The Explorer: Part Two
The clouds had cleared and the wind had died down. Crystal walked through clearings, over hills, across logs which worked as bridges across small rivers. After a while, she came across a fork in her path. She had no idea which way to go. And the wrong way could lead her deeper and deeper into the woods, down a path that could take her weeks to emerge from. Crystal looked down both paths, trying to make a difficult decision she could in no way make. She put her finger to her mouth as she thought.
Just then she heard a rattling in the trees. Crystal whipped her head around to see what it was. But everything looked normal.
"He-hello," Crystal asked nervously. "Is someone there?"
She saw the movement this time and it wasn't a tree at all! It was in fact a Woodland Blumaroo.
"Don't be afraid. My name is Sloane. I live in these woods," the Blumaroo said.
"Hello. Did you happen to see where the Meerca Brothers went?"
Sloane thought for a moment, then responded. "I did, actually! They went that way." She pointed to the path which led to the right.
"Are you sure?" Crystal asked.
"Positive," Sloane said as she got lost in thought, looking off into the distance.
Crystal was skeptical, but decided to go to the right anyway. Crystal turned away from Sloane. She adjusted her hat, then began to walk down the right path, which slowly turned from soft dirt to hard ricks. Crystal crept over them slowly, sometimes leaping between large smoother rocks. She then came across a shallow river about ten feet wide. Crystal, unsure of how deep it was, stuck a twig into the water. Realizing that it was only eight inches deep, she ran across to the other side. Crystal found that there was now cool, green moss beneath her feet and the trees here were now bare, with pointy branches. Apparently, the trees deeper into the woods were affected by the season change from fall to winter, quicker than the trees closer to home.
Crystal shook the cold water off of her boots and trekked on. Shortly after, she found something. A torn piece of cloth stuck on one of the pointy branches. Crystal pulled it out of the tree and examined it closely. She gasped. "This was part of the bag one of the Meerca Brothers had! Sloane was right," she said to herself.
Just then, she was startled by a noise from behind her. Crystal whirled around to find that a little Doglefox stepped out of a bush, looking hungry and shy. Crystal opened her backpack, and pulled out a slice of bread, placing it on the ground in front of her. The Doglefox slowly walked to the bread and began eating. When finished, she looked up at Crystal with big curious eyes. Then all of the sudden, the Doglefox happily stuck her tongue out to the left side of her mouth and began playfully prancing around Crystal. She patted the Doglefox on the head and continued walking. A short time later, she looked over her shoulder, discovered that the small petpet was still following her. Now she knew why her mom told her to never feed wild petpets. But how could she not? The poor thing was starving.
Crystal looked at the Doglefox. "I'm sorry, but you can't come with me."
The little fox-like petpet looked sad for a moment before running into the bushes. For a while, it seemed as if her soft spoken, sincere words had worked because Crystal was walking alone. Although a little while later she realized that the Doglefox was following her again, trying to follow unnoticed. Crystal spun around and surprised the Doglefox. It stared at her for a moment, then the Doglefox stuck out her tongue and began prancing around Crystal once more. Crystal couldn't help but giggle at the playful petpet.
"You know, it's going to be dangerous," she said to the Doglefox who nodded in understanding. "And I can't worry about you when I get there."
The petpet nodded again.
"Okay, you can come," Crystal decided. "I will call you... Maggy."
Crystal started walking again, Maggy following closely behind with a bounce in her step. They walked for a while and Crystal started to lose hope. She had been walking for two days and the only clue she found was a torn piece of cloth. It's possible they've made it all the way out of Neopia Central by now, she thought to herself. And the more north she went, the colder it got.
Kreludor started to come up once again. Maggy ruffled her fur and Crystal put her jacket on. The ground became more uneven and Crystal lost her balance. She tumbled down a hill with Maggy running hastily behind her. When Crystal made it to the bottom of the hill, she stopped rolling. Maggy leaped over her, turned around, and started licking Crystal's face to be sure she was okay. She opened her eyes and giggled, realizing what had happened. She sprung to her feet and brushed the leaves and dirt from her jacket and looked up the hill.
"I must have rolled fifty feet! I'm sure glad I didn't hurt myself," she said to herself.
Crystal turned to face the woods beyond. She was trying to decide whether she should continue going at the bottom of the hill which would take her north-west, or if she should climb back up and continue north. Just then she noticed a faint orange light coming from the woods ahead, at the bottom of the hill.
