The Treasure of Xutu: Part Eight
The Haunted Woods, Terror Mountain, Tyrannia, Faerieland, and Altador: these were all of the lands Tara the Desert Kyrii and Jeran the Christmas Kacheek had traveled to in their search for the Treasure of Xutu. Following a treasure map containing a set of clues, the two friends had explored each location and met several different challenges. From a giant Maraquan Krawk to an insane robotic Wocky; from a family of ferocious pterodactyls to a cursed book and a killer giant wolf. They had faced many dangers, but had come away alive and in possession of five golden keys that they knew were significant in their quest.
With the help of many, including legends such as Faerie Queen Fyora and the ancient Altadorian Council, the adventurous team had come this far, and had one clue left to follow.
"The last stage, much harder than the rest,
You will understand after your vigorous quest."
"Do you have any idea what it means?" Tara asked uncertainly.
"No idea," Jeran replied.
They were sitting back in Tara's home in Maraqua. It had been three days since their latest venture in Altador. Battling an enormous wolf who turned out to be King Altador in order to rescue Siyana, the First to Rise, had been a difficult endeavor. But despite the struggle, the fight had paid off. In Faerieland, Jeran had been trapped in a cursed copy of the book 'Faeries.' Luckily, after Siyana's release, she was able to reveal the method of rescuing Jeran and she and Psellia, the Dreamer, had combined their powers to save him. What's more, they had collected two more keys, adding to their stock and making a total of five.
However, even though they had collected what they assumed were all five keys, they had no idea where to go in order to continue. It was disheartening, and they couldn't help but voice their frustration,
"We've come so far, fought so hard, and now we're stuck!" Tara said, exasperated.
"I know, but what can we do?" Jeran replied. "Each of the first five clues on our map gave us at least some indication of a location or a method of finding a key. This last message gave us nothing!"
They sat for several more minutes, silently mulling over their five-day old mission in their heads. They were sitting exactly where they had been when they had first discovered the map's hidden clues by spilling borovan all over it. This time, though, they weren't having the same luck. Finally, after an hour of quiet torture, Tara could not stand the tension any longer,
"That's IT!" she screamed, walking out of the room, holding the map and keys.
"What are you doing?" Jeran cried as he ran after her.
"I'm DONE! The beginning of the clues said to 'battle with bravery.' Well, we've DONE that, and we're still stuck! I'm finished, Jeran, I can't do this anymore!"
Jeran tried to calm her down. "Tara, you're the one who's been calming me down through this whole thing. It's always been you pushing me and making sure we kept on together. You can't just give up now!"
They had ascended the stairs to the attic, and Tara was now standing by the centuries-old trunk in which she had found the troublesome treasure map only weeks before.
"I'm so, so sorry, Jeran," she apologized, "but I just can't DO this anymore. I'm done."
Tara opened the trunk's lid, threw the map and the keys inside, and shut it for what she hoped was the last time.
"I wish I could try harder, Jeran, but with nowhere else to go, I can't help but feel a strong desire to give up and just... rest!"
"You sure about that?" Jeran said, looking mischievous.
"Why... Why do you look so crafty all of a sudden?"
"I think, Tara that your little tirade has provided us with our last chance."
Tara saw that Jeran was eyeing the chest she had just turned away from and looked to see what he was staring at. She couldn't believe her eyes...
Five small keyholes had appeared along the top edge of the trunk that was now obviously the treasure chest they had fought so hard to find. Tara couldn't stop the tears from coming to her eyes.
"Jeran," she sobbed, "this is it! This is what we came so far for! The map and the keys must've been the final touch!"
"Well, what are we waiting for?! Get those keys back out!"
Without hesitating, Tara flung the chest open again and snagged the keys up in one grab. She re-shut the lid, now glad that her previous slam hadn't been the last, and quickly shoved a key into each hole. She and Jeran took turns twisting keys: Tara first, turning the far left, then Jeran with the far right. Tara moved on to the second from the left, and Jeran the same from the right. Finally, they reached the middle key, and, each smiling from ear to ear, they worked together and twisted the middle lock.
They looked around and Tara almost screamed. They were no longer in her attic, let alone Maraqua or even Neopia! How could they have missed such a drastic change? It must've happened so fast!
"Wh-where are we?" Jeran questioned.
He was obviously scared, and with good reason. Their surroundings had changed from Tara's cozy, waterproof cottage under the sea to what looked like a room in the middle of a thunderstorm! Though there was obviously a floor underneath them, they were surrounded by thick, dark clouds, and around them lightning struck inches away!
Tara and Jeran stood, and circled around the treasure chest, the only remaining evidence of the real world. Tara screamed out, partly to test their environment, mostly out of desperation,
"Hello?! Is anyone there?!"
There was no reply. Again, Tara cried, this time with Jeran's help.
Even their cries together rendered no response. And worse, the storminess they had found themselves enveloped in was getting worse. Violent winds picked up, and gigantic raindrops pelted the young duo. As lightning struck and thunder crashed, the two wondered if finding the five keyholes had been such a good thing after all.
