The Quest for the Moonlit Orb: Part Five
Later the next afternoon, the seven travelers landed on a long stretch of beach on Mystery Island.
“Okay, Narros, ever been here before?” Mysia asked briskly.
“So, where do we stay?”
“And how good are the accommodations?” Cleo asked. She was not a very vain Uni, but she was rather spoiled, and used to better conditions than they had encountered thus far.
Narros smiled and said, “Cleo, there are excellent accommodations this time. I have met a young human girl here who goes by Octa. She has three pets, Penta, Quadri, and Tri. They live in a large Neohome between the Island Market and the Island Arena, on Island Crescent. And before you ask, Mysia, I’m one hundred percent positive that she can be trusted.”
Everyone except Mysia laughed at Narros’s last statement. “I’m not that paranoid,” she protested, only to receive more laughter in response.
Nalina decided that Mystery Island must be the best place in all of Neopia. The peaceful shoreline, gentle breeze, serene atmosphere, and tropical climate all made this island feel like the perfect hideaway. She marveled at everything they passed as Narros led them down the sandy trail.
Octa’s home was made of sturdy bamboo, and it looked like a part of the surrounding landscape, nestled between two large palm trees. Narros led them around back, where the yard opened up to a secluded, sandy beach and the tranquil sea.
“Wait here,” Narros said, “while I tell Octa you’re here. I can’t tell her about the Orb, obviously, but I’ll make something up. She won’t ask questions.”
“Does she know...?” Mysia started to ask. She was going to say, “Does she know you’re homeless?” but stopped herself just in time.
Whether or not Narros knew what Mysia was about to say, he replied, “She knows about Nalina, but obviously not about all of you.”
He walked through the yard towards the back door and knocked three times, paused briefly, and then knocked twice more.
After a moment, the door swung open. “Hey, Narros!” said a Blue Acara brightly. “Hey, Tri,” he replied, “is Octa here? I need to ask her something.”
“Sure, c’mon in,” she responded, retreating inside. After several minutes, Narros returned to the doorway, followed by a young girl, who was about eleven or twelve years of age, with sparkling blue eyes and long brown hair.
“Hey, guys, come on up!” Narros called. Cleo immediately galloped up to the door, happy as always to meet new people, closely followed by Edd and Nalina. Ten, Mysia, and Stacia were last to approach.
“Octa, this is Nalina, Mysia, Edd, Stacia, Cleo, and Ten,” Narros said, gesturing to each of them in turn. Introductions were quickly made, and then Octa led them inside.
They entered a spacious room, with a bamboo, island-style décor, where a Red Lutari waited for them.
“Hi!” she said. “I’m Penta!”
Once again, introductions were made, and soon they were joined by the Blue Acara named Tri and a Green Mynci named Quadri.
Octa showed the newcomers around the house, and room arrangements were quickly made. Mysia insisted, when Octa and her pets were out of earshot, that they set out immediately to find Cymirus, but the others disagreed, deciding to rest after the flight and enjoy some of Octa’s excellent food. Nalina, for one, had never tasted anything so wonderful; Narros always saved some of Octa’s food for her, but by then it was several days old and not nearly as good.
When they finished, Penta insisted on giving them a quick tour of this side of the island. “It’s most beautiful now, when the sun’s beginning to set,” she informed them.
“We don’t need a tour guide, Edd used to live here, and Narros knows his way around,” Mysia protested, trying to get rid of the Lutari so that the group could see Cymirus.
“But I want to show you things that weren’t here a few years ago, so Edd wouldn’t know them, and Narros never really goes anywhere but the marketplace and the Tombola. I’ll show you cool vacation spots!”
“Sorry,” Octa apologized when Penta was out of earshot, “she’s just excited... she has far too much energy for her own good... would you mind if she just showed you around a bit?”
Mysia did mind, but the Lutari was so enthusiastic, and Octa looked at her so pleadingly, she couldn’t say no, and besides, the others had already agreed.
