The Fate of the Lost City of Geraptiku: Part Two
The sun was setting, casting a long shadow over the huts in Geraptiku. A young, green Shoyru sped along the huts, half running, half flying on her small wings, shouting: "He's hatched, he's hatched!" That was the cause for quite some turned heads.
She arrived at another hut, with some people following her. In the hut, a Draik mother was holding a sleeping baby Hissi in her arms.
"Heh... hi, Marian," the Shoyru said, panting.
"Oh, there you are! You've managed to stir up almost the whole city, I see," Marian said while looking through the doorway. A lot of people were approaching. The faint light that shone in gave her orange scales a warm glow.
"Oh, can I see him, can I hold him, please?" the youngster squealed with excitement.
"Hold on, Keng, I don't think you holding him is a good idea, for now. Boris, why don't you help her up the table?"
A chair creaked, and the newly hatched's father, a brown Techo, stepped into the light of dusk.
"Oh, but I can get on the table myself!" Keng said, flapping her small wings and reaching for the edge of the table.
Boris laughed, picked her up, and lifted her onto the table, making a 'whoosh!' sound.
"Aww, he's so little!" Keng said upon seeing the Hissi. "Does he have a name yet?"
"You know we always wait for King Roald before we name the baby," Marian said. The Hissi brought himself upright, just as other people entered the hut, all congratulating the new parents. The Hissi looked around with great curiosity.
When everyone was done exchanging gifts with the parents and each other, an old, brown Nimmo came in. He was resting on a staff decorated with feathers and bones, and was shrouded in a thin, red cloak. His ornately tattooed skin could be seen through it. A small cough immediately made everyone fall silent. The baby Hissi made himself as long as possible to be able to see the cause of this silence.
"As you all know, it's been five days since Eric left this world. The arrival of the newly hatched is the sign of his return, and so..."
The old Nimmo had stopped talking, and now looked expectantly at Marian.
"Thank you, King Roald. On behalf of all of Geraptiku, welcome back to our world," Marian said, and then looked back at King Roald. He stepped towards Marian, who was still holding her son. He took a cord from his staff. It had a small bone hanging from it. He held it in front of the Hissi, and he curiously touched it with his rapidly fanning tongue. The necklace gave a bright flash of light, making everyone in the room gasp, and making the baby Hissi shoot back in his mother's arms. She gently raised his neck, and King Roald placed the necklace around it.
There was a pause. Marian looked at all the anticipating faces in the room. She smiled, looked back at her son, and said: "Eric."
Everyone in the room started applauding and cheering. Eric squeaked happily.
Evening had fallen. Eric lay curled up in his cradle, asleep. Keng was fascinated by the sight of him; she couldn't look away.
"Quite relaxing, watching a baby sleep, don’t you think?" Marian said. She was standing over Keng.
"Yeah, he's really adorable," Keng said.
"Well, little one, shouldn't you be heading home? I'm sure your grandma will be missing you by now," Boris said. He was sitting next to the cradle, gently rocking it.
"Hmmh," Keng moaned. "What's with the necklace King Roald gave him?" she said, trying to change the subject. Although young, she was very bright and surprisingly understanding.
"Well, that's quite a long story," Boris said, getting up from his chair. "Why don't I tell you that while we walk back to your grandma's house? It's already gotten pretty dark." He put an arm around Keng and walked to the doorway.
"All right then..." Keng said disappointed. She clearly did not like leaving Marian and Boris. She spent a lot of time with them since her own parents mysteriously disappeared in the jungle. Her grandmother had taken care of her since then.
"Tell me then, what is the bone necklace for?" Keng asked Boris while they walked to her grandmother's hut.
"The necklace is a charm; it's the connection between the souls of the old and the new citizens. You see, Keng, when an old citizen leaves this world, their soul is renewed and returns in the form of a baby. The flash of light you saw coming from the charm is the sign that there is a bond between them," Boris explained.
"But then, why don't I have one, and you?" Keng asked.
"Ah, this is a big world, you know. There are many lands outside this island. There's a better chance someone from Geraptiku ends up being born on the other side of Neopia instead of back here. It's a rare opportunity to welcome a citizen back to Geraptiku," Boris continued.
"Ooohh..." Keng said fascinated. For the rest of the way, Keng was fantasizing about who she could have been in a previous life. Maybe a beautiful princess, or a powerful wizard, or a daring treasure hunter...
