had appeared on the wall. Hannah dropped the ax and kicked with all of her might. Her boot crashed through, leaving a large hole. Hannah stared out. The ice was destroyed in many places, but it was made of hundreds of solid pieces, and covered everything. It looked like the ground was a huge sheet of ice, with cracks, crevices, and dips.
Most of the caves branching out from the main one had been destroyed. In fact, only one remained completely untouched. It was carved to be shaped like a giant serpent, its mouth the cave. The snowager. Three great beasts... Hannah stared at the disaster, wondering if everyone had been killed in the collapse. She saw something large and black on the ice. Turning briefly, she said, “I’m going to look around.” She leapt through the hole, and skidded as she slid across the ice. She tripped when she hit a cracked area. After hitting the ground, she slid a few inches, then stopped. Groaning, Hannah stood, and sighed. Her breath caught in her throat. She stared at the cracked ice beneath her, unable to take in what she was seeing. She saw the reason that the whole of the Ice Caves collapsed. She lifted a gloved hand and put it over her mouth.
To be continued...