The Underground: Part One
This series is the sequel to my previous series called “No One Will Believe Them” which you can find the first issue of in the 295th edition of the Neopian Times. While this series will be better if you’ve already read that series, this one can stand well enough on its own.
It’d been easy enough to frame the old fool, Donnovan reflected with a sneer as he reclined in his newly claimed throne. Several torches lit the small underground chamber respectively called the Throne Room, but it wasn’t enough to cast away the eerie shadows that played on the walls. Donnovan didn’t notice. He was too busy basking in the joy of his new position.
The Throne Room was empty save for him. The day had long since past and night was waning on into the late hours. It was the perfect time for him to recline, to think, to plot, and to plan. The Symol king had been old, past his prime. It had been time for a new leader, and there was not a better candidate than Donnovan.
Or at least, that’s what Donnovan believed. All he’d had to do was stash some of the more pricey treasures in the King’s room, which had been easy, considering he’d had a key to the room, being the King’s trusted advisor and all, and then he’d had had to tip off the guards in the belief that someone was keeping a little extra for themselves.
When the news had spread that the King had been smuggling some goods for himself, an angry mob breaking out in a revolt against the power was only to be expected. And when they’d drug the king away to the tunnels, demoting him to digger, it had been only right that Donnovan, the Symol second in command, had taken the throne.
Life was good, Donnovan decided, toying with a large, red ruby on his index claw, but there was still unfinished business to handle. There were many more tunnels to dig to lead to several key locations before Donnovan could have the proper empire to rule over. Sure, looting from Brightvale and Meridell was nice, but it wasn’t enough to gain the riches he desired. There was the palace in the Lost Desert to think of, where all the Princess’s riches were held, and there were still plenty of Coltzan’s riches left that he had yet to wrap his claws around. Donnovan had made sure that the King had been assigned to dig the tunnels to those locations. Donnovan enjoyed the thought of his enemy aiding his success. He could still remember the accusing words the King had thrown at him when he’d been carried away.
“I should have never trusted you!” he had shouted. “I’ll get you for this, Donnovan! I will not be removed so easily!”
Donnovan chuckled. There would be no vengeance for the King while he was trapped in the darker tunnels digging his life away.
And then, there was an entirely different score to settle. Donnovan thought of the Spardel that had made him look like a fool. The one that had aided in the escape of all the prisoners, and the one who was still persistently trying to get others to believe that there was something more going on in the Symol Hole. This foolish young twerp needed to be taught a lesson.
Sighing, Donnovan pulled a rope that hung beside his throne. It pleased him that his servant was prompt. The last one had been cast out of the hole for taking his leisurely time. Donnovan liked to make examples for his minions.
“Yes, my liege?” A Symol named James dropped to one knee, keeping his head down.
James was terrified of his master, and he hated even looking upon his countenance. Especially at night when every dark feature of Donnovan was illuminated two fold.
Donnovan unrolled a map that had been tucked in the throne beside him. He cleared his throat impatiently until James was forced to look up, and then he gestured him closer and began to point out different places on the map until he got to a final location, and he circled it with his claw.
“I want a new tunnel dug to this place. Make sure it is under that exact room of the neohome. I expect the work on this tunnel to take less than a day, and I expect to be kept informed. Do you understand?” Donnovan demanded.
James nodded feebly. “Y-Yes, sir.”
Donnovan tucked the map away, pleased. “Good. Now go and get to it.”
James scurried away. When he was gone, Donnovan tapped a claw to his chin. Revenge would be sweet, and once he had received it, it would make the riches he would steal from the Lost Desert that much sweeter.
“You’ve got to let it go,” Gio persisted.
Cove, a young, brave Spardel, refused to do so. “No, someone has to do something about it. They kept you prisoner for years. Don’t you want revenge?”
Gio flexed his large Gruslen paws and stretched lazily out on his favorite bean bag in their neohome. It was true that he had spent years as a captive of the Symol Hole after one foolish attempt to discover what went on in the Hole, but now that he was free and had a home, he didn’t want to think any further on his past. All he knew was that he never wanted to return there, and he wasn’t about to let one of Cove’s foolish desires for adventure take him there.
“No one will ever believe you, Cove. There’s nothing we can do. We should just be satisfied that we’re free.”
Cove shook his head and paced the room followed by his Lightmite, Ronan, that hovered idly around him. He’d been trying and trying ever since the day they had outsmarted the Symols and escaped the hole to get someone to believe him about what they really did down there. But no one would believe them. Everyone was just absolutely positive that the Symols were harmless. Cove couldn’t believe that everyone was so naïve. That’s what they’d once thought of Meepits, and then look what happened.
But it was no good. His owner didn’t even believe him, and everyone else looked at him as if he were mildly insane.
“It’s not good enough, Gio. I want them brought to justice.”
Gio rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah, kid? And what’s a little Spardel like you going to do about it?”
Cove knew Gio wanted justice just as badly as he did, but that was the difference between them. Cove would work to get what he wanted, and Gio, after all that he’d been through in that area, decided he’d rather let someone else do all the work.
Cove glared at him. “I’ll think of something.”
Both dropped the subject as they heard the door to the neohome open and slam shut. Cove braced himself as he heard the hurried footsteps of his owner coming their way. He could tell by her pace that something had upset her, and when his owner was upset, she tended to be long-winded.
“Cove! Gio! Have you seen my earrings? You know the Valentines ones? I’ve seemed to have misplaced them. You know how much I love them too.” She fidgeted, her eyes darting around as if she would be able to magically spot them. “I don’t know where I could have placed them, but this really isn’t like me to lose something like that.”
