Greenglade: Part Eight
Laerya's head was throbbing. She didn't dare open her eyes to find out where she was; she wanted to lie down in her oblivious cocoon for a few moments more. The last thing she remembered was seeing Lorelei and a group of Wraith Neopets... With her eyes still closed, her ears twitched with surprise; so she had survived the purple smoke.
She was dimly aware of something fluffy draped across her body. Unconsciously she tugged at it as if it were a blanket. Her eyes snapped open as the tail withdrew and a voice snapped, "Oi!"
Groggily, she opened her eyes and raised her head. She saw Akorri looked down at her, his red eyes softening as they met her pink ones, as if he was relieved that she had opened them. "Were you worried about me?" she asked weakly, though she retained a mischievous tone.
"Of course not." Akorri turned his head away. "Why would I worry about you of all people?"
Lae snorted in irritation. "Whatever." Groaning, she sat up with the speed of a Slorg, leaning on a wall behind her. She looked around to take in her surroundings: she, Akorri, Jinny and Tayheir seemed to be boxed up in a tiny supply room. Crates were stacked all around them, allowing them barely any space to move. The purple walls reminded Laerya of the wisps and she winced. She didn't like this tight feeling.
"I'm glad you're okay," Jinny said quietly. She was sitting on top of one of the crates like she did with the rock back in Greenglade. She had her hair pulled back so both eyes were now visible, but one was closed, an ugly bruise resting below it.
Laerya smiled. "Thanks." She rubbed her head as explosions resumed inside it. At least she could breathe now. "What happened?"
"After you fainted, the wisps let go of you," Tayheir answered. "They went back to Lorelei, who tried to use them on me next. Unlike you, I could fend them off." Laerya rolled her eyes at this. "We put up a good fight for a while, but the Wraiths were overpowering us. Even the Xweetok did something useful. The Kyrii blasted them back, but they got the better of us in the end. We all seemed to have been knocked unconscious."
"So now here we are," Akorri finished. Laerya noticed he was fiddling with a gleaming object in his hands; from here it looked like a rimmed mirror, just small enough for Akorri to hold in both his hands. Lae guessed he found the object in this room and wanted to keep it as a souvenir. He was drawn to shiny objects, after all. "Quite a predicament we've landed ourselves in, huh?"
"I wonder what Lorelei plans to do with us," Jinny murmured.
Through the pain in her head, everything seemed slightly foggy to Laerya. She clicked her tongue in annoyance. "We aren't finished yet," she said.
"If anyone saw how you looked right now they would think you are finished," Akorri commented. "Your hair is messier than mine."
Lae couldn't see herself as she had no mirror, and she did not want to borrow Akorri's to see the full extent of her damage, but she guessed she looked quite the worse for wear. She looked down at her hands and noticed the rainbow fingerless gloves she wore were ripped. Her shirt had a hole in it and her ponytail was thoroughly loosened; one tug and the ribbon would sever. "Why do I look like this?" she asked. "I didn't fight or anything."
"The Wraiths got a hold of you before we could attack them properly," replied Akorri. "They were treating you like you were Punchbag Bob." His eyes glazed over, as if he was haunted by this thought.
"It was terrible," Jinny added. "I didn't like them doing that to you, so I blasted them back with my magic."
"You should've seen it." Akorri grinned. "It was a huge explosion of light. It shook the ground and made the loudest noise, like a high-pitched, distorted war cry. It was awesome!"
At this, Jinny looked down at her hands, but Lae could see a hint of a smile on the white Kyrii's face.
"Were those actual Wraiths you were fighting?" Laerya asked.
"Wraith Neopets." Tayheir spoke this time, in his condescending and curt way. "I would assume that Lorelei made some Wraith morphing potions and fed them to unsuspecting civilians. She must have gotten the recipe from around here."
"That's horrible." Lae imagined Lorelei feeding the potions to innocent Brightvale pets and a sharp pang struck her stomach, giving her a feeling of nausea. "That's really horrible."
Tayheir narrowed his eyes. He and Akorri did not appear too damaged; Akorri's shirt was ripped, yet Tayheir seemed fine. "Enough of this," he hissed. "We're wasting time. We need to get out of here."
Laerya agreed, though privately she felt like she was in no condition to go anywhere. But what good would staying in this box do for them? If they stayed for too long they would use up their valuable supply of oxygen. Lae did not want to go through the suffocation again... this feeling of oppression was bad enough, and it reminded her of her time in the tunnel with Akorri, when she had almost fainted due to the strange fear she felt being down there.
"We're locked in here," Jinny reported. "How will we get out?"
"Not a problem for me." Akorri flashed Jinny one of his sneaky grins – perhaps this was how he got his nickname, Red Rogue. The Xweetok took on a wily appearance as he hopped up and examined the door. "Hmm, easy lock. I'll pick it, no problem." However as he tried to touch it the lock flared up and a sound like nails on a chalkboard attacked Lae's ears. Akorri hopped back, flapping his hand around as if he'd burned it. "It's... I can't touch it. It stings me when I try."
"It's sealed," Tayheir said, "with magic."
Akorri frowned. "Can we break the seal?" he asked.
