A Quest For Art: Part Two
The two Poogles stood side by side, staring at the door. They knew every moment they spent there increased their chance of being caught, but what was on the door scared Arca.
“It was here before,” she said. “It said ‘those who pass this undisturbed door shall not last.” Arca stared blankly at the now unblemished surface.
“I believe you. Last time I was here, it said that, too.”
“Then how could it have changed?” Arca said, distraught.
“The magic must be changing it,” her new friend said. “Our decision to enter changed it.”
“But if it were magic, wouldn’t it say something else? As if it were talking to us?” The bewildered Poogle sat down, head in hands.
Suddenly, her head jerked up.
“Look!” she said, excited. The other Poogle knelt down beside her, scrutinizing the bottom of the door.
“It’s on the bottom,” he said, realization dawning on him. There, where Arca had pointed, was a single line scrawled all the way across the edge of the door.
Two Neopets will enter, a third will give chase.
One’s survival depends on her pace.
“What does it mean?” asked Arca. She didn’t comprehend any of it.
“It means that we have to try,” said the dark Poogle, but he wouldn’t say anything else.
Suddenly, Arca realized something. “I don’t know your name,” she stated.
“Neither do I,” replied her friend.
“What about your parents?” asked Arca insistently. “What do they call you?”
The Poogle remained silent, a sullen look on his face. Finally, he responded in a voice so quiet, Arca had to strain to hear him.
“I haven’t seen my parents in years,” he whispered.
Arca looked sadly at him. At least she had her dad. It must be terribly lonely by himself. She decided to cheer him up.
“Then after we get back from this, you can come live with me and my dad,” she said brightly.
“That’d be great,” he said. The downcast figure smiled, but Arca knew something was wrong. Wisely, she chose to remain silent.
“So what should I call you until then?” she questioned, hoping to take his mind off whatever troubled him.
“Lynsk,” was his response. “I always liked that name, even though I don’t know my real name.”
“Ok, Lynsk it is.” Arca thought the strange name fit his color. It seemed to have a dark ring to it, matching the Poogle’s black fur.
But the newly named Neopet wasn’t looking at Arca anymore. Arca followed his eyes and gasped, almost matching his expression. There on the door, where moments ago the only writing was a scrawled line at the bottom, was now another poem. Lynsk and Arca read it together, but neither spoke it aloud.
A Poogle, born without his name
And a companion, fallen from the skies.
Together they will fail this game,
Against magic strengthened by lies.
Arca was stunned. What did it mean by lies? She looked suspiciously at Lynsk. What could he be hiding? She pushed the thoughts out of her head. He was her friend, and he wouldn’t do anything to harm her.
“Let’s go,” she said quickly, too frightened to stay and wait for another message.
Lynsk reached for the door in reply. He pulled on it, but it didn’t give. Multiple tries yielded the same result.
“Here, let me help,” Arca said. Together, the two Poogles pulled the door out.
At first, it moved slowly, but it became easier the farther they got it. Finally, a gap started to open.
“Oh!” exclaimed Arca as a blast of warm, musty air hit her in the face.
Lynsk kept pulling, opening a gap wide enough for Arca and him to slip through.
Arca hesitated. Should she do this? What if she got hurt? Or, what if Lynsk got hurt? Fighting with her impulses, she stepped through the door into total darkness.
Suddenly, something brushed against her, and she screamed.
“Quiet, quiet. Someone might hear you,” whispered Lynsk
Arca breathed a sigh of relief when she heard his voice, but the darkness scared her. “Why did you shut the door?”
“I didn’t want any of the keepers figuring out we’d left,” he said softly. “Remember, they’re in on it, too.”
Arca looked thoughtfully into the darkness. “Would Neopia’s greatest art truly be in a place where no one could see it?” she asked.
Lynsk, not saying a word, pushed her forward.
“Ow, careful!” said Arca. “You pinched me. What’s the rush?”
“I’m nervous,” he whispered shakily.
“That’s understandable,” replied Arca. “This place would even creep out Balthazar.” She shivered at the thought of the petpet-eating beast.
Lynsk said nothing; his only answer was another nudge. Arca noticed it was gentler this time. She smiled into the darkness.
Suddenly, a dim light appeared ahead. Arca noticed her friend’s body tense up beside her.
“Keep your hand on the right side of the wall,” he said cautiously. “We don’t want to lose track of where we are.”
Arca followed his instructions, and headed towards the light. She thought she heard voices, but they sounded harsh and frightening. “Who is that?” she said, but no one responded. Lynsk had left!
