The Treasure of Xutu: Part Two
Tara woke up at four and started getting ready. She was about to start on a journey with her friend Jeran across the many lands of Neopia. They were following a treasure map that she had found in her attic. Upon spilling borovan all over the map, they discovered clues on the map that gave them cryptic instructions. The team had deciphered the odd lines, and discovered that they were to begin at the Haunted Woods.
Tara walked, or rather swam (so unbecoming for a Desert Kyrii, she thought) out of her house in Maraqua, hoping that her waterproof belongings wouldn't get swept away before the floor drains got rid of the water. Soon she reached the surface and began walking towards Meridell where she was going to meet her friend Jeran, a Christmas Kacheek who lived on Terror Mountain.
Tara arrived in Meridell and spotted Jeran playing poker. He folded his hand when he saw Tara and left the table. As he walked up to Tara, he said, "Hey, you ready to go?"
"Yeah, I guess so. A little tired, but other than that I'm ready."
"Cool. Well then, let's get this party started!"
"You are too weird."
The pair set out for the Haunted Woods at a brisk pace and arrived just over a half hour later. They took a few minutes to look around and adjust to the looming darkness. When they could see their noses in front of their faces, they went on, walking in the direction of the Deserted Fairground. They stopped at Eliv Thade's mansion on the way, just long enough to get stuck on the anagram 'eaarrnt' and get kicked out by a less than happy ghost. After that, it was straight to the Deserted Fairgrounds to fulfill the first clue.
"Start where the haunted are never afraid,
Where money is stolen and cheapskates are paid."
From that first clue, they had figured out that they needed to start in the fairgrounds (the cheapest place in Neopia), but were not sure exactly what they were supposed to do. After three laps around the fairgrounds, Jeran had an idea. "Hey, do you think we might have to play some of the games or something?"
"Well, I suppose it's worth trying. But when's the last time you actually WON something from one of them?"
Despite the bad odds, Jeran and Tara started playing the games. Jeran took the West side and Tara the East. After spinning the Wheel of Misfortune about ten times and ending up with -329 Neopoints, three piles of sludge, and four Headless Von Roo Plushies, Jeran moved on to the Cork Gun Gallery. He had the same amount of luck there, wasting over 1,000 neopoints. Finally, he headed over to the Bagatelle stand, where he actually got lucky once, winning 400 neopoints. Unfortunately, his other nine throws produced little, and he ended up 600 neopoints in the hole overall. Very frustrated, Jeran walked away feeling as if his time had been wasted. When he found Tara, he discovered that she, too, had met with bad luck. She had played Test Your Strength and the Coconut Shy many times and ended up in only slightly better standings than Jeran.
By this time, the pair was starving, so they walked to the Spooky Foods cart. They quickly lost their appetites and started to leave the fairgrounds, feeling very distraught.
"Well, this stinks!" Jeran said.
"I know," Tara replied. "I just don't understand. We played every game in those darned fairgrounds, and we didn't find a single thing. Maybe the second part of the clue didn't have anything to do with playing those games."
"Well, what else could it be?"
"I don't know. Maybe... wait!"
"What is it?"
"I just remembered. We didn't go to the Scratchcard Stand!"
"Oh dear no!" Jeran said sarcastically. "Who cares? It'll just turn out to be like all the other games. We'll scratch three blanks and will have wasted another 1,200 neopoints."
"Well, it's worth a try."
After a few minutes of arguing, Jeran agreed to go back to the fairgrounds, and they turned back around. They reached the fairgrounds once again and walked to the scratchcard stand. Jeran bought a scratchcard and took a coin out of his pocket. He scratched six spaces off and revealed two tombstones, a bag of neopoints, one skull, and two blanks.
"What did I say? WHAT did I say? This is ridiculous."
Jeran began to march off, but Tara stopped him.
"As I recall, you said you'd get six blanks, and that didn't happen. At least let me try," she said soothingly.
Tara made her purchase and handed the card to Jeran.
"I can't bear to scratch it myself. This is our last chance for hours!"
"Which spaces should we scratch?"
"I don't know. Try... that one!"
Jeran scratched the top right corner and revealed a blank.
"Try the middle."
Jeran's coin revealed another blank.
"This is hopeless!"
"Jeran, calm down. We still have four scratches left. Er... try the middle left."
The middle left, too, was a blank.
"Tara, this is not going to work. It's rigged just like all the other crummy games around here!"
"We still have a chance. We just need to pick carefully. Let's try the top left corner, the bottom center, and the bottom right corner."
Jeran followed the directions, beginning with the top left corner. He scratched very lightly at first, and then he saw it. There was something in the space! He cleared the circle and revealed a picture of a golden key.
"We got one!"
"Keep going!" Tara exclaimed.
Jeran moved his coin to the bottom center space. Once again he revealed a golden key, and then another in the bottom right corner!
"This is unbelievable," Jeran said. "I've never won anything from this game and now I scratch three in a row?!"
"Somehow this doesn't surprise me," said Tara. "But then, I have a magic map in my pocket."
They took the winning card to Sidney, who promptly glared at them and said, "Well, it ssseemsss you have uncovered a ssspecial prizzze. ...Too bad."
"And why is that?" Tara asked him.
"No reassson. No reassson at all. Unless you have a problem with Krawksss."
Before Tara and Jeran could react, Sidney pressed a button under the stand's counter and released a trap door directly under them. They fell into a dark, seemingly endless hole, screaming all the way down.
After about ten seconds, they plunged into ice cold water and struggled to get back up for air. Although the passage they had fallen through had only been wide enough for the two to fit through, the cavern they had landed in was much larger. They figured it was at least the size of Eliv's mansion. As they felt around in the darkness, they began to realize they were not alone in the darkness.
