The Treasure of Xutu: Part Four
Jeran woke up feeling very groggy. He had just been captured by none other than the Scratchcard Kiosk Wocky (whom he had adored... what a heartbreak) and was now unsure where he was. This was not just some random kidnapping, though.
Jeran had been captured because he was on a journey with his friend Tara following a treasure map Tara had found in her attic. The map had revealed several clues which had led them first to the Deserted Fairgrounds and an underground cavern where they had to escape a giant Krawk. There they obtained a key which they believed to be important in their quest. Now the map had led them to the Snowager's cave where they had been lured into a trap. This was definitely not Jeran's best day. Although he was disoriented, Jeran could tell that he was closed in some kind of box. This somewhat frightened him, because before the Kiosk Wocky had loaded him with a tranquilizer, he had seen a coffin which he had assumed contained his friend, Tara.
Fortunately upright, Jeran's box was just taller than him, with about an inch or two above his head. It was so thin that he was barely able to move his arms and legs and escape was likely impossible. He began contemplating his choices and quickly decided that he was going to starve to death. (He was such an optimistic Christmas Kacheek.) After repeating "I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die," about seventy times, Jeran heard muffled cries coming from somewhere nearby. He yelled out a response and listened carefully once more.
"Tara! Is that you?"
"Jeran, the keys are gone! Both of the keys are gone!!"
"Don't worry about that now, Tara. Just focus on getting out!"
"Jeran! I can't even move! Where are you?"
"Hold on, Tara! I'm coming to get you!"
But how was he supposed to do that? Use his candy cane to break down the door? But wait a second... that could work! Jeran somehow managed to squeeze his arms around the coffin, get a candy cane out of his pocket and started eating. Once he had sharpened the cane into a nice point, Jeran let his candy cane sit for a few minutes. Slowly, the candy cane began to harden and eventually became more like a weapon than food. Jeran had a few more tricks up his sleeve after all...
He took the newly hardened candy cane and put the tip in the tiny space between the box's walls and the cover. He retrieved a small hammer from his other pocket and used the candy cane as a type of wedge. As he hammered vigorously, the opening became wider and, eventually, after a couple minutes of pounding, Jeran had made enough room so that he could force his hand through the opening and reach the padlock that kept his coffin closed. He pushed the candy cane out of the hole felt around until he found the lock's keyhole and forced the end of the candy cane inside. After a few moments of skillful maneuvering, Jeran had successfully picked the lock. He threw it off and kicked the door open, only to see the room from which he had been captured. However, this time it was different. Before there had been vibrant colors and glorious furniture, but now the paint on the walls was peeling, the little furniture that the room contained was torn or broken. Everything looked grey.
Jeran looked straight across the room and saw a second coffin that no doubt held Tara. He wasted no time trying to figure out the mystery of the room's transformation and darted straight for the coffin, candy cane in hand. With each step, clouds of thick dust from the floor wafted into the air, clouding Jeran's sight. It was so strange. Only five minutes ago (or what seemed like five minutes) this room had been spotless. Now it seemed as though it had been abandoned for decades, as if something had been holding the life in the room.
“Maybe those keys and the map really are magic...” Jeran thought, trudging through dust and grime.
When he finally made his way to the coffin, he had to spend a minute clearing the dust from his eyes and nose. Then he went straight to work, prying the padlock off that kept the coffin closed. Since he'd had some practice, it didn't take Jeran long to get the lock off. But when he thrust the door open, he didn't find what he had expected. Instead of finding Tara, all he saw was darkness. He stepped inside the box and before he knew it, the lid had closed behind him.
"Great," he thought, "Here we go again."
Jeran felt around and realized that the coffin didn't have a back. He took a step forward and immediately fell onto a flight of stairs. Jeran managed to catch his balance and took a mental note to never voluntarily step into another coffin. Very cautiously, he took step after step down the stairs. After hundreds had gone by, Jeran finally reached the bottom... but the bottom of what?
He reached out his arms as far as they would go and began tiptoeing around the space he had stepped into. After a few steps, Jeran was able to find a wall and make his way down the pitch black hallway. When he had been moving along the wall for about five minutes, Jeran finally felt a corner. As he rounded it, he noticed a small glimmer of light. He was so excited about finding light again that he started sprinting towards it. The light grew brighter and brighter with every step and Jeran's excitement grew.
He was almost there, he could feel it. If he could only reach that light, he was sure to find Tara and then everything would be okay. The excitement of possibly finding Tara had caused Jeran to stop paying attention to where he was running. Although the growing light had given him the ability to see the dimly lit ground, walls and ceiling, Jeran had disregarded this and had inadvertently bumped into a wire that had triggered a booby trap.
A millisecond later Jeran was falling downward. Thinking quickly, he removed his scarf from his neck and flung one end toward a jagged rock. The scarf proved to be his salvation, barely catching on the rock. He swung and hit a wall, and started climbing. He climbed for about a few seconds and finally ascended the ledge once again. The light was still there, but Jeran was no longer sure that he wanted to move forward. Then he heard another voice.
