No One Will Believe Them: Part One
The Spardel hit the ground with a loud thump and an explosion of air from his lungs.
“Agh!” he moaned as he lay sprawled across the dirt floor of the Symol hole he’d been forced to jump into.
Maybe the cannonball wasn’t the best way to make an entrance. Tiny stars danced around the outskirts of his vision, teasing him softly over his current circumstances. Above him, some glistening Meridell sunlight sparkled down into his face through the small hole. If all the wind hadn’t been so rudely knocked from his little blue body, he thought idly, he might have raised his paw to shield his eyes from the vibrant light.
“Cove! Cove, can you hear me?” his owner's shrill voice echoed down into the hole and hurt his ears.
He gave a grunt, because it was all he could do.
“Cove, don’t come back without something from down there! A Symol would be a perfect present!” Cove’s owner took a breath, and Cove was afraid one of her windless babbles were coming. “Oh, but wouldn’t neopoints be great too? Then we could get more items for our neohome. Not that there’s anything wrong with cool items either, but-”
Cove blinked, rolled, and climbed onto his somewhat shaky paws. “All right, all right! I’ll get something!”
“You’re the best, Cove,” his owner shouted down, placated for the moment.
Cove squinted into the darkness, only able to tell that he was at the center of a room that had four different tunnels leading off from it. He couldn’t see much further than that, and he began to wonder if it was a good idea to walk blindly down a Symol tunnel when his owner solved the matter for him.
“Hey!” her voice shouted accusingly. “What are you doing up here? Get down there and help him! I didn’t spend all those neopoints for nothing!”
A high-pitched squeak that resembled the sound of a mouse filled the air and buzzed past Cove’s head as his Lightmite hit the dirt with a soft whump! Cove shook his head in pity for his little friend, but was also glad that he wasn’t alone, and that he now had a sort of flashlight.
“Are you all right, Ronan?” Cove asked him.
The tiny petpetpet wriggled his legs in the air for a few minutes, knocked half-senseless from the fall, then he flexed his wings and began to glow with a soft, golden light. Cove helped him up and Ronan hovered in the air above his head.
“Good luck!” their owner shouted down to them.
Cove grumbled a reply to her and addressed Ronan, “Which way do you think?”
Ronan flitted around a large circle, lighting each tunnel in turn.
“Not that way,” Cove decided instantly about the tunnel to his immediate right.
A strange smell was floating out of it, riding on some mist that clung to the ground around Cove’s ankles. Cove checked off the tunnel to the left of that one as well, seeing as how a large door was blocking entrance into it. The door had a funny carving of a Symol on it, and Cove wondered briefly what was behind it.
The pair decided on the door to his immediate left, because the other option had standing water in it. “This way.”
Ronan glided past him to take the lead. His golden glow illuminated a small portion of the tunnel, but it was enough and better than Cove stumbling around completely blind.
“With any luck, we can find something quickly and get out of here,” Cove mumbled as they treaded deeper into the underground home of the Symols.
Ronan made a squeaking noise in agreement.
“Wait, do you hear that?” Cove whispered.
Ronan dropped down to rest on his shoulder and his glow died abruptly. He chattered in Cove’s ear.
“Yeah, I think it’s them too,” Cove agreed, pressing himself against a side of the tunnel.
He inched along slowly, moving toward the sound of bustling life. The closer they got, the more light seeped into the tunnel allowing Cove’s eyes to see without the help of his Lightmite’s glow. They had definitely found at least some of the Symols.
Cove stayed back, blanketed in the shadows, as they reached the end of the tunnel. It opened up into a large, circular room filled with light and more treasures than Cove had ever laid eyes on at once. He gaped, and Ronan made a tiny, disbelieving squeak. The riches ranged in everything from Coltzan’s treasures to what looked like some of Kayla’s fabled potions to a whole pile of neopoints piled as tall as a mountain in one corner.
And all around the glistening treasures moved the busy brown bodies of Symols. Cove couldn’t believe how unaffected they looked in the company of such wonders. They trod over a Deluxe Fyora Print Rug stretched out on the floor like it was nothing, like it didn’t cost as much as his house. Cove merely stared in wonder for several long minutes before he took the time to realize who all the magic of this underground treasure chest was centered around.
