Above The Ashes: Part Six
Also by imogenweasley. Art by imogenweasley.
It took a moment for the other three to fully comprehend what had just happened. Lula, first to recover from the shock, squawked and whizzed forward, peering over the edge of the cloud cautiously to see if she could make out the tussling pair amongst the waves which they must have hit by now. The Lenny did not scare quickly, but her heart was certainly pounding now. Try as she might, she couldn’t find any flash of yellow to indicate her Kyrii companion; the setting sun didn’t help to make things clearer either.
“I can’t believe she did that,” Titem said, stunned. “I cannot believe she just did that.”
“She’ll drown for sure,” Lula said, her voice cracking. “Oh, this is bad,” she fretted.
“Kyruggi!” Titem shouted suddenly. He was about to repeat his outburst when he was shushed by Elisse.
“Shut up,” she snapped. “She’s not going to hear us from up here; we’re higher than any mountain range on Neopia. Don’t waste your breath.”
He rounded on her. “At least I’m making an effort to save her,” he spat. “You two, you’ve got wings! Why aren’t you flying down there to search for her?”
“Because both of us know that’s just as useless as screaming for her,” the Faerie said coldly. “Neither of us would be strong enough to carry her back up this distance. I’m not going to risk my life just because she was foolish enough to get caught up in her emotions.”
“Good to know,” a voice said frostily from behind the three. “Then I won’t need to make any effort to save you should the situation ever be reversed.”
They turned with shock to find Kyruggi, arms folded grumpily, the robot Ruki at her side.
“H-how?” Lula sputtered.
“Wrench-head here happened to have rockets built into his feet. Lucky me, eh?” she growled.
“Oh, thank goodness,” Lula responded, gliding forward for a hug, which the Kyrii refused. Lula stepped back awkwardly, lowering her wings slowly. Titem chuckled.
“But don’t for one second think that gets you off the hook,” Kyruggi said, rounding on the robot. “We still want to know why you’re following us.”
The Ruki surveyed them for a moment before responding. “The information is classified. I am unable to divulge it at this time.”
“Do I need to knock you off the cloud again?”
“That seems entirely inefficient, as I cannot say it was effective the first time,” it whirred in response. Kyruggi’s eyes widened in indignant surprise and was about to retort when the robot continued. “But I can tell you that my mission is similar to your respective plights.”
“Oh, so you’ve been affected by this Pteri too,” Lula offered.
“That is correct. I am tracking a misplaced item.”
“Misplaced?” Elisse asked incredulously. “Sounds more like the Pteri stole something from you.” The Ruki was silent.
“So why couldn’t you just tell us instead of following us around like some creep?” Kyruggi grumbled.
“My commanders wish for this to remain discreet. The item is... sensitive.”
“You wouldn’t be tracking it if it weren’t,” Kyruggi muttered. “So I suppose you’ll want to keep following us?”
“That is my intention, yes,” it whirred. “You seem to be making more significant gains than any other at this point.”
“Instead of following us, why not work with us?” Lula offered. “You’ve already proven yourself useful once.” She smiled. Kyruggi glowered at the Lenny.
It contemplated this turn of events, and beeped in agreement. “Very well.”
“Great,” Lula clapped. “Now then, it’s getting dark. Let’s find a place to spend the night.”
Lula couldn’t fall asleep. Lying on a makeshift bed in Elisse’s meager home in the center of Faerie City, the Lenny simply could not ignore a nagging voice in her head. As she processed the day’s many events, something irritated her about what had happened. But what was it? She racked her brains trying to find the point in time, the thing that bugged her so much.
It had been quite disappointing, she admitted, to find nothing but a small mention of Luminaris in the library. And Kyruggi and Elisse were right; there wasn’t any way the two could be connected—the mention involved something from centuries ago. What had Elisse said? “As nice as it sounds, no one’s immortal.”
Her thoughts drifted to her home on Mystery Island. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the worry she felt for the islanders. If the volcano exploded once more... it would mean disaster. Most of the islanders were poor enough; a disaster like an eruption would push most to starvation. It was devastating to think about, and so Lula attempted to push it out of her mind, instead thinking about pleasant things like how lovely the new Gadgadsbogen fruits had tasted this year.
And that’s when she realized what was bugging her. Eyes flying open, she nearly squawked with joy. It was a long shot, and she knew it’d take a lot of convincing to win over the rest, but it was a lead.
She couldn’t wait for morning.
“So you see, I think this Luminaris might actually be the creature from the legend!” Lula said excitedly, eyes popping in awe.
The others regarded her with incredulity. “Did you get enough sleep last night?” Titem asked carefully.
“Yes! Well—no, actually—I was too excited about this. But it doesn’t matter! Don’t you think it could be?”
