Suns Ablaze - Story One: Part Two
The hard rock of the Cove’s ground pressed against Rego’s claws. His eyes were set on the vast unknown of the dark interior that the lantern barely lit farther than three feet in. The rain was hitting harder now, forcing the waves to wash closer to the Cove on the shore.
“I don’t remember it being this dark,” Molly murmured, her orange and red hair dull, the light penetrating her wings.
“Just a little spooky in the dark, since we’re not coming here to buy or sell loot,” Rego replied.
Suman again dug through the tool bag and extracted a small clawed tool, two nails, and a rope. He led the way, lighting the endless tunnel that stretched out before them. As legend had it, the dubloon lay three hundred and six paces in and twenty feet down into the Cove. Suman had created his own system of digging for the project that would help the group reach their goal much faster. Molly threw one last glance over her shoulder and followed Rego.
The trio walked, counting their steps, the tool bag rattling. The air seemed to thin as they walked closer to the center, but Rego thought it a mind trick, just like the air thinning in the fog outside during the boat ride. Being who he was, he enjoyed more open air adventures but kept his composure: if he fell, they all fell. That fact had been made apparent to Rego some years back. As the group left an ill-fated meeting to trade loot, Rego acquired a wound on his torso, leaving him incapable of continuing their work. The group did not rebound until he healed, and it was not likely that this would happen tonight, but it always worried him. As his claw ran over the scar, a noise jarred his thoughts.
The swinging of the lantern silenced. Molly’s eyes darted to the corner of the wall.
“There!” she yelled, singling out a shadow.
Suman directed the lantern at the shadow. The most disturbed Petpet Rego had ever seen swung from a single vine hanging from the wall. Its blue eyes stared without emotion, and almost hypnotized Rego. Its ears darted in all directions, following the silence of the Cove.
“It’s a Krikket.”
Molly moved toward it and held a hand out to it but it shrieked the most horrible sound they had ever heard. It bared a thin smile, its brown and yellow tail whipped. It was holding a piece of yellowed paper, and as the group stared, it opened its hand and let it fall to the ground. With that, it shrieked off and left the trio standing unnerved.
Suman stumbled toward it and handed it Rego. Rego turned it over, the handwriting like static, as if the person who had wrote it had been shaking. It read:
“I saw the light, and it blinded me.”
Rego let the paper fall to the floor as Molly breathed, “Bizarre.”
“Quite,” Rego said. “Let’s keep moving.”
Suman lifted the lantern and proceeded forward, starting his forward march at one hundred twenty five.
“So, we’re not going to talk about that?” Suman said, the rope swinging behind him.
“What is there to talk about? A freaky little thing delivered a note that means nothing to us. Keep counting,” Rego ordered.
“I just think something like that has to mean something,” Suman countered. “It’s not every day a Krikket hand delivers a note to us.”
“Leave it alone,” Molly said.
“No, let him talk. Let’s see if he has a point,” Rego said. “But you keep counting, Molly.”
Suman sighed, his golden scales glittering despite the lack of light. “You know, Boss, I trust you, but it’s just too odd to let go of. The Lutetium Dubloon – I mean, it’s our mission. But someone has obviously been here before.”
“That doesn’t mean that or anything for that matter,” Rego said. “This is the Cove. Wanderers, pirates, all sorts of creatures come through here daily. It just so happens a creepy Petpet wants to spook us. It’s like picking up garbage and hand-delivering it.”
“But what if it’s not?”
Suman stopped walking. Molly stopped counting at two hundred and five.
“But it is. Nothing.”
“It’s very frustrating you never see my side, Boss. You know I have our best interests in mind,” Suman said, lowering the lantern.
Their faces were barely visible to one another but Rego’s look of contempt could have turned clay to stone.
“I listen to everything that is said to me, from friend and foe alike. You obviously don’t see my way in this,” Rego said.
“Oh, but I do. I see your ambition and I see mine,” countered Suman.
“Boys,” Molly interrupted, “please, we have work to do.”
Suman stared intently at Rego, relentless for the Boss to see his side of the message. Rego would not budge and violently grabbed the lantern from Suman’s yellow claws. Molly began counting and began at two hundred and six.
The trio walked, Suman a little farther behind, continuously getting lost in the shadow of the Cove. Rego huffed his way through the paces, scoffing Suman silently for ruining a singular moment of his life’s work.
When Molly finally called out three hundred and six, another wave of relief flooded Rego, just as it had on the home island. Suman walked slowly behind, halting at the very spot of the exact pace. He pulled out a piece of glowing chalk and drew a large ‘X’ in the center of it and circled the spot. Suman then withdrew a shovel-like tool and began to furiously dig around the circle. After a groove was created, he started at the center of the ‘X’ and moved outward. Rego sat and watched, the lantern on his lap.
About five feet down into the digging, Suman placed some rope down and nailed it in place. Suman continued to dig, and eventually, created a system that allowed him to dig without holding onto a rope or moving out of the hole. What might have taken days took a mere two hours because of Suman’s imaginative willpower. When Suman hit eighteen feet, he called up:
“Boss, we’re almost two feet there. You and Molly should head down. Take it easy; make sure the rope is tight before you go down. If not, renail it.”
Rego nodded at Molly, who tugged on the rope and pulled outward. Once it was cleared as secure, Molly started the descent down into the ground. Suman followed after she was six feet in. The palms of his claws were wet from anticipation as he continued to slide down the rope. He heard the thump of Molly hitting the ground and eventually followed her, another lantern lit on the ground. The system of simple pulleys allowed the soil and rock to be gathered up and digging to continue. Suman worked without pause and Molly and Rego toiled some with him, digging where he instructed. Molly threw a shovel down and a boom resounded. Suman and Rego shared a look and filled the pulleys with the last of the soil and rock.
A wood cover lay under the twenty feet mark, a gold handle lying, waiting to be pulled open.
“Well, after you, Boss.”
Rego’s claws gripped the gold handle and pulled open a square piece of the wood floor. Inside lay another wooden box, its design intricate. The bit of light cast off by the second brass lantern illuminated the craftwork. A miniature of a boat was worked into the side of the box as well as a scene of the Cove on a typical, pleasant day. However, the carving of the sun on the box was extremely peculiar. It covered most of the work and had a stone-like face in the center of it. Rego pulled back the delicate silver handle of the box and in it lay a rolled up piece of parchment and yet another small box. Rego picked up the piece of paper and handed the box to Molly. The paper read:
‘The light of day
Was no match for it.
It went its own way,
Showing off bit by bit.
I came upon extravagance,
I left with no humor,
I came by night,
The rest of the paper was ripped. Suman inhaled and whispered, “‘I saw the light and it blinded me.’”
“It can’t be,” Rego said. “What could that possibly mean?”
Rego turned to Molly and ordered her to open the smaller box within the wooden box. Molly proceeded to do so, but moving sideways, she accidentally kicked over the brass lantern. All went dark.
“Great,” Rego muttered.
A thud sounded from above the twenty feet decline into the ground and Suman gripped the rope. The sound was becoming increasingly louder as it approached. A laugh could be heard echoing throughout the walls of the Cove.
“That darn Krikket,” Suman whispered.
“No,” Rego said, his voice calm.
“Well, well, come out, ladies,” a voice said from above the hole, lights from torches throwing elongated shadows down the shaft. The most recognizable voice in all of Neopia rocked Rego’s ears.
To be continued...