"Come on, Maggy!"
They quickly and anxiously walked closer to the orange light. When they approached the light, it turned out to be a lit torch on the outside wall of a cavern. The entrance was blocked off by an old, decaying, wooden door. Crystal walked up to the door and heard the sound of metal clinking under her feet. She lifted up her foot to find three Neopoints on the ground.
"Maggy, we found it," Crystal exclaimed. "This is the Meerca Brothers hideout!"
Maggy barked with excitement. Crystal put her hand on the paint chipped door knob. She was about to open it when she started thinking about how dangerous it could be. She stepped back.
"Maggy, I don't know about this."
Maggy looked up at Crystal and started barking. Then, she started tugging on Crystal's pant leg as if she were saying, "Come on! Don't be afraid. You've come so far!" Even though Maggy couldn't really talk, Crystal could tell what she was trying to say. She thought back on the games she used to play and realized that she was completely prepared. Crystal stood up strait and took a deep breath. She walked over to the door and opened it with courage and determination.
The door squeaked loudly as it swung inward, echoing down through the cavern. She turned on her flashlight and started walking down the tunnel. It was very dimly lit by the occasional torch hanging on the wall. After a while they came to an opening. It had a high cave ceiling and only twenty feet of ground before it dropped off hundreds of feet below. But on the right side of the path was a wooden elevator hanging by a thick, sturdy rope. The rope went into a crank with gears and a lever.
Crystal and Maggy slowly stepped in, the wood creaking below their feet. Crystal looked around and found the lever in the corner of the elevator. She pulled down on it, gears in the crank turned together, the rope started unwinding, and they started to lower. Dust clouds puffed out of the gears and settled on the ground. They continued to lower down until they came to an abrupt halt. They were now at a wider, shorter hallway. Lanterns now hung from the ceiling by nails, thus, making this hallway much brighter.
They walked into this hallway which made a sharp turn into a bigger room. The walls, ceiling, and floor were still the same rock material as above. A fire pit sat in the middle of the room, with a flickering orange fire burning in it. The Meerca Brothers masks lay on a wooden table near the fire. There was an opening in the cave wall which led to another room. This one had a dining table against the left wall. Playing cards sat on the table and Neopoints were scattered around them as if they had been betting on a poker game. On the other side of the table were two plates of half eaten Spaghetti. Crystal walked over to the table and put her hand above one of the plates. The Spaghetti is still warm, so the Meerca Brothers must be close by, Crystal thought to herself.
From this room was another hallway leading farther down into the cave. She followed it to another room with a couch sitting in the middle. It was old and dirty with books and trash lying around it. On the left and right sides of the room were two more doorways and in the back of the room was another hallway. Crystal snuck into the room and peaked into the right doorway. Two beds sat next to each other and a dusty old dresser had been put in the corner. And in the other corner was the Meerca Brothers! She gasped quietly and by instinct, hid around the corner. They were both sitting at a small round table, arguing in their raspy voices.
"I can't believe you want to spend it all away in Krawk Island!" one said.
"Well, do you have any better ideas, Heermeedjet?" the other snarled.
"Yes I do actually. We could buy the biggest and best Neohome in all of Neopia! Can't you just imagine it, Merouladen?"
Crystal stepped away from the wall. She had heard enough. Maggy followed her to the other side of the room. They both peeked into the door on the left. And there it was. Piles and piles of shining Neopoints lay on the floor. Crystal had never seen so many Neopoints in her life!
"Maggy, I think we found it!" she said in awe. The little Doglefox looked up at her excitedly.
"Hey," yelled a stern voice, "what are you doing here?!?"
Crystal turned around in panic and started to walk backwards, but there was nowhere to go. She bumped into the wall behind her. She was speechless with fear.
"Ah, mhmm, I... uh..." Crystal stuttered.
"Let's get her!"
They each grabbed one of her arms and started pulling her away. She struggled to get away, but they were too strong.
"Maggy! Run!!!" Crystal exclaimed.
Maggy took off running and disappeared into a small rack in the wall. The Meerca Brothers took her down the hall she hadn't yet explored. It was shorter and badly lit. At the end were two doors. One on the right was a normal wooden door. The on the left was made of steel bars. They threw Crystal into the room on the left and locked the door. It was dark and cold. The floor and walls were made of stone and the floor almost felt damp.