Penta led them past the bustling trading post to a small stretch of sandy beach surrounded by palm trees. The ruins of Geraptiku were visible between the leaves of the trees. The waves washed up against their feet, and the setting sun painted the sky with brilliant hues. A small ferryboat, labeled “Property of Mystery Island Tiki Tours”, was tethered to a palm tree, overlooked by a scrawny Kougra who was hardly older than Narros. He jumped when they approached, as though he hadn’t seen anyone in quite a while. “Would you all like to take a ferry to the Mystic’s island?” he asked.
“Yes,” Penta told him. Then, to the others, she added, “That’s where I wanted to take you. There’s a beautiful place where you can see the sunset even better.”
They all managed to squeeze into the ferry, and after a minute or so the boat bumped against the sandy beach. Penta tossed the Kougra a few Neopoints as they clambered out of the ferry. They were standing on the steps leading the Island Mystic’s front door. Penta started to lead them to the left, but suddenly the door to the hut opened. A short, yellow creature stood before them. “The Mystic,” Nalina whispered, in awe.
He stepped around the door and studied them. Suddenly, his eyes grew wide, and he seemed alarmed.
“Beware!” he boomed abruptly, causing many of them to jump. “Six of you are on a journey to recover what is lost,” he said mysteriously, now speaking softly. “One of you is merely an innocent friend. But beware the eighth!” He paused, studying their startled faces. “The eighth seeks to destroy their quest! Beware, there is a traitor in your midst!” As soon as he had he uttered this cryptic statement, he scurried behind the door and slammed it shut, leaving a deathly silence behind him.
Penta laughed. “Crazy,” she said with a smile, “absolutely crazy. He never makes much sense, you know.” Unconcerned, she continued leading them around the island. The others, however, could not forget so easily, for somehow the Mystic knew about their quest. Penta was “the innocent friend”, who knew nothing of the quest but was helping anyway. That left the seven who were on the quest... could he be right? Was there a traitor?
With the exception of Penta, the party was quite subdued as they returned to Octa’s home. Penta, Mysia, Ten, and Cleo returned to the house, but the other four remained outside, listening to the waves lapping against the shore. They sat in the Mystery Island Tree House in the corner of the yard, gazing at the ocean without really seeing it at all.
Edd finally broke the silence. “Was that old nutcase right?” she asked.
“Of course not,” Nalina said. “We’re all friends. There’s no way.”
“He has been known to make odd predictions,” Narros agreed, “but I must admit it is possible.”
“You sound like Mysia,” Nalina retorted.
“Maybe Mysia’s right to be paranoid! She is the Guardian, after all. She knows more about this than any of us!”
“Can we be sure we can trust Mysia?” Stacia asked suddenly, interrupting the growing argument.
“What do you mean?” Narros asked.
“Well, for one thing, we can’t rule out the possibility that it’s an imposter. Secondly, I’ve heard some suspicious things about Mysia...”
“So have I,” Edd added, “Ankira said something about a crazy sister.”
Stacia nodded. “Crazy, all right. She was Mysia’s younger sister, and Nicosia says she went mad. I don’t know what she did, but I’ve heard she tried to poison Fyora, or burn down the palace... supposedly she ruined the family name. Fyora almost refused to let Mysia become Guardian because of it. Matarah, I think her name was.”
“Yeah,” Edd agreed, “I head she was always jealous of Mysia, ‘cause she got to be Guardian, since she was the oldest, instead of Matarah.”
“Nicosia said living in Mysia’s shadow gave her some crazy idea that Mysia was liked better by everyone, and no one thought she could do anything. They say it drove her insane...”
“What’s this have to do with not being able to trust Mysia?” Nalina interrupted.
“Well, let’s just say there are a lot of rumors about Mysia and her family right now, and supposedly Fyora doesn’t trust her as much as the other Guardians, and I don’t think we should either.”
“Well, regardless of her family history, that doesn’t mean she’s a traitor,” Narros said.