Cove and Gio shook their heads and said, in unison, “No.”
Their owner bit her lip and wrung her hands anxiously. “I have to go to a meeting, but I really want to find them. Will you look for them while I’m gone?”
“Sure,” Cove answered.
Frazzled, their owner left for her meeting, and Cove exchanged a look with Gio.
“No,” Gio snapped. “She’s just misplaced them is all.”
Cove frowned. “Whatever you say. Come on, let’s look for them.”
It took them the better part of an hour of searching and crawling into cramped spaces in their neohome to establish that the expensive pair of earrings were nowhere in the neohome. They met back together in the living room.
“You know what I think,” Cove began.
Gio sighed. “You think the Symols stole them.”
Cove nodded, and Ronan squeaked in agreement.
“Kid, they’ve left us alone for this long. Why would they even bother?”
“I don’t know,” Cove admitted, “but you know how our owner is about her stuff. She’s always really careful with her expensive items.”
Gio waved a paw at him. “Don’t be ridiculous, Cove. You just want this to be the Symols' doing. Our owner just got a little scatter-brained and misplaced them. Let it rest.”
Cove frowned, but shook his head when Ronan tried to speak up. Gio was old and tired of adventures, while Cove yearned for them. If he didn’t want to think about the possibility of the Symols coming for revenge, then Cove would figure it out on his own.
“All right. Sorry.”
“Thank you. Now, I’m going to go take a nap. Wake me if you find the earrings.”
Cove watched him trot off. He didn’t personally believe he was going to find the earrings, though he intended to have a good look again anyway. Cove knew he wouldn’t find those earrings unless he paid a visit to the Symol Hole.
“No! Anything but that!”
Cove jolted, rolled, and tumbled out of bed. He shook his head, dazed from the fall, and looked around his darkened room. He was nearly ready to believe he’d been having a nightmare when he heard Gio’s distressed voice call out again.
“Why that? Why not anything else? You’d think I’ve paid enough!”
More than a little confused, Cove ventured out into the hall and down two doors to Gio’s room. The room appeared to have been turned upside down. Toys were scattered across the floor, tangled in blankets, and disappearing under the heap of junk Gio was still throwing out of the drawers of his Checkered Drawers. Cove stepped around a few items closest to him and gave Gio’s back a worried look. Half his black-striped orange body was shoved into one of the drawers.
“Gio, what’s going on?”
Forgetting he wasn’t alone in the house, the voice scared him, and Gio gave a jolt that had his head smacking against the drawers. He yipped and wriggled out. Rubbing his head tenderly, he gave Cove a frightened look.
“My purple petpet ball... is gone!” he sobbed.
The purple petpet ball had been Gio’s favorite. It was the first toy their owner had ever bought for him, and Gio treasured it more than his own two tusks. There was no way he would have misplaced it.
“Well, I won’t ask you if you’ve searched everywhere, because it appears that you have,” Cove said, eyeing the chaos of the room.
“This isn’t a laughing matter, Cove!” Gio shouted. “It’s gone! I’ve looked everywhere it could have possibly been, but, not only that, it had been beside me when I fell asleep!”
Cove’s eyes narrowed. “It was beside you?”
Gio gave a cry and dropped himself to the floor, burying his face in his paws.
“Yes!” he cried.
Gio had the acute senses of a Gruslen, and Cove couldn’t imagine someone being able to sneak up on him and steal the ball. Cove crossed the rest of the mess to him and laid a paw reassuringly on his shoulder. He gave him several moments to get a hold of himself before he proceeded.
“You know this isn’t a coincidence, right?” Cove asked him softly.
Gio grunted. “I knew this wasn’t a coincidence after our owner’s earrings disappeared along with her favorite Cybunny slippers, her golden heart necklace, and her golden ring all disappeared, and those are just the things we’ve noticed are gone.”
“You’ve been acting like I was crazy all week when you believed the same thing?” Cove demanded angrily.
He’d voiced his concerns of Symols since the day the earrings had disappeared, and then he’d voiced them even more often when the other items began to disappear into thin air, but each time Gio had shook him off and told him he was overreacting.
Gio sniffled. “You don’t understand. I was a prisoner in that Symol Hole for years. You don’t know what that’s like. I didn’t want to go back down there, and I knew that’s what you’d want to do.”
“I wouldn’t have made you go too,” Cove stated flatly, “and I still won’t, but I know who has my owner’s stuff, and I plan on getting it back. I’m going to go find Ronan, and then I’m going to look for the tunnel I’m sure they have running to our house.”
Cove left Gio grumbling in the midst of his wrecked belongings. His mind was already calculating several steps ahead. This was definitely the work of the Symols, but what were they trying to gain rather than a few items that were hardly expensive compared to the items he’d seen in their hole and the unhappiness of Gio and his owner? Was it just a simple form of payback, or did they want him to come after his lost belongings? Cove had no intention of winding up in their cramped dungeon again.
And why hadn’t they stolen anything from him? He was the one who had broken out the prisoners and stolen the King’s necklace. So why were all of his belongings still accounted for?
Cove entered his room and went to the green petpet bed where he and Ronan slept at night. He lifted his paw to nudge his friend into wakefulness, and that was when he realized that Ronan wasn’t in the bed.
Cove’s tiny Spardel heart dropped to his paws.
“Ronan!” he shrieked.
There was no surer way to Cove’s heart than his pet Lightmite. The Symols had stolen him. They’d hit right where it counted.
To be continued...