She sat down in the back of the room. She put her knees to her chest, rapped her arms around her legs, and began to cry. With the position she was in, she couldn't remember why she ever decided to go on this trip. What was she thinking? Did she honestly think that she wouldn't end up in this situation? These are famous criminals she's dealing with! She finally tried to lift her spirits by trying to find a way out. She stood up, wiped the tears from her eyes, and walked over to the door.
Crystal rapped her hands around the bars and started pulling on them as hard as she could to make the door open under her force. But there was no luck. The only way she would get out through the door was if she had a key. She stepped away from the door and began pacing. Crystal looked around the room for another way out. After a while she gave up. Crystal sat down on a crate sitting against the back wall. She started to relax but then, CRACK! She fell through to the floor. She started standing back up when all of the sudden, she spotted it. The way out! It was there the whole time, hiding behind the crate. It was a big vent. All Crystal had to do was figure out how to un-attach it from the wall.
First she tried kicking it, but it didn't budge. Then she figured it out. Crystal unwrapped a leather string from one of the torches on the wall. She tied one of the ends to a bolt holding the vent in place. She wrapped the other end around her hand and yanked on it really hard. The bolt roughly came out of the wall with a loud squeak. Crystal was very excited that her idea worked and applied it to the other three bolts. In no time, the vent was off.
She climbed into the vent and pulled the crate in front of it to hide her escape. The hole was pitch black and Crystal felt little rocks beneath her feet which had crumbled from the walls. After crawling a while she saw a light. It got brighter and brighter the closer she got to it. Crystal realized it was an exit from the crawl space. Once she got there, she discovered that there was another vent bolted onto this end. However, the bolts seemed loose. Crystal lied down on her back with feet first. She pushed with her legs with all the force she could against the vent. After a few moments, the bolts popped off and the vent fell to the ground.
Crystal crawled out of the hole and into what seemed to be a storage room. The walls and the middle of the room were lined with shelves and crates sat all over the floor. Crystal stood up and brushed the dust off of her pants. She started walking just when one of the Meerca Brothers walked in.
"Hey! How did you get out?!?" he shouted.
Crystal started backing away like she did the last time. She thought there was no hope for her. But just then, Maggy jumped down from a support beam above, landing on top of the Meerca Brother. He fell to the ground. Maggy looked up at Crystal and barked as if she were saying "Run!" So Crystal ran as fast as her legs could take her. On the way out she grabbed her backpack which was now sitting on the table with the unfinished poker game. Heermeedjet was sitting by the fire pit and he saw Crystal run through the room. Maggy also ran quickly passed him.
Crystal got into the elevator and pulled the lever, hoping Maggy would reach it in time. The elevator started going up and it was a race against the clock as to whether or not Maggy would jump on, or be stuck with the bank robbing thieves. At the last possible second, Maggy took a leap of faith. Maggy just missed the elevator and began to fall, but Crystal reached out and grabbed her paw, pulling her up. They were both now safe.
Once they got to the top and stepped out of the elevator, Crystal used a sharp rock to cut the rope which held up the elevator. It crashed down far below where the Meerca's hideout was. Maggy looked up at Crystal with a confused expression as to why she cut the rope.
"I cut it so they can't get out until I bring the police," she explained.
Maggy sat thoughtful for a moment, then happily started dancing around once more. They made their way out of the cave, out of the dark woods, and back up the hill. The sun was now starting to rise just over the horizon. Crystal saw a large dark Eyrie perching on a rock. At first she didn't notice him because he was sitting so still.
"What is a kid like you doing out here?" his deep voice rumbled.
"I was trying to find the Meerca Brothers hideou," Crystal told him.
"That's a pretty dangerous thing to do," the great Eyrie told her.
"I know, but it was all worth it. I found the stolen Neopoints and I made a new friend," she said, looking down at Maggy. "My name's Crystal. What's yours?"
"I'm Larak," he told her. "You traveled a long way. Would you like a lift home?"
"That would be fantastic!" Crystal exclaimed.
She quickly pulled the map out of her bag and marked where the hideout was before she left. Then she got on the dark eyrie's back and they took off.
Trees quickly went from large foliage towering over here, to tiny green dots she felt like she could step on. The cool air breezed over her wings. And before long, she could see Neopia Central in the distance. Crystal looked down at Maggy. She was sitting in her lap with her tongue flapping in the wind. They got closer and closer until they finally landed. Heads started turning and many Neopets started whispering to their friends. "Is that Crystal?" "That Eyrie's big!" "Look at the cute little Doglefox!" A crowd started to gather. Suddenly her parents pushed through to the front of the crowd.