Tayheir closed his eyes and snorted smoke. "I can't."
Laerya moaned outwardly, though she was relieved that she was spared from movement for a while. She felt that if she were to stand up she wouldn't be able to hold her breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, she had eaten yesterday, hadn't she? Or was it this morning? How much time passed since she was knocked out? "Anyone know what time it is?"
"Not a clue," Jinny sighed.
"My guess is that only a couple of hours have passed," said Akorri. "It's probably night time now."
"Then we need to get out!" Laerya jerked as she remembered that Lorelei could be attacking Greenglade right now. This sudden expulsion of energy caused her to groan as her head swam. This condition reminded her of when she was sick with a fever, yet this did not seem quite so severe; she wasn't burning or experiencing tiredness. She knew she should stay hydrated. Perhaps if she could get some water...
"You don't look like you're in much shape to face her," Akorri remarked.
"I will be if I can get something to drink," the Cybunny retorted.
"But first we need to get out," Jinny said, though not without sympathy.
"There's a magic seal on the lock, remember?" Akorri sighed. "I bet Lorelei put it there to stop me from picking the lock. She knows who I am, after all."
Jinny coughed nervously. "I think I might... be able to help," she offered. "I can, um... try breaking the seal?"
"If you can, get on with it," Tayheir urged impatiently.
Jinny hopped down from her crate and examined the lock. Tentatively she poked it with her finger, reeling back as the awful screeching sound harassed everyone's ears again. "S-sorry!" she apologised before turning back to the lock. Taking a deep breath, she put her hand to her chest. A humming sound emanated from her body and she withdrew her hand, the finger now expelling white light. With careful precision she placed the finger on the lock – instead of the horrid noise, the hum grew louder until the sound of breaking glass replaced it. The seal was broken.
Tayheir nodded slowly. "That should do it," he said.
"All right!" Akorri whooped, throwing his fist up in the air. "Now it's my turn." He examined the lock once more, his blurry purple hands picking away at it. Hang on, blurry? Laerya squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again, but her vision did not improve. She was sure she didn't need glasses. Vision could not change so abruptly, could it? She closed her eyes again, sighing. She felt so far away from everyone, though physically they could not be any closer together. Her mind was drifting...
"I've done it!" Akorri cheered, though Lae heard his voice falter. Perhaps he saw something terrible. Lae tried to open her eyes to see it too, but she could not lift her eyelids; exhaustion was holding them firmly down. She heard Akorri say her name before she slipped off into the realm of unconsciousness once more.
"Hey, you can't keep doing this!" A persistent voice roused her. "Wake up!"
Laerya tentatively opened one pink eye. The sky was dark, decorated with stars. She could easily see the shapes of her companions in the gloom. Yawning, she looked up, relieved to find that she could see properly again and her headache seemed to be gone. But wait, why was the ground moving? And what was this thing she was holding on to? She tried to move her arms, but something was holding them in place. With a gasp, she realised that Akorri was carrying her on his back. She squeaked as her face flushed. How could she let him carry her? She was supposed to be the strong one, not him!
"Oh good, you're awake," Jinny said pleasantly.
"I'm sorry for falling asleep again," Lae mumbled, hating herself for her moment of weakness. "How long have I been out?"
"Half an hour," Tayheir reported.
"Half an hour?!" Laerya exclaimed, fully awake. Lorelei could well have finished her attack on Greenglade by now! "We have to hurry!" She tried to slide down from Akorri's back, but the Xweetok didn't let up.
"We can't hurry if you're like this," he told her. "You don't seem to be in any condition to walk, let alone fight."
"I don't need you to take care of me!" she snapped. Memories of her time in the Haunted Woods sprang up – when Akorri cared for her and nursed her back to health. It was a long time ago, but the debt she felt she owed him weighed on her heavily. She also felt strangely resentful whenever he saw her in a weakened state.
"If I don't carry you, we won't be able to make it back to Greenglade at all," the Xweetok retorted through gritted teeth.
"We could just leave you behind," Tayheir suggested. "Go on ahead without you."
"We won't do that," Jinny quickly assured Lae.
"At least let me try to walk," the purple Cybunny muttered.
Akorri sighed, releasing her. She landed lightly on the ground. It seemed that they were outside Brightvale, heading towards Greenglade. She could tell by the vast expanse of land and stretch of trees in the distance, but something about the landscape seemed odd. Lae stepped forward, sighing with relief as her foot supported her weight. Taking more steps, she found that she could walk; she tried to speed up into a run, but her legs almost buckled over. Clenching her fists, she whipped around to face the others. "I can walk, at least," she grumbled. Her legs would not allow her to run, and this bothered her immensely. Running was her forte; without her ability, she was nothing. She felt defenceless. Vulnerable. No wonder Akorri could carry her so easily. If she could run, she could quickly go to Greenglade and help... with her speed, she would have arrived in only a few minutes... but she couldn't run.
Laerya kept up the sedate pace with the others, fuming silently. They would never make it in time at this rate.
It didn't help that, right in front of them, a huge chasm yawned open, blocking off their access to Greenglade.
So that was what seemed strange about the scenery.
To be continued...