March of the Fire: Part Four
Art by blizard131
That afternoon, we began our expedition. This was, of course, after many disputes over who would go, what we would bring, and what side of the island we would explore, blah blah blah (and I think we all know which two were arguing the most). It sounded like our group was going to be me, Moht, Kerlie, Lillian, Clara and Roxton, and we were going to bring Moht’s camera equipment. The stuff was heavy, I’ll tell you that, and I found that it was going to be a bit of a bother to tote all around the island. We were also bringing some food, which we were each going to carry in our backpacks, just in case we got separated.
I laced up my hiking boots over my bright purple knee socks, vest thrown over my loose collared shirt, pants rolled up to my knees, and hat secured to my head. I never planned to lose my hat, and I still have it with me. Backpack straps tightened just so that I wouldn’t lose it, having already grabbed a rope, just in case (I had the knots memorized), and I was ready to go.
We lowered the minuscule rowboat into the water, and I felt the adrenaline burning in my gut. I swallowed. This was my big moment to shine. Finally, I was doing something interesting with my life.
We lowered ourselves in, and the boat sank in the water a good ten centimetres. I bit my lip, remembering the drowning giant moach. I glanced around at my companions: the arrogant Roxton, the argumentative Clara, the pedantic Lillian, the bookish Kerlie, and the witty Moht. And me. I wondered what they thought of me. They probably just thought that I was some kind of wimp with a crazy dream.
Lillian took out the oars, and handed them around to us. I was about to grab one, but Roxton shook his head and said, “I can row; I am the more seasoned explorer.” I really tried not to look too put out; I am not a wimp. Sure, I may have been one of the shortest people here besides Kerlie, but that did not mean I was the weakest at all.
We moved slowly forward, Lillian and Roxton rowing, circular ripples forming in the water as we disturbed its peaceful afternoon. This wasn’t going to be peaceful for long. Moht hugged his camera and tripod to himself, Kerlie looked over some books, and I gazed into the water. My reflection stared back at me.
I was not a vain Wocky, though I was quite surprised at my appearance. I hadn’t brushed my hair in days, and instead of frizzing up like normal, it stayed curly and intertwined. My normally bored blue eyes looked alert, bright, enthusiastic. My yellow ears still stood out like a lighthouse in a storm against my meowclops black hair. I stuck on my hat. Much better.
I looked back at the island. We were almost there; the peach coloured sands approached us as we glided towards them. I gave a gulp, for, though there ended up being a lot more then petpetpets on the island, I was slightly frightened of the whole concept of humongous, neopet-eating creatures. What we found on the island was by far more alarming than just massive petpetpets.
As our boat ran into a sandbar, we all got out. I looked around at the island, a grin coming upon my face, psyched for my first adventure. And Lillian practically dropped her oar.
“Oh my...” she muttered, her mouth wide open.
“What?” I asked, my grin dropping away from my face in concern.
“Oh, wait, never mind,” she said, backing up uncertainly, “you looked almost exactly like... never mind.” She ended the conversation right there, and I tried to ignore her as she whispered something to Clara. Clara’s eyes got huge, and she glanced at Roxton, as if she wanted to tell him whatever had happened. But she didn’t, I guess because she had noticed me looking at her. I shook my head. I would never understand grownups.
The sand was fine, and my feet almost entirely submerged themselves whenever I took a step. It was almost like loosely packed mud.
“Hey, May, can you help me get out all of my camera gear?” Moht asked, as he struggled with his tripod and camera.
“Sure,” I said, walking over. I picked up the tripod, which wasn’t exactly light. “Why do you need so much stuff anyways?”
“Oh, well,” he said, “I found the camera at the money tree, actually at the same time as the last meeting we had, and it takes really good pictures, but it’s just that it has to be still.”
“Wait- you found it at the money tree at the last meeting?”
“And did it have any weird note on it?” I asked; worry beginning to form in my already tense voice.