"Keng, there you are!" a voice called out from the hut.
“Hi, grandma,” Keng said, and Boris followed with: “Hello, Karin.”
"And who is this..." Karin said while stepping forward. She placed a paw on Boris's sleek skin and said: "Ah, welcome, Boris. Congratulations on your new son, Eric, wasn't it?"
The old, green Shoyru's grey eyes stared at nothing, but were directed at Boris. Even though she was blind, no one could doubt her power of foresight.
Boris smiled. "Yes indeed, Karin. Thank you."
"And he's really cute too!" Keng added.
"Well, I'm so glad to hear that," Karin answered, rubbing over Keng's head. "You must be tired. Let's get you to bed, shall we?"
Keng looked up. The sky was coloured night blue, but everyone was awake, going on with their usual life. She saw that Eric was there too. He came to her and started flying circles around her head. They both laughed. Marian and Boris came walking up to them. They looked very worried. Eric flew up, away from them, and Keng flew after him, unsure where he was going. His parents didn’t seem happy, but Eric ignored them. Keng wondered why Marian didn’t just fly up with them.
Then the small Hissi suddenly stopped in midair, and looked down upon Geraptiku. Keng knew that something was off. The charm around Eric's neck flashed brightly accompanied by a loud *crack!* and Keng saw the citizens down below all slowly turn to stone. People were running, screaming, falling down and crying. She looked back at Eric, but he just looked down with the same fascination on his face Keng saw yesterday. She knew she had to do something, needed to help, even if she didn't know how.
She flew down and landed next to Karin, who was resting in her chair. The old lady looked unaffected by the entire commodity around her; she looked like she was in deep thought. But as soon as Keng's feet touched the ground, she got stuck, and stone was slowly creeping up her legs too. She desperately looked at her grandmother, but Karin seemed to remain oblivious to the chaos. She just took her granddaughter's head in her hands, and whispered three words, not subdued by the noise around them in any way.
Wake up, honey.
Keng opened her eyes, and found herself staring at the ceiling. Her bed had gone damp from sweating. She got out of bed, and her feet remained feeling heavy. She silently walked into the living room, where her grandmother sat in her chair just like in her dream. The old Shoyru looked like she was asleep, but the tense expression on her wrinkled face said otherwise. Keng walked up to her, wanting to wake her with a touch, but pulled her arm back at the last moment. She felt her grandma mustn’t be disturbed.
Keng sat down in a chair next to her grandma, and just waited. When Keng was about to fall asleep again, her grandma took a deep breath, exhaled, and stood up.
"Grandma, I... Did you see it too?" Keng asked.
"Yes, yes, I did," she answered, and Keng heard worry in her tone.
"If you saw this too, that means there is something about to happen. Your power has never before seen such a thing, and neither has mine."
Keng knew she was talking about the foresight.
"What I saw was real? Is Eric going to turn us all into stone?" she said, with fear in her voice.
"No, it's not all real. The event you saw was mixed with your own emotions and experiences. A future in your dream. But that doesn't change that what you saw is terrible..." She sighed. "We need to tell King Roald."
In the distance could be seen how the sun began to rise out of the sea. Keng and Karin were the only two in Geraptiku awake, and they were on their way to the King's house.
"I've never been to King Roald before. Where does he live?" Keng asked.
"He lives close to the tomb, at the bottom, under the entrance," Karin replied after a moment, gesturing in the direction of the tomb. Keng knew that citizens who passed away were buried there.
Wait, what was she gesturing with? Keng wondered to herself. She did not see her grandma move her head or point with her hand.
"Don't be too shocked at what you see and feel. That dream you had apparently unlocked the power that lay asleep in you," Karin said, without a word from Keng. She remained silent.
After a while, the huts along the road became less frequent, and the jungle became rougher and more untamed. Keng noticed this, and it was not for long before Karin started talking again.
"It is not a coincidence King Roald's family is royal. They are the only ones brave enough to stay close to the tomb for communicating with the spirits."
When all traces of civilization seemed to have disappeared from the path through the dense jungle, the path narrowed. The foliage was so thick that they could not see the dark clouds that formed above them.