“Or that a traitor even exists,” Nalina added. “Let’s go in, Narros,” she said, and without another word climbed down and headed for the house. With a sigh, Narros followed, leaving the Pteri and the young sorceress alone.
“Well, I still think it might be Mysia,” Edd said as they departed.
“Or what about Nalina? She was really trying to convince us that there wasn’t a traitor.”
“And Cleo says she was awfully eager to come on this trip, and Narros wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for her.”
“Or it could be Narros. You never know, if they’re really desperate for money or something.”
“Yeah. Kind of depressing, huh?”
“Yeah,” Stacia said, and there the conversation ended.
The next morning, the group of seven left immediately after breakfast in search of Cymirus. A tense feeling hung in the air, as each still remembered the haunting words of the Island Mystic. Narros and Edd, being the only two familiar with the island, led the way to Techo Mountain, where Mysia said Cymirus lived. Mysia had been to this home before so she knew where to go once Narros and Edd found the location.
The group trekked up the mountainside until Mysia pointed out a small home, several feet from the trail, cleverly hidden by the undergrowth.
They approached the door, but before they reached it, it swung open, revealing yet another fire faerie. At first, she looked much younger than any of the other Guardians, but when she came near the dark shadows under her eyes were visible, giving her the appearance of someone much older.
“Oh, I hoped you’d come,” Cymirus said. She then studied the group, looking confused.
“It’s a long story,” Mysia said quickly, “I don’t have time to explain.”
“Of course,” Cymirus said, ushering them into her tiny hut.
Once they were inside, Mysia said, “So, you had the Orb when it was stolen?”
“Yes, Sylia had only just given it to me. I hid it as I always do, and at first everything was fine, but then I started hearing strange noises at night. As soon as I heard them I grew very nervous and planned to take the Orb to you immediately. I was just leaving when suddenly I smelled smoke. The entire kitchen was on fire. I put out the flames quickly enough, but when I went to get the Orb, it was gone.”
“How did they steal it? Didn’t you have magic protecting it?”
“Of course. I’m sure we must be dealing with Goulart, or at the very least a sorcerer of some kind, someone who knows enough magic to break the spells.”
“Could Goulart be that powerful?” Mysia wondered aloud.
“Well,” Cymirus said, “I don’t know about that, but I think I did find a clue. A large brown coat was in the undergrowth just outside. It was completely covered in melting snow. Whoever left it had recently been somewhere very cold, where it’s snowing.”
“Terror Mountain!” Ten exclaimed. “Remember? Cleo and I found a scrap of paper in the ruins of our home that said Terror Mountain!”
“That’s an interesting coincidence,” Mysia muttered. She was silent for a moment, thinking hard.
“You know, it is a little odd that a mysterious someone burned your home, and now Cymirus’s. Obviously the fire here was a distraction, to get Cymirus away from the Orb. And at your home in Faerieland, they burned all of Jamie’s research. If it is Goulart, why create all the fires? He’s a sorcerer; he could have distracted Cymirus and gotten rid of Jamie’s research another way. Why does he have such a preference for burning?”
“What does all this Terror Mountain stuff mean?” Cleo asked.
“It could be where the thief is, or where he hid the Orb,” Edd suggested, “but then, why have it written on a piece of paper? Why be so careless with that coat? It seems almost as if someone’s purposefully leading us to Terror Mountain, either to send us in the wrong direction, or because he’s set up a trap in Terror Mountain.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Ten said. “Whoever burned Jamie’s research would have no way of knowing that we would meet Mysia and help her find the Orb. It was coincidence. We knew nothing of the Orb except a few things Jamie had said, and we doubted its existence. Why would someone purposefully leave a piece of evidence for us to find? We were no threat at all.”
“Yes, he’s right. Edd’s theory might be true if that paper had been found by another Guardian. But for someone to try to mislead the two of you before you joined me makes no sense at all,” Mysia said.
“I say we go to Terror Mountain,” Cleo said, “and see for ourselves.”
“And risk walking into a trap?” Cymirus asked.
