An Eternity Unbreakable: Part Five
Also by 777lehuanani
“Ughhh,” a starry Zafara groaned. A damp scent of mildew greeted her senses, while the faint dripping of water echoed loudly in her ears.
Every bone in her body felt broken, as if she had barely survived a long, treacherous fall. The back of her head was bruised, responding to any slight movement with a painful throb.
She was slightly aware of the grimy wall that she was leaning against and what seemed to be bracelets around both of her wrists. An object sat on her lap, casting a heatless white glow that even her closed eyelids couldn’t shield. Why did her arms feel as if they were weighed down?
“This doesn’t feel like my room.” The Zafara was quite certain she had never been in this drafty, cold room before, nor belonged there all the same.
She tried opening her eyes, seeing briefly what appeared to be a gloomy dungeon, before her eyelids drooped downward again. The faint screeching of claws and a low growl briefly echoed through the prison, coming from somewhere above.
“Good night.” The Zafara reached out to her side and patted an unseen petpet before snuggling against the wall to slumber.
Xeresa brushed the glowing item aside in the process, which clattered noisily to her unhearing ears.
“No, stay awake!” a voice from deep inside frantically cried.
“Why? Dreams of lollipops and babaas are better,” another argued reasonably. It seemed much kinder, though Xeresa couldn’t help but sense something sinister about it.
Still, it sounded like such a nice dream... “You’re right,” Xeresa lazily said, yawning, to the latter voice.
She felt drained, as if she had spent the whole night rereading all her textbooks, therefore why shouldn’t she be able to catch some sleep? The Zafara’s wand charm trembled in warning, but to no avail. Her stars were nearly extinguished in her fur, too exhausted to shine any further.
“No, Xeresa, wake up! You still have a mission to accomplish!” the first voice began pleading, only to fade as the Zafara fell deeper into sleep. “Cryptia... lost forever... Justin and Kameron.... need you....”
Cryptia, that hopelessly cursed city? And her irritable tourists, she would prefer falling off a broomstick than to keep dealing with those two. A lethargic spell overcame her and she huddled in a corner, away from the gusts of freezing wind from above. Nothing appealed to her, not Kameron, Justin, or Cryptia.
“Of course I know you’re here,” suddenly resonated in her head, which she immediately recalled hearing some time before. Then a malicious cackling followed, chilling her to the bone.
Xeresa was startled at how vividly she remembered; had this happened to her recently? She no longer cared to sleep, for satisfying her curiosity always came first. Deeply concentrating, she searched through her memories until like a lightning bolt, it all came back to her. She and her tourists had agreed to help Cryptia, but had been captured by Salis!
She recalled falling into darkness just moments after Salis had appeared out of nowhere. Xeresa guessed she now was in the legendary dungeon Luperus guarded, most likely underground below the sorceress’s castle.
“What have I gotten myself into?” Xeresa, now horrified, snapped fully awake.
The Zafara was perplexed by her bleak surroundings. Glancing around in the dim light, she noticed various species of fungi decaying away at the damp, festering stone walls. As much as she loved Neopian biology, however, her fascination had to wait.
She had to lean back steeply to see the ceiling; the walls probably were several stories high. Slightly below the ceiling, a few small barred windows allowed the scarlet moonlight and icy breath of night air to enter.
Despite the feeble rays of moonlight filtering through the windows, the light’s reaches were limited to several meters downward, quickly being swallowed by the darkness beneath. Near each windowsill, mysterious Eyrie and Draik gargoyles stood sentry to the dungeon beneath.
Xeresa could barely see past several meters ahead. She lifted her lantern and marveled at the glassy flame, which seemed to defy the Neopian laws of physics. Shaking away her intrigue, she shed beams of light across the dungeon. Estimating with the faint outline of the opposite wall, she gasped, realizing the dungeon must be roughly the size of the Altador Cup stadium, or rather, the Colosseum itself.
As she spread the light to other parts of the dungeon, the white bones she noticed strewn across the mossy floor gave her no comfort. To her relief, however, she soon sighted the tiny form of a royal neopet twenty meters away. Then, she found a lightly breathing Shoyru resting against the wall perpendicular to her.
“Justin! Kameron!” Xeresa called.
Staggering to Justin, she felt a tug at her wrists once she had taken no more than a few steps, unable to go any further. Shining the light to her paws, Xeresa groaned with exasperation as the lantern revealed chains around both wrists.
“Witch– err, Xeresa, is that you?” a groggy Justin yawned, stretching his arms and wings as if awaking from a fitful sleep.
“Is someone there?” a shout from the opposite corner interrupted. “My luck, Salis tied me to the wall. And to think, I’ve always been kind to King Skarl’s prisoners, yet here I am, barbarically tied... upside-down.”
“I’m over here, Kameron,” the pirate Shoyru responded. “Xeresa’s over there.”
“Care to help us out of our chains, Xeresa?” Kameron asked. “Obviously since my usual servants are nowhere near.”
“Sure thing. I have to think of a spell, though...” she answered. “Give me a minute.”
Xeresa thought of her Level 3 spell book. She immediately dismissed its fire spells, not wanting to set the room on fire like the last three times. Light, water, dark, and earth spells seemed quite useless against metal. She eventually focused on ice.
“I hope she didn’t bewitch these.” She eyed the chains before whispering an incantation.
Segments of frosty vines wrapped around the chains. More and more appeared, before the cuffs were entirely enveloped by ice. The ends of each vine tugged in opposite directions, tightening around the chains until they finally shattered. The broken chains then clanked noisily on the floor, followed by Xeresa’s small cheer of success. She then hurried over to Justin.
“Awesome.” He gaped at the magical vines.
“Just a basic frost spell,” Xeresa shrugged modestly, though she clearly struggled to contain her pride.
