The Treasure of Xutu: Part Three
Tara climbed out of the hole she had made in the ice rink. She and her pal Jeran had just escaped a giant Maraquan Krawk in a giant cavern under the Deserted Fairgrounds and retrieved a key that they expected to be of importance in the quest they were on. Earlier that morning, they had started their journey following a treasure map that Tara had found in her attic.
The first clue on the map, which really wasn't a map, but a list of riddles, had led them to the Haunted Woods. Their next clue, which read: 'Next travel north, but guard yourselves well, for few return after the beast's appetite's quelled,' told them 1) to go to Terror Mountain; and 2) to visit the Snowager, something Jeran wasn't looking forward to. Fortunately, the cavern from which they had just escaped had led them directly to Terror Mountain where they had inadvertently disrupted an ice skating competition. Now the judges, and especially the contestant, wanted an explanation.
Tara spent a few minutes explaining their ordeal and getting weird looks, while Jeran tried to get directions to the Snowager. Tara finally finished her story and, when no one believed her, gave up and went to find Jeran, who finally found a map after having several people tell him to turn back if he valued his life. He was standing at the entrance to the rink, holding the map of Terror Mountain. He had taken the liberty of drawing out a path for them to follow. However, when Tara looked at the path, she saw that it involved going up to the top of the mountain, passing Taelia's, playing a game of cliffhanger, getting his broken yoyo repaired, going BACK down the mountain, going to the advent calendar, buying some ice cream, and going back to his house for cocoa. Tara was not impressed. She took his map away and led the way to the steep, stony path that led to the ice caves.
Jeran, very disappointed, said, "Why can't we just go sightseeing for a while?"
"Jeran," Tara sighed, "you live here. You sight-see everything here every day! And I know for a fact that you go to all the places you had marked on this map at LEAST 3 times daily."
"So... let's keep moving."
They had reached the rocky ledge that was the entrance to the ice caves and were walking through the icy archway that formed the doorway. After prying Jeran away from the Scratchcard Kiosk and convincing him not to spend all his money on scratchcards, Tara led Jeran to the opening of the Snowager's home. The two tiptoed quietly up to the opening and peered inside. Then they inched forward and looked around a corner to see what the Snowager was doing. Before they could even get the ice monster in their sights, they were startled by a horrified Uni who was running for her life. Jeran chased after her to make sure she was all right while Tara strained to get a closer look. As she got a clearer view, she saw that the Snowager was fast asleep. How Lucky!
Jeran came running back panting and Tara said, "Jeran, why was the Uni so afraid? The Snowager's not even awake."
"She said she saw a miamouse."
"That's... pretty sad. Let's go."
"Tara, are you sure about this? Is it really worth it?"
"Jeran, we survived a giant Krawk. I think we can handle the Snowager!"
Tara ran forward and slowed to a walk as she got closer to the creature. Jeran cautiously followed her, making sure to keep at a safe distance. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The Snowager was guarding a few neggs and scratchcards and tons of worthless keychains. But then Tara saw something she recognized. It was another golden key! Unfortunately, the Snowager was lying almost directly on top of it, and there was no way to retrieve it without waking him up. Despite the danger, Tara kept inching closer and closer.
"Tara!" Jeran whispered, "It's not worth it!"
"Oh, stop being such a scaredy-cat!" Tara whispered back, "There's gotta be some way to get the key without waking this idiot up."
Apparently the Snowager was not too fond of being called names, for at the precise moment Tara finished her sentence she heard a sound she would not soon forget. The Snowager woke up and shot into the air, releasing a high-pitched wail that brought Tara and Jeran to their knees. After what seemed like hours, the beast stopped his cry. Tara looked up and the torture continued. Before she could react, the Snowager lunged at her, simultaneously blasting a stream of icy shards from its mouth. The razor sharp ice was feet from Tara when Jeran dove to the rescue and pushed her to safety. As they rolled across the ground, the Snowager sat bewildered, trying to figure out where his prey had gone. Tara and Jeran hit a wall and hurriedly got up. They ran as fast as they could and were almost to the entrance when Tara suddenly stopped.
"What's wrong?" Jeran asked.