“How could anyone trap us? Why would they want to?” Narros replied.
“What if they’re just trying to make us head in the opposite direction?” Edd asked.
“Why would they do that? If they hadn’t left this stuff behind, we wouldn’t have a clue where to go,” Stacia responded.
“Yeah,” Nalina agreed. “We’d be wandering around Neopia for ages.”
“If he or she did put those things there on purpose, we’ll figure it out when we reach Terror Mountain, and we can just try somewhere else,” Cleo added. “We’ve really got nothing to lose.”
“Except possibly our lives,” Cymirus said grimly.
For a moment, everyone was silent. Then Stacia suddenly asked, “Are you sure this fire was started magically?”
“Well, I can’t be certain. But I think it’s very likely. Why?”
“Magic always leaves a trace or a trail behind; sometimes it’s an actual scent or a transparent mist. Magic can be detected and tracked. If you show me the room where the fire was, and if it really was started by magic, then I might be able to pick up the trail and determine where the person who cast the spell is, or at least in what direction they went after stealing the Orb.”
“How can you do that?” Edd asked skeptically. “Sounds like a waste of time to me. Magic can’t leave trails.”
“Of course it can,” Stacia replied icily, “Nicosia showed me.”
“It’s worth a shot,” Ten said. “Where’s the kitchen, Cymirus?”
“Over here,” she replied, leading the way. Everyone started to follow her, but Stacia stopped them. “It’s better if you wait here. The trails can be disturbed, broken, or destroyed easily. The less people in there, the better.”
The others nodded in agreement, and Stacia followed Cymirus into the kitchen. She closed her eyes and raised her hands with her palms facing outward, feeling for something only she could see. She walked slowly around the kitchen, leaving no corner uninvestigated. The air felt somewhat thick in an area near one of the windows. With utmost concentration she called the magic forward and felt it flowing through her to the tips of her fingers. Cymirus watched in awe as the multicolored sparks danced around the young girl. Very quietly, Stacia began to whisper the words of the spell. In that moment, she knew nothing but the words. They filled her, leaving no room for outside thought or emotion. As she spoke, the sparks flew and danced more rapidly, surrounding the trace of magic that was hovering unseen above Cymirus’s kitchen window. In the very depths of Stacia’s mind, a picture began to unfold. Stacia saw the trail of magic, leading from Cymirus’s kitchen, flying across the open sea, above Maraqua, through Tyrannia, and into an undiscovered, icy canyon in a mountainside. “Terror Mountain!” she said suddenly, and the spell was broken. As the sparks retreated into her fingers, she opened her eyes and turned to Cymirus, who was utterly speechless. “It leads to Terror Mountain,” she said softly.
At that moment, Mysia, who couldn’t stand the wait any longer, opened the door. “Well?” she asked impatiently.
“Terror Mountain,” Cymirus and Stacia said at the same time.
So, once more the group of seven took off once more, while Cymirus, at Mysia’s insistence, headed for the safety of Fyora’s castle. By nightfall, they reached the edge of Tyrannia, and camped under the stars. That night, several of the travelers were having strange dreams.
Stacia was feeling a sudden urge to climb the mountain and find the canyon she had seen. “Come and find me,” the Orb was whispering, “Hurry! I’m here.” Meanwhile, magical sparks danced about, showing her the location of the Orb again and again.
Nalina was having a nightmare. She was standing on a high, rocky surface, near a large, unforgiving cliff, with snow blinding her and covering the ground. She sensed that something was wrong. She was crying; the tears were turning to ice as the frosty wind blew against her. Something awful had happened, but she could not stop. Her job wasn’t done yet...
Mysia was also having a nightmare, again of her younger sister Matarah. She kept seeing Matarah’s piercing, hate-filled eyes and hearing her echoing, maniacal laugh.
Later that night, one of the seven travelers had a dream, where someone was angry, very angry, because they were drawing nearer and nearer to the Orb... they must not reach it...