“Yeah, there was like a little note that said something like, “For one with eyes” which was a little weird and stuff, but it was a good camera, so I took it. After all, I have a pair of eyes.”
I just stared at him. “I found my rope there, almost at the same time, and it said, “For one with guts” what do you think this means?”
He shrugged. “Beats me,” he said, “maybe Lillian and Jordie put them there for us to find.”
“Maybe,” I said, “but I think they would have told us.”
“Well, they didn’t tell us about the prophecy until lunch today, so I wouldn’t be surprised that we don’t know a lot of stuff.”
I shook my head, “I just have a feeling that they would tell us.”
We lugged all of his gear up the beach, and I asked him, “Well then, why so much stuff?”
“Well, I know it’s big and stuff,” he told me, “but I need all of it to get a good picture. Without the tripod, it’ll look all blurry and sideways, and without the camera, well, you can’t take a picture without a camera, now can you?” I grinned at him, and he smiled his small smile back.
“All righty then,” announced Roxton, clearing his throat to get everyone’s attention, “let’s get moving, shall we?” and thus, we began our trek through the dense jungles of the Lost Isle.
I must say, that for an island supposedly filled with giant petpetpets, things were actually quite quiet. There was no sound beyond our own nervous breathing as we walked through the forests, Roxton chopping our path with his dagger. Every twenty minutes or so, Moht would stop to take a picture, or Lillian and Kerlie would examine a plant, or Clara would pick up some kind of artefact. Bored, I wandered along with them, looking at the sky, my feet, and occasionally munching on an apple.
“Wait!” whispered Clara in an excited voice as she flung out her paw to stop us. “Listen!”
I listened. And heard absolutely nothing. Well, I mean besides the normal sounds of a jungle, like a bird flapping its wings, a quiet little chirping noise, a bubbling stream, and something chewing. Something big.
Roxton nodded. “Yes,” he said, “it’s a mootix. We might want to be careful and not get too close.”
“They are only herbivores,” said Lillian. “They shouldn’t harm us at all.” And with that, she strode off into the forest. We all hurried after her, worried at what we might find.
As we burst through the underbrush, we found Lillian happily observing the biggest living creature I had ever seen. And when I say ever, I mean ever.
When you hear the words “giant petpetpets” you might think about a story tall. This thing? Easily FIVE stories tall. The thing loomed over me as it crushed a whole entire tree in its gigantic mouth. I gulped.
Roxton whistled. “That is big,” he said in astonishment.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” retorted Clara.
“Just look at this thing,” muttered Lillian, oblivious to the entire argument. “I mean, even just think about its skeleton, not to mention its digestive system. Think about all of the possibilities of being able to dissect it, and learning so much more about petpetpets.” I was silently a little grossed out about the whole dissect part, but I continued looking at it. I guess it was amazing, and maybe a little bit gross, but if this was all there was going to be to this adventure, then I really did not think that it was going to be all that interesting.
Suddenly, in the middle of chewing, it raised its head, as if alarmed. It looked off into the forest just as we heard some birds squawking loudly as they flew out of the trees. I whirled around and looked in the direction which it was looking, and saw a tree fall in the midst of the forest.
“Run,” I whispered hoarsely to myself, “Run!” I shouted, and they all looked in the direction from which the tree had fallen and the birds flew from. Everyone stopped observing the mootix, and we all took off running.
My feet thudded beneath me as we sprinted through the densely wooded jungle. “Thanks for pointing that out,” Clara told me, panting a bit. I listened behind us, and I heard something huge, perhaps even bigger then the mootix coming behind us. I heard the trees crushing behind us, and we kept running for our lives.
“Wait!” shouted Moht. “I forgot my tripod!” He quickly switched directions, his feet almost going out from underneath him. I looked back at him; Moht was a great guy--no wait! Not like that! Er, never mind. So, anyways, I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to get hurt, so I turned and ran behind him.