“Ooof, get off. You weigh a ton,” she gasped moments later. Kameron, initially upside-down, had landed on top of her after being freed. Xeresa had realized a second too late that an air spell was needed to defy the gravity of a falling tourist.
Then, they met with Justin to discuss their escape. Xeresa explained that Salis’ castle was somewhere nearby, perhaps right above them.
“There has to be another way out, besides the trapdoor we fell in,” Justin pondered. “Why don’t we split up for the time being and search for secret escape routes?”
“What if there are other creatures that we’re not aware of, or even Salis herself, in here with us? Splitting up is the last thing we’d want to do.” Kameron cautiously surveyed the dungeon.
“Don’t be silly. Just come with me if you’re really that worried,” Justin scoffed, rolling his eyes. He tugged his brother along, while Xeresa headed the other direction.
The party of three ran their paws across each wall, feeling for the outline of a door. Xeresa’s heart sank when no possible escape routes were found. At this point, she knew that no one before had been able to physically escape; therefore, magic was the only way.
Near the window ledges, unnoticed by the three below, the scarlet moonlight and shadows seemed to quiver. Cracks appeared along the bases of the gargoyles, as if to free them...
“Blimey, how odd. Have you two noticed this before?” Though Justin appeared excited at his discovery, Xeresa noticed that his voice was also hushed with worry. “Over there!”
“What?” Xeresa and Kameron both felt chills relaying down their spines, now that he seemed to be growing nervous.
“Look there– on the ground.” He gulped and quickly asked for the lantern. Scratched in shaky strokes by what could possibly have been one of the many bones littering the prison, most of the writing was just barely visible:
‘Five of us camping... visit the Fairgrounds. I tell you, we were bound to win that Carnival of Terror trophy... chased by werelupes and got lost in the Woods, knew we should have left before nightfall... ended up here??
1: What is this madness? Defenders of Neopia will surely hear from us soon.... quite bored, playing Pyramids is getting redundant... want to talk to my neofriends already.
2: Growling coming from above, horrible whispers at night... never wanting to visit the Woods again, that’s for sure.
5: ...shadow at ceiling growing larger. Three left... vanished while we were sleeping...
13: Only one left... where are my friends... it is coming.’
The writers of the unnerving memoir, needless to say, were nowhere to be found in the dungeon. Long before reading the last word, the three neopets were well aware that they were quite eager to leave.
“Can you teleport us out of here? Oh wait, you’re just an apprentice...” Justin did not hesitate to complain. Being quick to judge at the slightest annoyance, he thought of Xeresa as more useless than a blind lookout stationed in the crokabek’s nest.
“Short distance I can actually manage,” Xeresa stammered reluctantly, ignoring the jab for the moment. She knew that her Level 3 teleportation spells were quite inferior at this point, but they still had the chance of working. “Although, I’d have to be able to clearly visualize the destination, or else we could end up stuck inside a wall.”
“We can’t teleport to Salis’ front yard,” Justin reminded her, shuddering as he recalled their encounter. “I’d hate to set off her ‘alarm system’ again.”
“Not to the surrounding woods either. That would be a huge step back,” Kameron crossed out another option. “I doubt that would be short distance anyway.”
“How about her castle?” Justin suggested the last possibility. “She’d never suspect us there, not after how easily she put us in this dungeon before we even stepped on her lawn. Breaking the curse is another question, though...”
“Remember what the Mayor said about the curse? I think we have to defeat her,” Xeresa sighed. “That’s the only way to lift curses, besides nicely asking and getting turned into mortogs.”
With a jolt, the three neopets realized that they had journeyed all the way to Salis’ abode – and had spared not a second to wonder how they would go about breaking the spell. Xeresa smacked her forehead in frustration.
“Well, why don’t we first get out of here? I doubt Salis feeds her prisoners.” She shed light over the bones scattered throughout the ground. “In fact, I believe we are the food.” Xeresa turned back to the scrawled writing.
“You said that you have to picture a specific place to teleport to, though,” the Krawk questioned; he was unprepared to risk getting stuck within a wall. “I doubt you know what the inside of that castle looks like.”
“It’s not hard to visualize a sorceress’ dwelling,” Xeresa assured him, though she truly was reassuring herself. “Although Salis’ home seems quite contrary to Sophie’s Shack, all witches own a room complete with a cauldron and spell books. With that in mind, as long as I know of its general contents, all is well.”
Reluctantly, the group formed a circle. Xeresa muttered a spell while concentrating on her rendition of a cauldron room; a potion bubbling in dim light surrounded by shelves of ingredients and countless tomes. Beams of light began radiating from the crystal in Xeresa’s charm. Then, a shrill wind deafened the three, as the dungeon seemed to whirl around them faster and faster.
Oblivious to the three, the eyes of the now sentient gargoyles flashed an eerie blue. The stony wings broke from their foundations, as did the paws, outstretching to sail downward and strike. Too late were they, for a brief flash of emerald engulfed the three neopets and then vanished, leaving the dungeon to fall once again into silence.
The light became brilliant enough that travelers were unable to keep their eyes open. Xeresa was dreading any fatal errors, but to her relief soon glimpsed a potionery room. She suddenly dropped into a void of steam.
Xeresa shuddered, feeling suffocated in the mist. She fell hard onto the floorboards next to a cauldron and, to her disappointment, saw that her glass lantern had smashed in the process. Kameron and Justin swiftly dropped nearby from thin air.
Meanwhile in the dungeon, the rays of moonlight flickered as a shadow darker than the night spread across the ceiling. A snarling Luperus emerged, only to be greeted by emptiness. His meal no longer to be found, all six of his eyes blazed with crimson fury.
To be continued...