The next morning, they approached the mighty mountain, with Stacia (riding on Ten) leading the way. As they flew, snow began to fall thickly, blinding them and making flying difficult. When she realized flight was becoming too difficult, Stacia suggested that they land in Happy Valley, and climb up to the summit, where she was certain the hidden canyon was located. The others readily agreed, and quickly began the ascent on foot. To their surprise, the Ice Caves were almost completely deserted. “Why isn’t anyone here?” Stacia asked the Wocky at the Scratch Card Kiosk, who seemed to be preparing to leave.
“Don’t you know?” she asked distractedly, stuffing some suspiciously shaped items into a bag. “Weather forecasters on Neovision have been predicting the biggest storm we’ve had all winter.”
“But it’s nearly spring,” Stacia said, confused.
“What’s that have to do with anything? When the big storms come, these caves get blocked by avalanches of snow. You’d better get to the safety of Happy Valley, and quick.” The Wocky then turned and scurried away, lugging her heavy bags with her.
“Great, just great! How are we going to get to the summit now?” Mysia, who was already in a terrible mood, was even more sarcastic than usual.
“We’ll have to wait out the storm with Ruhr,” Narros said.
“Who in Neopia is Ruhr?” Mysia snapped.
“Another friend,” Narros said.
“Fantastic, someone else who knows about us,” Mysia snapped.
“He doesn’t have to know,” Narros said. “There are plenty of empty caves near where he lives. I could hide you all in there, except Nalina, because Ruhr knows about her, and we could sneak out food and supplies, and leave as soon as the storm ends.”
“How will you explain being here in February, instead of December?” Nalina asked.
“We could say the shop burned down, and we needed a place to stay while I try to find a new place to live,” Narros suggested.
“No way,” Mysia said. “We ought to head up the summit before the storm starts. No telling how long it will last.” Without another word she strode off to the entrance of the Ice Caves. Just as she was nearing the entrance, a loud rumbling sound filled the air and echoed throughout the caves. A millisecond later an avalanche of snow collapsed, causing Mysia to jump backwards in alarm. In less than fifteen seconds, an impenetrable, two-mile high pile of snow blocked the entrance.
“Well,” Ten said after a moment, “I vote for Narros’s plan.” Everyone except Mysia laughed, and Narros led them through the labyrinth of caves until they reached a series of isolated caves quite far from the entrance. While most of the group entered an abandoned cave, Narros and Nalina headed for Ruhr’s cave.
As the approached, Nalina could hear laughter and idle chatter. The cave was mostly dark, with only a few bare lanterns casting light into the small space. “The den”, as it was called, was a large open space where Ruhr and his friends spent most of their time. There were several small passageways leading from the den that went to “bedrooms” and the “kitchen”.
As Nalina’s eyes adjusted to the dark, she could see the shadowy figures of the many pets that lived here. They seemed to be playing a game of Bilge Dice on a small table in the center of the room. Cautiously, Narros rang a small bell that hung just inside the entrance, which was used when entering the cave, to let the others know of the arrival.
As the bell’s ring echoed within the space, every eye turned fearfully towards the entrance, for every member of the group was already inside the cave. Quickly Narros stepped into the light. “Relax, it’s me,” Narros said. A few of the other pets breathed a sigh of relief. A Blue Gelert, who was undoubtedly Ruhr, left the group and greeted Narros. “What are you doing here?” he asked, sounding pleased rather than suspicious.
“It’s a long story,” Narros said, just as Ruhr noticed Nalina. Narros told Ruhr the story about their shop burning down, and he seemed to believe him without question. The other pets also listened intently.
“Rotten luck, Nar,” said a friendly-looking Green Eyrie, whom Narros introduced as Ritt.
“Do we have any leftover dinner?” asked a female Red Ixi.
“Think so,” Ritt replied.
The Red Ixi, whose name was Jollette, led Narros and Nalina to the kitchen and offered them any and all food that she could find. They ate some of it, but most they wrapped in napkins and hid, so they could bring it to the others later.