They did not encounter any guards. The Royal guard probably thought that no one dared to even take the path from where the town stopped. Eventually, the two Shoyrus reached the end of the narrow, dark path and came to a clearing where the Royal family's house stood. The sun had now risen over the trees, shining down upon them. After Keng's eyes adjusted to the light, she looked up at the King's house. Like Karin said, it was made out of stone and much larger than most of the huts in Geraptiku. However, it was still overshadowed completely by the tomb that stood behind it. The house had a grand entrance decorated with torches, and it had a large carpet lying in front of it. One guard lay asleep in front of the door, his broad hat pulled over his face.
"What now?" Keng said quietly. "We can’t just barge through the front door, can we?”
"Shh..." Karin said, placing a hand over Keng's mouth. "Listen."
And Keng heard a faint scraping noise in the distance.
"There," Karin whispered, and she walked with Keng towards the side of the building. They heard someone - a servant, apparently – rake a garden rich with fruits and vegetables. When they made their way over there, Keng saw it was a Skeith woman, dressed in simple, white robes. She pulled a few root vegetables Keng didn’t know out of the ground and went inside.
When the servant had gone away, Keng looked around the corner of the side entrance. It was a kitchen, filled with the most delicious fruits and exquisite dishes. It made her mouth water. They took deep breaths to fill their lungs with the delicious aromas, and then quickly continued.
As they explored the servant's quarters, they heard music play from somewhere. When Keng looked around a corner to see where it came from, she looked right in the red snout of a Kougra in the same white robes. Keng froze, and couldn't look away, but the Kougra just grinned.
"Hello there, you must be here for the King," he said in a warm voice.
Keng opened her mouth, but couldn't say anything. She did not expect such warmth and friendliness after sneaking into the Royal family’s house. Karin came walking around the doorway, feeling the Kougra's good intentions, and said: "Yes, that is why we are here. And you are?"
"That's wonderful! I'm Duncan," he said, shaking both Shoyrus their hands. Keng noticed he had a small bone on a string tied to his wrist. "We haven't had visitors in a while. Come, I will announce you... Um, who shall I announce?"
"Please tell King Roald that Karin and Keng Retchi are here with an urgent message," Karin told the Kougra.
"Very well. If you could follow me? It's right this way," Duncan said. He quickly walked through a curtain, and swept it open for the two with a swing of his tail. Keng and Karin had to run to keep up with him.
He halted at an ornate wooden door. "Please wait here."
Keng and Karin smiled at each other. After some whispering behind the door, the music stopped, and they heard Duncan say: "Karin and Keng Retchi of Geraptiku!" The two entered.
They entered the dining hall of the royal family. In the centre of the room there stood a large round table filled with even more delicious foods than they saw in the kitchen. An open roof filled the room with the morning light. At the table were an old Nimmo on an ornate wooden throne and a tall, shadow Krawkess sitting beside him, who was still holding a flute. She had similar markings on her skin to the King. There were also others having breakfast at the table, some were obviously also of royal blood, but others were dressed as mere servants, and it looked like there were guards eating too. But everyone lay down their forks and knives as soon as Keng and Karin entered the hall.
"Ah, Keng and Karin, welcome," King Roald said when all were silent. Karin gave a quick bow, and Keng followed her lead.
"While you share the news, why not join us for breakfast?" the King continued, gesturing at the table with a thin arm. "You must be hungry from the trip."
"I'm afraid there is no time for a relaxed meal, your Highness. I have reason to believe that the people of Geraptiku are in grave danger," Karin said.
However, Keng felt hungry, and grabbed her grandma's hand.
"But I think we can have a bite while we tell our story," Karin continued, feeling her granddaughter's hunger. Keng greedily grabbed a sandwich from the table and started eating. The people around the table also continued with their meal. Karin took something to herself to eat too.
When all had quickly munched down a sandwich or two, King Roald asked Karin: "Now, what is the urgent news we needed to know?"
"I think Keng should tell the story, your Highness. She was the one who had the vision," Karin said, turning to Keng, who was just swallowing the last of her sandwich. "Keng, can you tell everyone about the dream you had?"
Everyone in the room was looking at the young Shoyru now.
"Um... Well, your Highness, from what I remember...” Keng started nervously. “Yesterday I went to see baby Eric, when you gave him his name and the necklace. That night I dreamt it was dark, but everyone was up. And it was about Eric; he took me flying. His parents tried to call him back, but he wouldn't come. Then his necklace flashed, and everyone below turned to stone. When I came down, I wanted to help, but I was slowly turning to stone too. And then... and then Grandma woke me up. Was... was that all right?" Keng finished, looking at her grandma.
