Crossed Paths and Blades: Part Six
Jacques and Armin hurried through the tunnels, careful to watch out for pirates from Scarblade’s crew, and also keeping their ears open for them as well. Jacques looked around a corner nervously as they rounded it, then motioned for Armin to follow, but they both suddenly found themselves against a dead end.
“Oh great...” Jacques grumbled in annoyance. Armin sighed, but then walked over to the wall and put his hands against it. He suddenly cocked his head to one side and rubbed his claws into it.
“Hm... This rock is pretty loose... I think there may be an old tunnel here!” he said, then let his claws grow out a few inches. “Stand back!” he said to Jacques, then started digging.
Jacques obeyed and evaded the first chunks of dirt and rock that flew towards him as Armin dug out the entrance to a tunnel, and kept going. Jacques followed, crawling after him, ducking his head so as not to get hit in the face by chunks of dirt, then finally came out of the other end after Armin, who cleaned off his claws and brushed some dirt out of his hair.
“We made it!” he stated proudly. Jacques chuckled.
“Well done! Can all Boris dig like that?” he asked.
“With these claws? You bet!” Armin replied with a large grin. Jacques smiled and looked at the map he had.
“Okay, thanks to you creating that short cut... we should be... nearly there now!” he said while studying the map, which caused Armin to grin even more, but then his grin faded for a moment.
“You think Garin and Hannah are okay?” he asked. Jacques rolled up the map. He had his worries, but he wasn’t about to show them.
“Don’t worry, Garin will look out for Hannah if anything bad happens. Let's get a move on, all the same,” he said. Armin nodded and started walking down the tunnels once again.
Suddenly Armin let out a shriek and disappeared from sight. Jacques gasped and ran over, to find Armin hanging for dear life by his claws on the side of a steep drop straight down into darkness. Jacques quickly slid down to the lower ledge just beneath him, then dropped to his stomach and reached down with one arm to grab Armin’s arm, but he was just barely out of reach. Jacques cursed under his breath and scooted forward on his stomach to try and reach down further, but that did him little good. He bit his lip and looked around for a way to help Armin.
“Hang in there, kid, just gimme a minute to think!” he said and drew out one of his two swords. Armin whimpered and nodded, and Jacques drove the end of his sword into the ground, then leaned down farther to grab Armin’s hand, and this time, with the aid of his sword, was successful. Armin let out a sigh of relief as Jacques started to pull him back up to the small ledge.
“Th-Thanks!” Armin stuttered nervously. Jacques let out a chuckle as he sheathed his sword once again.
“I think we might’ve taken a wrong turn...” he cracked, and Armin laughed, leaning his head back against the wall.
He suddenly gasped in shock and fear, and Jacques blinked, then slowly tilted his head back to look up...
“Did... did you hear something?” Hannah asked, turning around slightly, gripping Garin’s arm tightly.
“Yeah, I heard you,” he replied teasingly. Hannah rolled her eyes at him and he chuckled. “C’mon, don’t tell me you’re scared of the dark!”
The two of them had been walking for several hours and had suddenly come into a much darker part of the caves. Dark enough to the point where Garin had to feel along the wall with one hand, and Hannah gripped his arm so she could stay close to him. She was acting a bit jumpy, and Garin thought she was a bit afraid of the dark, but she had been in these caves long enough to not be afraid of the dark.
At least not that much anyway...
She had learned enough about the caves to know that there were plenty of bad things in here that liked to hide in the dark... so she was just keeping on her toes. She didn’t really know it, but Garin was too. His experience taught him that letting your guard down in a dark place could spell disaster, and so he was letting his ears remain open to detect any sound made besides their footfalls in the darkness. They had been walking through here for over ten straight minutes, and so far they hadn’t run into trouble, but Garin and Hannah weren’t about to let their guard down.
The tunnel started to get lighter, and Hannah let out a sigh of relief. Garin chuckled, trying to break the sense of tension hanging in the air.
“Well, so far so good!” he said. Suddenly, a hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed Hannah by the hair and pulled her back, causing her to cry out.
“Hannah!” Garin yelped and tried to run over to her, but a pair of strong hands grabbed him by the arms and pulled him back. He struggled, but despite how much he struggled, he was pushed down to his knees and his arms still restrained by his two attackers. The cave was lit up with torch and lantern light, revealing Hannah with a knife held to her throat and Scarblade himself standing before Garin with his arms crossed. Garin instantly felt his eyes flare up with hate, and he let out a growl to show it as he jerked against his captors. Scarblade just smirked and chuckled mockingly.