Then they joined the others and played several rounds of Bilge Dice. Nalina grew to like this merry group of pets. They were all very friendly and welcoming, and before long Nalina felt like she belonged to the group.
All too soon, the lanterns began to burn low, until they decided to go to bed. There was a spare bed especially for Narros in one of the bedrooms, but there wasn’t a vacant space for Nalina. A Cybunny named Kirra offered to give up her bed and sleep on the floor, and a Lupe named Valem gave up some spare blankets and pillows. Narros and Nalina thanked them for their generosity and pretended to fall asleep. Once they were sure the other pets were asleep, they quietly rose from their beds and hurried stealthily outside. They sneaked over to the cave where the others were hiding.
“It’s about time you remembered us,” Mysia grumbled as they entered, but she couldn’t find anything nasty to say when they revealed all of the food and supplies they had managed to sneak out of Ruhr’s cave. While Nalina helped them prepare the food and pack the supplies, Narros checked outside to see if the storm had stopped, which, unfortunately, it hadn’t. They planned to meet up again at seven in the morning, because Mysia insisted that they were leaving then whether there was a blizzard or not.
Sure enough, at seven o’clock the next morning, the blizzard was as strong as ever, but Mysia did not care. She insisted that they climb to the summit. When Mysia wants something, she usually gets it, and this time was no exception. Narros and Nalina left a hasty note for Ruhr thanking him and his friends for their hospitality and making an excuse as to where they were going, and then the seven travelers set off.
Flurries of snow whipped around them, the wind blew ferociously, and the deserted landscape offered no refuge from the biting cold or the fierce wind. They trudged up the deserted trail, each wishing they were back on Mystery Island. Edd nearly fell over when a strong gust of wind flew at her. “How am I going to get out of here?” she wondered. She began to pretend she was back at home, sipping hot chocolate beside a roaring fire.
Before long, Mysia and Edd were at the front of the group, while the others struggled far behind them.
“Mysia, were you having a nightmare last night?” Edd asked over the roar of the wind.
Of course, Mysia didn’t want to tell Edd about Matarah, so she lied and said, “I was just thinking about what the Island Mystic said.”
“You believe him, don’t you?” Edd asked.
“Well, I think it’s definitely possible. I don’t trust that Stacia girl at all. Any apprentice to Nicosia is not to be trusted. Why we’re even believing her and climbing this stupid mountain, I don’t know.”
“Yeah, that whole ‘trail of magic’ thing was a little odd, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose. I don’t worry as much about Cleo and Ten, though,” Mysia found herself saying. She was quite numbed from the cold, and not really thinking clearly. If she had been, she never would have discussed this with Edd, or anyone for that matter, because they were all potential traitors.
“Are you sure? I think it’s a little suspicious that they just happened to find you and be discussing the Orb at the exact moment that you walked by. I think that’s a pretty strange coincidence. However, I’m mostly worried about Stacia. I think this whole thing is a trap. We should leave Terror Mountain now while we have the chance.”
“We’ve come this far,” Mysia said. “We might as well keep going.”
They continued walking in silence, until finally they were on the top of Terror Mountain.
“Where do we go now, Stacia?” Cleo asked through chattering teeth.
Stacia led them through the snow, never once faltering or pausing to consider the proper direction.
“How does she know where to go?” Mysia wondered, for each snowdrift looked exactly the same as the next to her. Mysia decided that as soon as this was over, she was never returning to Terror Mountain. As a fire faerie, she loathed the cold, and had never set foot in snow before now.
After about an hour or so, Stacia let out a huge gasp and stopped walking. The others hurried over, only to realize that they were looking down into a massive canyon.
“This is it,” Stacia said.
“How do we get down?” Narros asked.
“We’ll fly, like we always do,” Cleo said, and that’s exactly what they did. The lower they flew, the larger the canyon seemed. When standing on the ridge, it seemed as though they could see across the canyon to the other side, but when they landed on the rocky floor, they realized that the canyon was several miles wide, and the walls were at least twenty feet high. It was also completely deserted.