"We can't leave!" Tara answered.
"Are you crazy!? We're about to be eaten!"
"We obviously need that key, Jeran! Without it, this trip has been pointless!"
Tara turned around and darted back into the cavern, and, after reassuring himself that he wasn't going to die, Jeran ran after her. Tara got to the pile first, Jeran still far behind. She was bewildered when she found, not an angry ice monster, but instead an empty room. There was no sign of the Snowager anywhere. Tara crept carefully, but quickly back over to the pile of treasures. When she finally got to the key, she took it and placed it in her pocket.
"Wow," she breathed. "That was easier than I thought."
Before Tara had taken her first step, the Snowager had risen out of the ground and swept her onto its frozen back, leaving the newly arrived Jeran to gawk in terror. Within seconds, the Snowager plunged back into the earth, leaving a new tunnel in its wake. Jeran ran to the hole and stared down into the darkness. He could faintly hear Tara screaming somewhere down the shaft. Jeran panicked, unable to clearly plan his next move. Staying in the cavern could mean losing Tara, but jumping into the hole could mean his own demise. He didn't have too long to think about it. The hole was beginning to shrink before his eyes! Almost like magic, the tunnel was freezing back into solid ice! Jeran knew what he had to do. He closed his eyes and jumped in.
The next thing Jeran knew, he was waking up in the middle of a very odd looking room. It didn't look like the Snowager's home, but instead like a normal home. It contained a couch, two chairs, a table, and had a small fireplace. There were two doors, and a staircase to the left. Jeran passed up the two rooms and headed for the stairs. He walked up slowly, still recuperating from his ordeal (whatever that was). He was still not sure what had happened, but did know that he felt like the Inflatable Balthazar after 100 consecutive battledome beatings. When he found the door at the top of the stairs locked, Jeran reluctantly retreated back to the lower floor and tried the other two doors. Both locked from the outside. Jeran didn't know what to do. His only means of escape were blocked off and he had nothing to do but wait.
So, he settled down into a chair by the crackling fire and waited. After spending several minutes moping and thinking about his impending doom, Jeran began to look around the room and examine his surroundings. He noticed that, excepting the staircase, both halves of the room looked exactly the same. Both had the exact same layout, with the exact same objects. Even the table, couch, and fireplace had exactly one half on each side of the room. The same chairs, the same candles, the same rugs, the same lamps...
"Well, that's odd..." Jeran thought.
He walked over to the lamp on the left side of the room and then to the one on the right. Something just wasn't right.
After walking back and forth a few more times, Jeran discovered the difference in the lamps. The lamp on the right had a small image carved into the body, while the one on the left did not. Jeran looked closer, but still could not manage to discern the picture. If only he could see a little better. He tried to pick the lamp up, but it would not budge. He tried pulling on it and it still would not move. Frustrated, he tried to push on the lamp and it toppled over... almost. When it seemed that the lamp was about to fall off its table, it snagged on something. Jeran was confused. He moved around the table to see what had happened, but he saw something else.
The wall where the fireplace had been turned around, revealing in its place a large, rectangular box. It didn't take Jeran long to figure out what was inside. He rushed over to the coffin and frantically tried to knock off the padlocks that kept it shut. He looked around, but could think of nothing in the room or his bag that might give him enough power to break the locks, without blowing Tara to pieces. If only he had his knife, but he'd left it in a dark cavern during his first adventure. He turned back to the locks and shouted,
"This is hopeless!"
"Well, duh! You don't have a key!" said a woman's voice.
It was a voice Jeran recognized, but he couldn't place it. He whirled around, brandishing a candy cane. A figure lurked in the shadows of one of the formerly locked rooms, laughing at Jeran's weapon.
"What'd you expect?" Jeran said, "I'm Christmas, not Pirate!"
All Jeran could make out was two beady eyes staring back at him. He quickly realized his candy cane's uselessness if this villain had had time to prepare for a fight. He retreated to the other side of the room, frantically trying to pry the second locked door open. He was in such a rush that he didn't even notice the woman until she was right behind him. As the sedative coursed through him, he finally realized who the voice and beady eyes belonged to. It was...
To be continued...