Soft splashes made them aware of company in the water, and they began to get worried. Through the pitch blackness, Jeran heard Tara scream. He swam as fast as he could towards the place where he thought he had heard the noise, but could not find her. He yelled and yelled but his screams were not met by a response.
One last time he screamed, "TARA! TAR-"
Suddenly Jeran felt a tug on his foot and he, too, was pulled underwater. He felt himself getting deeper and deeper. Whatever it was that had attacked him was not loosening its grip and Jeran was running out of air. Just as he was about to slip into unconsciousness, Jeran was thrown out of the water and on to a kind of small plateau in the middle of a humongous lake spanning a thousand feet on each side.
Unlike the cavern he had been in previously, this gigantic place was very well lit, and he could see every detail of the rugged walls, and the murky, sewage-like water. Jeran opened his eyes just in time to see a giant slimy creature slipping back into the lake. He gasped for air and slowly regained his strength. Upon looking around, he spotted Tara lying on the ground a few feet away. She was alive, but was barely moving. Jeran rushed to her and tried to get her to sit up. She was able to stand after a few minutes and they began to discuss their strategy.
"I don't know what's going on," Tara gasped, "but we need to get out of here."
Jeran replied, "I'm not sure, but I think the Krawk Sidney was talking about just took a bite out of my pants."
"If it wanted to kill us, why didn't it just do it instead of dragging us all the way here?"
"Maybe it's just playing with us."
"I don't know, but I haven't seen any sign of it since you got here."
Jeran was about to reply when the ground beneath them started rumbling. Within seconds, the plateau split in half and each of the halves suddenly rose hundreds of feet in the air. When the rocks finally came to a stop at a staggering 350 feet, with about twenty feet between them, Jeran and Tara, saw what it was that was lifting them so high. A Maraquan Krawk nearly the size of the cavern itself was underneath them balancing the plateaus on its back and looked angry.
Jeran said in a shaky voice, "I think he's mad he broke his plateau."
"More like plate! We've gotta move quick!" Tara glanced around and looked back at Jeran. She saw no other option. "Jeran, I think I'm going to jump."
The monster bellowed a deafening roar, shaking the unsteady columns.
"Relax, Jeran. Take this rope."
Tara took a length of rope from her knapsack. She gripped one end and threw the remainder to Jeran, who tied the rope around a protruding rock in the miniature cliff. To the pair's dismay, the Krawk noticed what was going on and started twisting violently, knocking Jeran to the ground and throwing Tara off her platform. The rope slipped off the loose rock, and Jeran barely managed to snag it before it and Tara plummeted hundreds of feet. He hung on to the rope for dear life as Tara swung back and forth only 100 feet above her gargantuan predator. Tara looked into the beast's eyes and could tell it was hungry.
"Jeran, I need you to cut the rope!" she yelled.
"Trust me, Jeran!"
"I'm sorry, Tara, but I can't just let you be eaten!"
"Jeran, did you happen to notice what's inside the Krawk's mouth?"
Jeran looked and saw what Tara was talking about. Stuck in between the monster's two front teeth was a golden key!
"That must be the prize we won from the scratchcard!" he yelled.
"Exactly! Now trust me, and let me go!"
With closed eyes, Jeran reluctantly cut the rope and Tara plummeted towards the monster. In the short time she had, Tara grabbed the loose rope and formed a tight lasso.
As she passed into the monster's salivating jowls, she threw the lasso around one of its teeth and jerked the rope tight. The monster closed its mouth, throwing Tara back into complete darkness. Quickly, she climbed the rope up to the beast's teeth, grabbing a scarab ring from her bag as she went. As quickly as possible, she thrust the ring onto her finger and fired a powerful blast into the Krawk's gums. The intense ray caused the Krawk to open its mouth, wailing in pain. As soon as she saw light, Tara climbed towards the upper teeth. She made fast time, reaching the front teeth within seconds. With all the strength she could muster, Tara lunged towards the key and grabbed it. She grasped towards the rope that was still hanging from the Krawk's tooth, but the reach was in vain. She missed the lifeline and began plummeting down the monster's throat! It seemed this time she wasn't going to be so lucky.
Luckily, Jeran was there to grab her hand. Jeran, it seemed, also had a few tricks up his sleeves. He had made some rope out of holly (he was a Christmas Kacheek after all) and come to Tara's rescue. Wasting no time, Jeran and Tara pulled themselves up and out of the still screaming monster's mouth.
"Gosh," said Tara. "What a baby."
Tara reached into her bag to grab a couple of oxygen masks, but was dismayed to find that half of her belongings had spilled from her bag, including the masks! So, with no other choice, the two explorers, golden key in hand, jumped off the creature's quivering lower lip and waited until they hit the water. They had absolutely no idea where they were going, and were worried about their oxygen supply, but as soon as they submerged themselves, Jeran and Tara noticed a strange glow under the water. They swam towards it and found that it was an underwater passageway. They swam as fast as they could but it seemed they would not reach an exit before they ran out of air. Just then, a school of Mutant Koi began to swim by the duo. The two friends each clasped a Koi and rode the swiftly moving neopets to safety, barely escaping the deadly depths with their lives.
They had escaped their first deadly encounter, but when they reached the surface of the water, they found themselves under a thick layer of ice with only about a foot between the ice and the water. Tara employed the use of a hammer from her bag and soon made a hole in the ice large enough to stick her head through. She was met by three very angry looking judges and a Bruce that was saying something about his performance being ruined. All Tara could say was,
"Um... which way to the Snowager?"
To be continued...