A Symol who was measurably larger than the ones that worked around him reclined lazily in a large Royal Throne, his uninterested eyes watching the progress around him. Atop his head was a crown made from gold and boasting every precious jewel that ever graced Neopia. He had a long gold scepter with the same kind of jewels clutched loosely in his paw. He was obviously older than the other Symols seeing as how he was larger and his brown fur was laced with a steely gray. Cove figured he was made leader for his age and wisdom.
Cove and Ronan watched a much smaller Symol gain an audience with the king.
“What have you brought me today, Leon?” the king asked.
The Symol named Leon trembled, his eyes downcast, afraid to stare upon his king as he gave him bad news.
“I was unable to gain anything from King Skarl’s throne room today. They are guarding it much more closely now.”
Cove’s eyes widened. That’s how they gained these riches. They were nothing but tiny thieves.
The king’s previously blank eyes became alive with anger that burned brightly and threatened to singe his minion.
“You dare to displease me?” the king demanded. “What kind of dimwit cannot complete such a simple task? Leon, you are demoted to tunnel digger. Now, get out of my site before I sentence you to something worse!”
Leon ran away, unabashedly crying loudly as he shoved past his former colleagues in crime.
“Donnovan!” the king snapped.
Another Symol appeared, and Cove immediately disliked this one. There was something to his appearance, something to his manner that immediately gave Cove the feeling of pure evil. His coat of fur was darker than the others, and his eyes had a mischievous sparkle to them. He bowed deep to the king, but the arrogant smile on his lips didn’t falter.
“Yes, your highness?”
“Please,” the king demanded, his nostrils flaring, “tell me you have better news for me today.”
“Of course I do, your highness. Do you expect me to be as incompetent as young Leon? Do you not know me better?”
Some of the king’s anger faded from his eyes. “No, I know you well enough, Donnovan. You have been my trusted advisor for many years and the captain of my guards. What do you have for me today?”
Donnovan smiled. “I have a nice assortment for my king today. I was able to get several potions, scrolls, and books from Brightvale today. I even managed to smuggle some of your favorite windows of theirs while I was at it.”
The king smiled now, truly pleased. “I knew you would not disappoint me. Now, what is the status of the hole today?”
Donnovan scratched his chin with a long, black claw, and smiled eerily. “The same as always, my liege. Many have tried their luck, but none have gotten away with our riches today. I made sure of that.”
Cove glared angrily at the Symol named Donnovan. So it was his fault that he was forced to return day after day to that silly hole in search of goods. He made a fool out of himself jumping down the tunnel every day for nothing.
“And, I have another bit of interesting news for you today concerning the hole. It appears someone has gotten a little overeager to receive something from our hole. It appears we have an intruder.”
Cove’s blood instantly chilled. They knew he was here?
The king sat up straighter, his eyes sharp and alert. “Have we captured the intruder?”
Donnovan’s smile widened. “As a matter of fact, my liege, the vermin should be in our hands in a matter of seconds.”
Cove stumbled back and felt paws grasp his arms. It was a setup. They knew he was here. They had him!
“Get out of here, Ronan!” Cove demanded as several Symols sprang on him to hold him down.
Keeping his light smoldered, Ronan flew off before any of the Symols could get a hand around his quick little body.
Cove jerked away from the paws snatching at him, and ran in the only available direction: through the throne room. The king jumped up in surprised rage and flung a long claw in his direction.
“Seize him! Do not let him get away! He knows too much!”
Fully panicked now, Cove wove in and out of the mounds of riches. The Symols were fast and quickly on his tail, nearly within reaching distance. His lungs fit to exploding, Cove scrambled up the mountain of neopoints, sending some of them down into the faces of his pursuers. He ignored the indignant yelps and proceeded to slide down the opposite side of the mountain of neopoints. Right into the hands of Donnovan and his waiting guards.
Cove cried out as several paws closed around his arms and made escape no longer a possibility.
Donnovan’s dark face loomed in front of Cove’s with an evil sneer. “Looks like you’re caught, my friend. Now you get to see how we handle intruders.”
To be continued...