"Tara!" Jeran said, trying to be heard over the torrential weather conditions, "I just want you to know that no matter what happens this has been the greatest experience of my life. You have been such a great friend and I will never be able to repay you for your friendship."
"Jeran," Tara said, "you repaid me by being such a tremendous friend in return. There is no one I would have rather done this with!"
They gave each other one enormous hug, and then began to ponder their fates. As it seemed to become apparent that the relentless storm was not going to die down, an amazing event took place. The clouds around Tara and Jeran suddenly began to swirl and combine above them. Though the air was still thick, and the area was still very poorly lit, all of the clouds had now converged into three shapes over the pair's heads. After about a minute, the three masses of cloud became much more defined and seemed to even gain some color. After another few moments, Tara jumped in surprise. The clouds had formed into live neopets, and were descending towards the two friends!
"Oh my gosh!" Jeran said. "Now I KNOW I'm dreaming."
"No, brave adventurer," one of the neopets said. "This is certainly very real."
The voice was that of a Royal Male Kougra, who was standing before them looking very pleased. Next a Royal Female Peophin moved forward and added, "You two have come very far. You have battled grave obstacles and overcome our puzzles and challenges."
The final member of the trio, a Royal Male Yurble, continued, "These tests have proven you worthy of the Treasure of Xutu, which we have hidden and protected for so long."
"You... you set all of this up?" Tara said, trying to understand.
"Yes," the Kougra nodded, "many, many years ago. The treasure is made up of a vast number of ancient treasures from all over Neopia. In the time in which we lived, they individually caused great chaos. Lands fought over who should have more, and the world was constantly in a state of war."
"One day we decided enough was enough and combined our powers to dispel the treasure from the tangible Neopia you know and love," said the Peophin.
"We are the three guardians of Neopia," the Yurble noted. "And it seemed that the only way to keep our beloved land in peace was to remove this treasure from the world, only to be returned when a person, or team, who was full of spirit, loyalty, peace, and love, was able to claim it. These are the qualities we believe a person must possess in order to use the treasure to its greatest potential."
Jeran was standing, mouth open, eyes wide, staring at the three figures.
"I can't... believe... what I'm seeing," he stuttered out. "Is this really, really real?"
"I promise you, it is," said the Peophin reassuringly.
The Yurble chuckled. "We're sorry we couldn't provide you with one last horrible monster to conquer, but we had seen enough of your strength and logic skills."
The Kougra nodded. "This time, it was about making sure that you two weren't just in this to become filthy stinking rich. But after seeing your last exchange of words, we know that our powers were not wasted. Now that you've come along, we can finally rest knowing that the treasure is in good hands."
"So... wait," Tara said, confused, "everything we've seen and done... all of it... has been you? The map, the monsters, the book, Queen Fyora and the Altadorian Council's involvement... it was all because of you?! You almost killed us!!!"
They all smiled, and the Peophin spoke.
"We didn't do anything with bad intentions," she said, "and after all that has happened, we could not be happier with the results of your journey. You have done well, and we sincerely hope you do good with your reward. Good Luck, young warriors."
"But... but..." Jeran was bewildered, but he had no time to question the magical trio further.
A sudden burst of wind made the world seem to spin faster and faster until Tara and Jeran could see nothing but blurs. When the spinning finally stopped, they were back in the attic, sitting in front of the treasure chest.
"Please tell me that just happened," Jeran begged Tara.
Tara reached towards the chest and lifted the lid slowly. Her smile widened and golden coins spilled onto the floor and lit up the room with their sparkle.
"Yes, Jeran," she said, ecstatic, "That Really Happened!"
It had been weeks since Tara's discovery of the map, and only five days since she and Jeran had begun following its clues and searching for the Treasure of Xutu. Now, in a place they hadn't expected it, right at the beginning of their journey, their quest had come to a close. It began with Tara's old, ancient chest, and now it ended just the same. The treasure was right in front of them, and they could not have been happier.
Tara bawled, overcome with emotion and Jeran jumped up and down, happy that there were no more deadly beasts to battle. They knew that their troubles were over, and knew that their struggles had not been in vain. The Treasure of Xutu was theirs! And now they could rest and do good with their spoils, just as the great guardians of Neopia had wished.
Over the next several months, Tara and Jeran did just that. With the vast fortune they had gained, they did as much good as possible. They divided up the great treasure and gave an equal amount to every land in Neopia. From Mystery Island to Shenkuu, Neopians everywhere lavished in an enormous world-wide celebration for the two adventurers whose story became legend.
For decades, even centuries afterwards, young and old neopets alike told the tale of Tara the Desert Kyrii and Jeran the Christmas Kacheek, two brave souls who were provided with a challenge and who faced it with all their hearts. It had been a great ordeal, but the reward had been great, and the lesson even greater: friendship, determination, and loyalty are the Key to triumphing over hardship and strife. These are the words which Tara and Jeran had tried to live by, and the words they hoped people would remember for as long as the story of the Treasure of Xutu lived on.