As I came up from behind him, he looked like he was scared to death of something very, very tall. Looking out from where I was, I couldn’t see anything, so I hurried up to help him. And there, standing right in front of us, was a giant vernax.
As opposed to the mootix, this creature was six stories tall with foam dripping out of its mouth, sharp teeth pointed directly at Moht.
“Oh, slorgs,” I muttered quietly. I was prepared to run, but Moht seemed too paralyzed to move. He stood there, eyes wide. “Moht, run!” I shouted at him, and he snapped out of his trance, whirled around, and began to run. Unfortunately, the vernax followed us as we dashed through the woods.
“Oof!” I heard Moht exclaim as he tripped over a large root, and I turned around as sharply as I could to try and help him. But the vernax loomed near by, and it picked him up with one of its six legs and tossed him in the air.
“Moht!” I shouted, but it looked like it might be too late. I still had to try to save him, though.
I snatched the rope out of my backpack and tied it quickly around my wrists and tossed the other end up onto a branch. And then of course I realized the flaw in my plan: I needed gravity to make it work. I looked around for some way to be able to get to him, but saw nothing besides the trees. I swallowed, and began climbing the nearest to me as fast as I could, which wasn’t fast enough for my liking.
As soon as I reached a branch, I looked out at Moht. It seemed that the vernax was playing with him; tossing him up in the air and then dangling him over his mouth for a second, and then tossing him in the air again. I yanked on my rope to make sure that it was tight, and leaped.
The sensation of flying through air is one that one does not get to experience much in one’s life. I guess it’s like jumping off of the high dive. But it’s longer, and you’re not falling, and there is no final sensation of plunging into the water. The wind of your flight hits you full in the face, and as you soar through the air, you feel so calm, not nervous at all. Until you look down and see the giant vernax’s jaws right below you.
As I swung over the vernax, it tossed Moht up into the air again. I knew I only had one shot at this to save his life, so as soon as he was close to me, I grabbed for his wrist. I missed his wrist. Instead, I grabbed his arm.
“Ahh!” shouted Moht as loud as he could, just so the giant petpetpet would know where we were as we dashed through the wind towards freedom. I glanced at Moht, just to make sure he was okay (which he thankfully was, though he seemed to be quite sick), and failed to see the tree we were about to crash into.
I looked up quickly, and I rammed straight into it. I took the most of the blow, as Moht ran into me instead of the tree. We fell about seven feet until we hit the ground in a lump.
I groaned a bit as I got up. Shaking my head a bit, I stood straight up, pain fading into worry. I was worried that the vernax might keep following us, and was thus quite relieved when Clara burst out of the woods.
“We thought you were both goners!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”
“I’m not really quite sure,” Moht told her. “But I remember being about to be eaten, when poof! May came out of thin air and saved me!” Just then, Lillian, Roxton, and Kerlie also came out of the woods and into the little clearing.
“Um, not really quite like that,” I said. “I used my rope, see, and I swung and grabbed his arm.”
“Well, whatever happened,” said Roxton, “May saved- wait, May, what happened to your leg?”
“Hmm?” I muttered, and looked at my leg. All down my calf was a large red gash. I hadn’t really noticed before, being too busy saving Moht.
“Oh, here, I have the first aid kit somewhere,” Lillian offered, and began rummaging through her bag. Eventually she pulled out a roll of bandages.
“Here,” she said, “you should probably sit down somewhere.” I plopped down on the ground, and Lillian knelt down and wrapped the bandage around my leg. “There we go,” she said when she had finished, “you should probably stay sitting here for a little while.”
“No, I’m fine,” I told her, standing up. My head pounded, and a wave of nausea flew to my throat, but I paid it no mind. I shook my head again, and steadied myself.
“Are you sure?” Clara asked me, all concerned and caring and stuff, like I was gonna die.