Surely that was Tara. It had to be. Jeran darted forward once again, this time looking at the ground to avoid setting off another trap. In fact, he paid too much attention to the ground, and didn't realize he'd passed into a room until he hit a wall. The dungeon he had run into contained very little light, despite the light Jeran had seen while he was running. He turned to look at the room and saw that the lights were being produced by large spotlights. The rest of the room looked even gloomier than the grey room from which he had just escaped. The dungeon contained several torture devices, including several pairs of hand chains hanging from the walls. And hanging from one pair was Tara!
"Finally!" Jeran breathed.
Jeran took his candy cane back out of his pocket and starting on the locks. Unfortunately, these locks proved harder to crack open. He had tried everything he knew to try and still had no luck. Finally, he gave up. He sank to his knees and started sobbing. He would never be able to free Tara.
"Hehehe... did you actually think you would succeed, Jeran?"
Jeran stood up and turned to face his foe. "Hello, kidnapper."
"You won't free her unless you have the key."
"Well I'll just have to get a key, then."
"I wouldn't count on it. I have the only one, and you can bet your boots I'm not giving it to you."
After resisting the urge to tell her that he didn't wear boots, Jeran replied, "What's going on? First Sidney, now you! Are all the Kiosk owners against me?"
"No, it's just me and Sid. The guy in the Lost Desert is on vacation."
"Really? I always said he worked too much. Do you know where he went? I think--"
"Will you shut up?! I'm trying to torture you!"
"Well, I'm not going to let you! I'm too smart to fall for your tricks! And furthermore, I do not appreciate being taunted! I think you--"
Jeran was suddenly hit by a powerful blast and flew backwards thirty feet, hitting the wall of the dungeon.
"I told you to shut up!" said the Wocky, "but noooo!"
"It's a fight you want, is it? Well, you're going to need more than a lightning gun to beat me."
Jeran was trying to sound confident, but he couldn't help being scared. The few Battledome weapons he had were sort of strong, and he'd won all of the fights he'd ever been in. But the only person he'd ever fought was the Inflatable Balthazar. Jeran quickly retrieved a few purple blob potions from his knapsack and threw them as hard as he could. One hit a wall, forming a large hole; another bounced off a rock and ended up shooting back in Jeran's direction, forcing him to jump out of the way. The last hit the ceiling. He really needed to work on his aim.
The Wocky began laughing.
"Is that the best you can do?" she asked mockingly. "I mean, come on!"
The Wocky continued to rant on about how she was going to crush Jeran easily, and Jeran couldn't help but agree. But then he noticed something that the Kiosk Wocky did not. Jeran's third purple blob potion, which had hit the ceiling, had loosened a large chunk of stone, which was now barely hanging from the rocky dungeon's roof. If only he could manage to hit that spot again. But if he hadn't been able to hit his target with three potions, how could he expect to this time with just one? He had to try.
"...not to mention the fact that you are completely incompetent. I mean, come on. You should’ve known that you couldn't beat me..."
This was Jeran's chance. The Kiosk Wocky was deep into her rant and she didn't even notice Jeran taking a potion from his pack. Very quickly and stealthily, Jeran stood to his feet. At this point, the Wocky noticed him holding the potion and stopped ranting.
"What're you doing? What? You think you're going to hit me this time? You might as well not even try. You might end up killing yourself this time. But then again, that would probably be helpful. So go ahead, throw it!"
Jeran threw the potion towards the ceiling and crossed his fingers.
"HA! I TOLD YOU! You didn't even get close! You hit the ce--"
And like that, the Wocky was crushed under the icy boulder. Jeran rushed over to the rock to inspect the damage and quickly stepped away. Jeran was both appalled and confused by what he saw. The Wocky's body was sparking and shaking violently.
"It wasn't really her! But who would go to the trouble of making a robot?"
Jeran didn't take too long to ponder this thought, and spun around. He was now facing the hole that his first blob potion had formed. He turned away but took a double-take when he saw a small glimmer inside the hole.
"No," Jeran thought. "That's impossible. I can't be THAT lucky."
Jeran walked slowly over to the hole, still in disbelief. When he got there, he reached inside and grabbed the items that were glimmering inside the hidden compartment in the wall. He took them out and was amazed! He'd found the missing keys! And he hadn't even had Tara's help!
"Tara!" he exclaimed.
He had completely forgotten about the unconscious body hanging in chains on the wall. He backtracked to the crushed robot, and then ran as fast possible over to Tara, using the lightning gun that had been used against him to break the chains. He caught Tara as she fell from the wall and dug into his knapsack once again to get a bottle of water which he promptly splashed on Tara's face. Tara came to seconds later and sharply sat up with her fists swinging.
"Where's that Snowager? I'll beat him into icicles! I'll beat... him... Jeran, where are we? What's going on? ARE THOSE THE KEYS?! Oi! I'm confused."
"Don't worry, Tara, I'll explain everything later. But now you need to get some rest. We've got a big day tomorrow."
To be continued...