“You think that this Pteri is a—a what again, exactly?” Elisse asked.
“A phoenix!” the Lenny replied breathlessly. “Like I said, the most well-known legend in Mystery Island—well, besides the legend of Jhuidah and the Malevolent Cooking Pot, of course—is that of the ancient phoenix. Someone who can rise from the ashes. Someone who lives forever! The Luminaris in the library, that could be him!”
“But Lula... it’s a legend. Legends are just stories, nothing more,” Kyruggi said uncertainly.
“Just like your Scorchio beast?” Lula replied.
The Kyrii was caught off-guard. “Well, I... I suppose you’re right,” she said, clearly surprised at Lula’s point. “Maybe—and this is a big maybe—you’re onto something.”
She smiled gleefully. “So I propose we go visit the Island Mystic in Mystery Island. He’ll know more about this story, surely. He’s the wisest person on the island.”
“But—” Titem sputtered.
“No, I don’t want to hear it,” Lula said, holding up a wing to stop him. “We’ve got nothing else to go by, and I feel good about this. I’ve put up with all of your arguing and whatnot. I’m serious; I know good will come of investigating this.”
Elisse and Titem nodded reluctantly. “Very well,” Kyruggi said. “I suppose we should get going, before Lula explodes from overexcitement.”
“Hmm,” the Island Mystic said thoughtfully, twirling his beard. “A curious idea, to say the least.”
“But is it possible?” Lula asked eagerly. “Could he be the phoenix? Born from the volcano, rising from the ash, and all that?”
The others watched quietly. The aura of the Mystic’s hut seemed to have a hold over anyone who entered, instilling a calm they otherwise might not have. Titem glanced out the window to observe the volcano’s steady plume of black smoke. While it was a frightening image, he had to admit from a distance it did look rather exciting. Like he was on the cusp of something big about to happen.
“I have seen far stranger things,” the Mystic conceded. “However, I’d be careful, Lula, pursuing this pet. If he is as dangerous as you all have described him, I would think twice before confronting him.”
“Do you have any idea where he might be, sir?” Kyruggi asked. “Where might such a creature hide?”
The Mystic twirled his beard in thought once more. “A good question,” he pondered. “My instinct says you might have luck searching for him in Altador,” he said after a moment. “After all, it is the city of the sun. One does not need to look hard to find the connection between the sun and a phoenix.”
Lula nodded. “Of course! Altador would make perfect sense. My deepest thanks, sir.”
He smiled faintly in response. “And I return the sentiment to you, as well as the hope that you’ll resolve the mystery of the volcano soon enough. The mood on the island couldn’t get much more tense.”
“I hope so too,” Lula said gravely. “Goodbye, sir.”
“Farewell, and good luck!” he replied with a wave.
The group trooped out of the hallowed hut silently. “Well, to Altador?” Elisse sighed. “I swear, all this globetrotting is really putting a wear on my motivation.”
“Getting tired of searching for your friend?” Kyruggi teased maliciously. “Would you rather give up and let her get what’s coming to her?”
“Look!” the robot interjected before Elisse snapped back. The others followed the Ruki’s line of sight to the Techo head carved into the side of the volcano. “No!” Lula yelped, her fear sudden and all-encompassing.
The volcano had finally risen from his sleep. With a roar that could be felt in the bones, it erupted, spewing lava and ash through the air. An equally alarming scream came from the town, as the villagers realized the disaster at hand. Instantly the air was clouded with smoke and ash, and soon Lula could barely make out her companions. She was paralyzed, frozen with fear. The worst had finally come.
Elisse snatched Lula’s wing just as another enormous blast of lava spewed forth. “Let’s go!” she shouted. “We have to leave!”
“I can’t leave! The villagers!” Lula shrieked, torn out of her paralysis. She resisted the tug on her wing, struggling to get to the village.
“You can’t help them!” Kyruggi shouted in return, coughing. “Your mission is bigger!”
“No mission is bigger than saving lives!” Lula cried. “Why don’t you understand that?”
Already the lava was creeping down the mountain at a brisk pace, towards the group. Titem watched the mountain in awe, mouth agape. The Ruki, however, noticed a glint of yellow through the haze, emerging from what seemed to be the Techo’s mouth. It seemed to shimmer despite the cloud of ash raining down upon the island. Suddenly, it shot straight up as if it were a rocket and disappeared in the smog. The robot whirred happily.
“Excuse me,” it cut in loudly over the constant roar of the eruption. “We must not go to Altador.”
“Why not?” Titem shouted.
“We don’t have time for a discussion on this right now! Does no one understand we’re in a bloody eruption?!” Kyruggi fumed.
“We should not go to Altador,” the Ruki said calmly, “because I believe the Pteri is in fact headed to Terror Mountain at this very moment.”
To be continued...