“Naw, I’m good. I can walk okay.” To demonstrate, Itook a few steps forward. It was a tedious and uncomfortable process; I felt like I was going to fall over. Around my fifth step or so, I fell forward a little bit, but Roxton quickly grabbed my arm. “May, I really think that you should rest for at least a few minutes,” he advised me.
“No, really, I’m perfectly fine,” I insisted, certain that I would be absolutely all right and that I was not some kind of damsel in distress.
“Alright,” Clara said, “but take it easy. Nothing too hasty and rash this time.”
And so, we set back off into the jungle, me with a slight limp.
As we continued our way through the jungle, I became quite paranoid. As we tromped slowly onward, each sound became a monstrous beast. A small buzzing sound became a killer veespa, a rustle in the bushes something that promised death. At the slightest change to the atmosphere that surrounded us, I nervously glanced in every direction before continuing.
That was when we came across the skeleton.
I’d have said it was big, but I didn’t especially want to be called “First Mate Obvious” by a certain blue Wocky.
As we approached it, Moht began getting out his camera.
“Oh, these pictures are gonna stink,” he moaned.
“Hey, well at least you’re alive.”
“But I won’t be able to take any good pictures without my tripod.”
“Well, then just put it on a flat surface,” I told him.
His face lit up at this. “I never thought of that!” he exclaimed, and ran off to find something to put his camera on. I smiled and rolled my eyes.
“I believe that this is a cooty,” announced Lillian, “Or it was anyways.”
I looked closely at the bones. “I’ll bet that this is the world’s biggest skeleton ever!” I said, as it seemed to easily be seventy feet long.
“No, we’ve seen a lot bigger,” Roxton told me, “and those are the ones we really need to steer clear of.”
I looked back at it. It seemed pretty big at the time, though we did see much larger creatures on the island.
“It looks like it’s been dead for a long while,” Kerlie muttered. I looked over at him, and realized that he had been very quiet for a long time. He glanced up at me from his book. “Well, I mean, look at the splinters in the bones, and there isn’t really anything left on them, so it led me to the conclusion that it’s been dead for over twenty years. At least I think so.”
“You know, you’re really good at figuring things out,” I told him.
I heard a loud clicking noise, and a quick flash of light infiltrated my vision. I whirled around, expecting some giant mutant petpetpet, with laser eyes or something, but simply saw Moht, leaning over his camera, blinking furiously.
“Whoa,” he muttered, “I seriously need my tripod.”
After the quick break, we decided to start heading back. It was about 4 o’clock, and we had to make it back by dark. Wandering around the Lost Isle in the dark didn’t exactly sound like much of a picnic to me or anyone else.
We hacked our way through the underbrush, rarely ever speaking. We all had a lot to think about. Me? I thought about my miraculous save.
I guess before that day I never quite pictured myself as courageous. Actually, I don’t think anyone else did either. It was odd, because I was afraid of spyders, but I was willing to risk my life to save others. I honestly found it a little ironic.
I was a little bit too wrapped up in my thoughts like a burrito so I didn’t hear the “Ca-caw!” until I saw it swoop down.
Whatever it was, it was light blue and white, and it plummeted towards us quickly. “Everybody duck!” I heard Clara shout, and I immediately dropped to the ground along with everybody else. Almost everybody else.
“Ahh!” shouted Roxton as he was lifted into the air. I now saw what it was: a cloud Pteri. He or she wore what almost looked like a uniform, maroon coloured with a large metal helmet. He or she struggled with the weight of the rather tall and struggling Lutari.
“Roxton!” Clara shouted.
“Get back to the boat, everyone!” Roxton shouted as he was carried away. “I can take care of myself!”
“Roxton!” Clara shouted again, and she looked devastated. I found that rather odd, as I was convinced that the two of them absolutely hated each other. She turned to us. “We have to save him!” she practically shouted at us.
We glanced at each other. “You heard what he said,” Lillian told her. “We should go back to the ship. Besides, it’s getting dark. We’ll come back tomorrow and see what we can do then.”