“Yes, that's fine, Keng, thank you," Karin said, and then turned to the King. "Your Highness, there are some elements in Keng's dream that are consistent with the signs gotten from foresight. I did not experience the dream fully, so I thought it would be better if she explained it herself. I will assure you that none of Geraptiku's citizens are a danger to us, least of all baby Eric, as that was simply Keng's own experience of that day. But the night sky and the people turning to stone indicate that a dark power is going to do something terrible to the citizens. The form that power took in Keng's dream was Eric, and his flying says that it's a supernatural power," Karin explained. After a short pause, she quietly said: "I think you know what that means, your Highness."
King Roald's eyes narrowed, making his face seem even older.
"It must be the spirits, then."
Everyone at the table quickly placed two fingers on their chins, and whispered a few words under their breath.
At this point, the Krawkess stood up. “But she is just a child; how can we be sure this is a real threat?”
King Roald turned to her, and said: “Nevada, please. I have full confidence in Karin, and if she says we’re in danger, we are.” He turned to Karin. "Do you have any idea when this is going to happen?"
"I am not sure, but..." Karin abruptly stopped. She felt a slight pinch of cold on her right wing. Keng felt it too, on her forehead. She looked up, and all at the table did so too. What they saw had none of them ever seen before.
It was snowing.
Large snowflakes fell down from the open roof, and started to cover the food with white fluff. All were mesmerized by it. It was the most beautiful sight there ever was, if only it didn't predict such doom.
The Krawkess at the table shouted a command to a pair of Pterii and Scorchios. They snapped out of their astonishment and flew up to close the shutters on the roof. The two Scorchios lit some torches hanging on the walls with a burst of their breath. A minute later, the Pterii came back in the dining hall, coated with a fine layer of snow. They were shivering, and said that they could barely fly because of the piercing cold. No one in this tropical climate was resistant against the sudden cold. Other servants were rushing to them with warm blankets.
King Roald stared at nothing, trying to think of what could possibly cause this. He felt betrayed; his family, betrayed; his city, betrayed. Had they not always tried to please the spirits that usually watched over their great city? What could be the cause of this upcoming disaster? He remained still, but Nevada shook him and said: "Father, we must act quickly!"
The King remained with an expression of intense shock on his face. After a short silence, he said: "But where do we go? Nowhere is safe from the cold, not even this house. Nothing is built to last against snow. Everything would freeze..."
"No!" Nevada interrupted him. "Don't despair yet. We can go into the Tomb." She pointed to the solid stone stairwell outside.
"If we can heat it from the inside it can stay warm enough to sustain us. It's also large enough to hold all of our people," Nevada continued.
"What about the rest of the citizens? They will freeze if they're left out there," Karin said.
"Don't worry; we can get the whole city in the Tomb if we need to. The only problem is getting everyone all the way here. We need messengers to warn them. Any volunteers? Winged, preferably." she asked.
The Pterii were still wrapped in a blanket, and the Scorchios did not look eager to go out in the cold, nor did many of the other winged servants.
Karin replied: "With all due respect, Princess, the citizens know that they aren't allowed near the Tomb, and they're afraid to even get close by fear of the spirits."
Again, all placed two fingers on their chin and muttered a counter-jinx.
"Princess Nevada!" Duncan stepped forward. "I will go."
"Duncan, that's very chivalrous, but I'm afraid it's not an option," the Princess replied. "Snow is already piling up outside, and flying is faster than running."
"But Princess, as you saw, wings quickly get cold and stiff, making it impossible to fly. And I have the Ancestral Charm."
While Duncan said this, he held up his hand. The charm was glowing faintly. He tossed it over to the small pile of snow on the table, and it instantly disappeared.
Princess Nevada watched, and then said: "Very well then. But you're going to need a bit more power."
She walked up to Duncan, took out her flute, and held the charm by it. She put the flute to her mouth and started playing. The tune she then played was more soothing than anyone in the room had ever heard. It seemed to brighten the torches on the walls, and the Charm vibrated to the rhythm of the music, glowing stronger and stronger. Nevada finished her play with a long, deep note, and then Duncan was surrounded by an aura of warmth.
Everyone let out a sigh after Princess Nevada stopped. Duncan took the Charm off his wrist and hung it around his neck.
Princess Nevada smiled, and then told him: "Now go. Get all the citizens to the Tomb."
After a quick bow, Duncan sped off on all four legs, into the snowed-in jungle.
To be continued...