Alone in the darkness, Arca started breathing quickly. She was stranded, and her friend was gone! What should she do?
Her instincts told her to turn around and go back, but she didn’t know which way was backwards. Her only choice was to head towards the light.
Clenching her jaw in determination, the yellow Poogle set off towards the glow. She had to hope the voices belonged to a kind Neopian, or she was doomed. She grew nearer, and stopped. She could finally understand what the voices were saying.
“Do you think she’s the one?” an unseen voice asked.
“She has to be,” said another. “She’s the only Poogle in Neopia Central that hasn’t been tried yet.”
“But look what happened to the others,” the first voice said. Arca thought she could identify it as a feminine voice, but the second voice was definitely male.
“So what! Just because they didn’t return doesn’t mean they failed. Besides, the boy returned; he just didn’t make it all the way to the treasure.”
Treasure? Wasn’t it art, not treasure, down here? And what happened to the other Poogles? Arca started moving forward again, but a paw held her back. Lynsk had returned!
“Where were you?” she whispered, her voice trembling. Lynsk motioned towards the voices, then crouched low, motioning for Arca to do the same.
Together, the two Poogles crept forward, inching into the light. The Poogle could now tell the light came from a fire. Finally, Arca was able to catch a glimpse of the voices’ owners, and she almost yelped.
Standing before her were two of the meanest looking Neopets she had ever seen. On the left, who Arca thought was the male voice she had heard, was a Halloween Meerca, built tough, but looked like he could still run faster than either of the Poogles. On the right, slightly behind him, was a Darigan Scorchio, who the Poogle suspected had started the fire in the first place. They were arguing.
“You know as well as I they failed, or they’ve starved by now. They couldn’t have made it.”
“Then maybe there’s a new Poogle in Neopia Central the boy hasn’t found yet. We still have a chance!”
At this, Lynsk moved uncomfortably, and Arca looked at him questioningly. New Poogle? Did that mean her? And was Lynsk the boy they were talking about? So many questions filled her head, she couldn’t think straight. She let out a small moan.
“What was that?” said the Meerca, and he walked to the entryway. At first, Arca thought he wasn’t going to see them, but then, Lynsk did something that surprised her. He jumped up and revealed them.
“Over here, sir!” he said, and snapped to attention. He looked like a completely different person to Arca. He almost looked, well, soldier-like.
“Did you find one, boy? Another Poogle?”
At this, Arca regretfully stood up. She knew if she ran, she didn’t have a chance.
“What is it, Targ? Did he find one?” The Scorchio appeared behind Targ, and gasped. “Another Poogle? I thought we had found them all!”
“She just moved here,” mumbled Lynsk.
“Speak up, boy. I can’t hear a word you say.” As Lynsk opened his mouth to speak, though, the Scorchio cut him off.
“Just take her to the entrance,” said the Scorchio.
“Quiet, Flyra. We must do this correctly.” And with that, Arca was pulled into the room, a door that hadn’t been visible before closing behind her.
“Lynsk, what’s this about?” asked Arca nervously.
“It’s an obstacle course. You have to pass it to get to the treasure.” Ever since Lynsk had revealed their position, he had been intently staring at his feet, but now he looked up.
“If you don’t, you never come back,” he said, looking straight into Arca’s eyes. She knew there was an apology in those eyes, but she refused to accept it. He had betrayed her!
“All right, then, let’s have her start,” said the muscled Meerca. Arca was led to another stone door, but this one was left open, as if it were a mouth waiting for another unsuspecting morsel to enter it.
Arca stared in fear at the entrance. What lay behind its disguise? She was frozen in place, unable to move.
The silence was finally broken when someone said, “All right, I’ll go.” But it wasn’t Arca. Lynsk stepped towards the door, prepared to enter.
“Fine, boy, but she’ll go in after you. You’ve already failed. You don’t need to fail twice.” Lynsk looked at Arca, pleading. She knew he had meant to protect her, and she mouthed the words, “I forgive you,” to him. He smiled, then turned and entered the door.
A few minutes passed, and Arca didn’t hear anything. She hoped that was a good sign.
“All right, your turn,” said Targ, pushing Arca towards the door. She moved slowly, as if in a trance. What awaited her beyond that doorway? She walked in, and heard the door shut behind her, but she didn’t care.
Ahead of her, on the floor, was Lynsk, lying motionless on the floor, eyes frozen open in fright.
Behind the group of treasure hunters, back in the Art Centre, a worried Aisha looked at the words upon a recently opened door.
But if truth is told,
And faith in friends is kept,
Then success will be theirs
As long as the price, a life, is met...
To be continued...