“Did you honestly think a stunt like that explosion could fool me, Garin?” Scarblade asked, striding over to the young Usul and taking his dagger from him. Garin openly bared his teeth at Scarblade, who examined the dagger, as if completely ignoring Garin.
“Well, now that we have the girl... there’s no use for you,” Scarblade said with a growl, and grabbed Garin by the hair with one hand, then put Garin’s own dagger to his throat, ready to make the required movement.
“Don’t do it or else!!” Hannah shrieked, which caught Garin a bit by surprise. Scarblade sighed and rolled his eyes in annoyance, then glanced over at Hannah.
“Or else what?” he asked, somewhat indifferent. Hannah glared.
“Or else I will NOT lead you to Frigget’s loot! No matter what you do to me!” she spat defiantly. Scarblade blinked once with his red eye, then looked at Garin. He paused a moment, and then snarled in anger and let go of Garin’s hair and threw the dagger point into the ground in a fit of rage.
“Very well... You’ve got yourself a deal, Miss Hannah,” he hissed, then snapped his fingers, which signaled for those of his crew who restrained Hannah and Garin to release them.
Garin grunted in relief once he was released and braced himself up with his arms for a moment before standing and pulling his dagger from the ground. Hannah ran over to him and helped him to stand, but he took her by the arm and looked at her, giving her a nod to tell her that he was fine.
“Are you alright?” Garin asked, wanting to make sure she was okay.
“Yeah, I’m fine...” she replied, but grimaced nervously as Scarblade loomed over the two of them.
“Well?” he asked with a demanding growl. Hannah swallowed hard.
“I’ll need the piece of the map you have, to decipher what there is of the clues...” she said, a slight hint of fear in her voice. Scarblade nodded and reached into the pocket of his jacket and produced the half of the map that he had and handed it to her. Garin paused for a moment, and, knowing that Hannah was really sticking her neck out, and mostly for him, reached into his vest, pulling out the half of the map he had.
“Will this help?” he asked. Hannah looked at it, then at him and nodded.
“Yeah... thanks...” she said, and took it from him as he offered it to her. Scarblade crossed his arms and growled impatiently as Hannah’s eyes examined the map carefully.
“Okay, I think I’ve got it. The first thing we need to do is find a cavern filled with pillars of stone, and from the ‘One made not by nature’ walk thirty-four paces East,” she said.
“We just passed a cave stuffed to the gills with rock columns,” said one of Scarblade’s crew.
“Aye, it’s not very far off from this point,” Scarblade said. “But what the blazes does it mean to look for one not made by nature?”
“Probably one that’s been carved up, or is a pile of stacked stones.” Garin suggested, leaning over Hannah’s shoulder to look at the map. “We won’t know until we get there, though...”
“Then what are we waiting for? Move!” Scarblade barked, causing Hannah to flinch and cringe a bit. Garin grabbed a torch from one of Scarblade’s crew and put a comforting hand on her shoulder and turned to help her lead the pirates to the cavern, and ever onward to Frigget’s treasure.
Garin glanced at Hannah as they walked, seeing her eyes fixated on either the ground or the map before her. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice to a whisper, so Scarblade wouldn’t hear them.
“Uh... Thanks for that back there...” he whispered. “You... you really didn’t have to do that.”
“Well, I... I just think that Neopia needs a lot more characters like you...” Hannah whispered back. Garin blinked.
“Like me meaning...?”
“Meaning... good. And brave... Brave enough to stand up to brutes like him,” Hannah said, jerking her head back towards Scarblade. Garin glanced back at him, then back at her.
“You’re brave too...” he said. Hannah smiled at him.
“Bear a left, you two,” Scarblade commanded from behind. “We’re here.”
Garin and Hannah’s eyes went wider than a pair of dubloons as they entered the cavern and gazed upon the seemingly thousands of stone columns scattered within. Garin let out a whistle and listened to it echo throughout the cavern and bounce around the columns as Hannah looked down at the map. She sighed and looked at Garin, and he looked at her.
“Well...” she said. “I guess we start looking.”
To be continued...