“Well,” said Kerlie, “judging by the sun’s position, he went east. And since we’re on the west side of the island, it looks like he’s being carried towards the centre. I mean,” he said, glancing at his toes, “that’s what I think.”
I grinned. “Great!” I exclaimed, a plan formulating in my mind. “So we can figure out which side of the island brings us closest to the centre, and that’s where we can start tomorrow. Good job, Kerlie.” Kerlie smiled at my compliment, as if he rarely ever got any. I knew how that felt; I knew what it was like for no one to understand what you can do, in his case, how observant he was, so I felt rather empathetic.
We agreed on that plan, and continued our way on back towards the boat. I was a bit worried about Roxton, I guess, but I knew he could take care of himself. I had no idea why the Pteri had snatched Roxton at the time, but the truth was so much more sinister than anything I could guess.
“Interesting,” mused Yyro as she looked through her magic window. “This was not the one I was expecting. The prophecy told us of one who would give their life to another. Imerdia!” she shouted this last part to a small kneeling magma Poogle who looked up when her name was mentioned. “Please resume interpreting the prophecy. For it says that this one should live to “See the end” yet also says “give his life to another”. Tell me of your findings. You are dismissed.”
The Poogle bowed and scurried from the room. Jessalia knew Imerdia well; she had been quite young when she first met the Fyr’s head interpreter of symbols and prophecies. Imerdia had almost seemed like Jessalia’s nanny after her mother died.
The throne room had now been filled with many smaller chairs for the great one’s advisors. Glancing around the room, Jessalia saw General Everus, a Tyrannian Krawk missing an eye, Lady Veskail, a royal Acara in charge of battle plans, Kolea, an air faerie that was the head diplomat, and Torazi, a ghost Mynci with a gift for public speaking. And Jessalia, the master of spies.
“Jessalia!” commanded Yyro from behind her curtain, her ever changing voice certainly stern, “Have a word with our newest prisoner.”
“Yes, my lady,” she said, curtsying as she stood, and hurried her way out the door.
War was coming. She knew it would come, but now, having it right in front of her and immediate, jarred her from her everyday life. Certainly, she had been preparing for it since she was a child, but it was so startling to actually have it happen.
Jessalia remembered her childhood in Moltara very clearly. She and her clan hiding in the caves for generations had been treated as amazing powerful spirits; the pets there had never even heard of faeries. The citizens of Moltara left offerings for them, convinced that they would bring them luck. This went on for a very long time, the Moltaran faeries happily living in peace with the rest of Moltara.
Then everything stopped. No more offerings, no more ceremonies. Jessalia was sent out to discover what had happened. And what had happened shocked them so much.
Moltara had been discovered.
Jessalia found the great doors wide wide open, and pets streamed in and out. Hiding behind a stalagmite, she saw three pets that she would meet again, being interviewed by the press.
“It was nothing!” exclaimed a tall yellow one, but he was quickly cut off by the not as tall but not short blue one, “Of course it was something! We found a whole underground land. Now that is something.”
“And I got a pet!” piped up the shortest one. The green one who was interviewing them laughed, and continued asking them questions, and they kept talking over each other.
Jessalia felt her inner fire boil up. Why had they done this? Who did they think they were, barging into their home and bringing people in and out?
She felt a soft hand on her shoulder, and whirled around, to find a glowing orb of light in front of her. It was another faerie, of this she was sure, but what type she could not determine. The light was so bright that she could not see the faerie’s face.
“I can help you,” the faerie whispered, “But you must help me as well.”
“What can you help me with?” Jessalia asked quietly.
“I will assist you to dispose of these “discoverers” of Moltara.”
Jessalia’s eyes grew wide. “Thank you, but what is your price?”
“I need you to find the other opening,” was all that the faerie said. Then she was gone. And Jessalia’s quest began.
To be continued...