“Well, where’s the Orb?” Mysia demanded, once again in a very bad mood.
“I don’t know,” Stacia said. “This was as far as the trail went.”
“So you led us here and you don’t even know how to find it?”
Stacia started to reply, but Nalina interrupted.
“Obviously the thief wouldn’t have left the Orb out in the open. The location would have been hidden. If the thief had magical powers, they probably would have used magic to protect it, just like the Guardians do. Remember how Ankara’s house was invisible? What if the thief’s hideout is down here, but it’s invisible?”
Mysia started to tell Nalina that it was the stupidest idea she’d ever heard, but stopped when she realized it wasn’t stupid at all.
“You know, they probably did,” she said thoughtfully. “I might be able to find it, using a little magic.”
Suddenly, a ball of flames appeared in front of Mysia. The others couldn’t see anything, but Mysia could see something within the dancing ball of fire. Just as suddenly as the flames had appeared, they vanished.
“It’s there, right in front of us,” Mysia said, pointing to a spot about six meters northward.
“How can we make it visible?” Ten asked.
“I can do a Visibility Spell,” Stacia offered. Although Mysia was annoyed at having to accept Stacia’s help, she nodded in agreement.
Once more, Stacia called forward the magic, and the sparks flew to the tips of her fingers. She closed her eyes and muttered an incantation, and then she lifted her right hand and pointed to the area that Mysia had previously pointed out. The sparks left Stacia’s fingertips and flew through the air, forming a huge circle in the area Stacia had pointed to. Then, something began to materialize in front of them, and the sparks vanished.
It was a glittering, shining palace, sculpted completely out of ice. It towered above them, shimmering as feeble rays of sunlight peeked out through the heavy storm clouds and cast thin beams of light over the incredible structure. Ten whistled appreciatively. Stacia opened her eyes and stared at it in awe.
“Well, whoever the thief is, he has good taste in secret lairs,” Cleo commented jokingly.
“How are we going to get in?” Stacia asked. “We can’t just walk in through the front door.”
“We don’t have to use a door,” Nalina suggested. “There are sure to be unguarded openings that no one would ever think of, like windows, air ducts, chimneys...”
“I don’t think there are any chimneys in this place,” Mysia said, “and it doesn’t look like there are any windows. The thief probably guessed that they would be good entrances. I also doubt they have air conditioning, seeing how cold it is down here.”
“Not necessarily,” Ten said. “They might not have air conditioning in the rooms themselves, but when it’s not snowing, they’d have to keep the temperature low enough that the ice doesn’t start to melt. They might have some kind of cooling system that we could use to access some of the interior rooms.”
“They probably wouldn’t use air ducts, though. Anyone with any intelligence would be able to guess that those would be an easy way in. So, whatever kind of cooling system they have, I doubt it would be any help,” Mysia argued.
“There has to be an opening somewhere,” Nalina said.
“We don’t have time to find one,” Edd protested.
“I could transport us in magically,” Stacia suggested, “but I would have to know what the room looked like, and of course we would have to make sure no one was there.”
“We don’t even know where the Orb is,” Edd said, “so we wouldn’t even know which room to look in.”
“I know!” Stacia said suddenly. “I can use an Invisibility Spell! Then we can look around and no one will see us.”
“That’s a good idea, but how will we get inside in the first place?” Cleo asked.
They continued to discuss the safest way to enter, until suddenly they heard a loud noise. They turned just in time to see the huge door of the ice palace slowly swinging open.
Ten went rigid with fear. He could not look away as the door opened, knowing that whoever stood behind it was either the thief or working with the thief. There was no time for Stacia to cast an Invisibility Spell; they could do nothing but wait, although they could easily be seen and were very vulnerable.
Cleo watched with horror, waiting to see who stood behind the massive door of ice. What she finally saw came as a complete shock. She could not believe who was standing in the doorway of the fortress.
To be continued...