"Crystal!" her mom said, running up to her. "I'm so glad you're okay!"
Crystal's mom hugged her.
"You know, you had me worried sick! I can't believe you ran away, into the woods! And all by yourself!" her mom began yelling.
"I'm sorry mom, but I had too! Everyone's Neopoints were stolen and no one was doing anything about it," Crystal told her.
Her mom stopped talking. She brushed her hand over Crystal's cheek. "You always did put other Neopians first. Even if it put you in a dangerous situation."
48 Years Later...
"She was right again. I did always put others first," Crystal told the children.
"Like how?" Sam asked.
"Well, like once I climbed up a tree to get someone's kite down. Or letting someone have the last apple at the food shop. Or standing up for someone who was too shy to do it themself, even if it got me into trouble. Of course, my adventure was much more extravagant than anything like that." Crystal explained.
"Wow, you're so kind!" Anna said.
Crystal smiled at her, then continued telling th story.
"So by this time, lots of Neopets, big and small, were curious to hear about my voyage..."
48 Years Ealier...
"Was it a long journey?" a voice called from the crowd.
"It took me a little over three days," she announced to the crowd.
She wondered why all those Neopets were there. Did they all realize I was missing? Crystal thought to herself.
"Did you come across any monsters?" another asked.
"I was lucky enough that I didn't run into any. But instead, I made some loyal friends." Crystal answered, looking over her shoulder at Maggy and Larak. Then, the smallest Neopets from the crowd stepped forward and nervously spoke.
"Did you find the Meerca Brothers?"
Everyone's eyes went strait to Crystal and the crowd grew silent. Crystal paused for a moment before speaking. She turned her head to the little green Kacheek who had asked the question.
"Yes, I did. And the stolen Neopoints too!" she exclaimed.
"Is this true?" Crystal's dad asked, stepping forward.
She pulled the map out of her bag and handed it to her dad.
"I marked the location on this map. Go see for yourself," she said, smiling.
He looked at the map, then he looked up at Crystal proudly. Just then she realized that she was still wearing his hat. She handed it to him and looked ashamed because she had disobeyed her father's rule once more.
"It's okay. You've earned it," he said, putting the hat back on her head.
Crystal smiled at him just as the head of the police stepped forward.
"Did the Meerca Brothers see you?" he asked in his deep voice.
"Yes," she quickly replied.
"Then why do you think they would still be there?" he asked.
"Because I sort of... Blocked the entrance," Crystal said in a cocky tone of voice.
"Well then, I guess we should get moving before they find a way out," he responded.
The head of the police, a few of his helpers, and her dad traveled to the Meerca Brothers hideout. When they got inside, they saw both of the Meerca Brothers standing on the lower level of where the elevator would have originally lowered to. They had annoyed, angry, expressions on their faces. The head of the police lowered a rope down to the brothers. They climbed up the rope and were arrested on the spot. The police then went down to find the piles and piles of Neopoints on the floor. They hauled them up bag by bag and returned it to the National Neopian bank. The Meerca Brothers were put in prison and they're cavern was blocked off.
Back At Crystal's House...
The doorbell rang and Crystal answered the door. It was the head of police.
"I just wanted to thank you for finding the Meerca Brothers. We couldn't have done it without you," he said.
"You're welcome. All it takes is a little courage and an adventurous spirit to go a long way," Crystal said proudly as her parents came into the room.
"Surely you deserve a reward. Is there anything you want?" he asked her.
Crystal thought for a moment.
"Well... There is one thing," Crystal turned to her parents. "Can I keep Maggy? I've always wanted a petpet of my own. And she saved my life!" Crystal explained to them.
They whispered to each other for a few moments before turning back to Crystal. They agreed she could keep Maggie. She got a big smile on her face and ran over to hug her parents.
"Thanks for stopping by," Crystal's dad said to the head of police.
He nodded, then walked away from their house. Just then, Lura came walking up to the door.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"My parents are letting me keep Maggy! She's the Doglefox I found on my trip."
"You've been wanting a petpet forever! Congratulations!" Lura hugged her.
"Okay..." Lura pulls popcorn out of her bag. "It's movie time. Then I want to hear everything!"
"Sounds like fun." Crystal put her arm around Lura and they walked into the living room.
Crystal turned on the television and the news happened to be on, so they watched for a few moments.
"Thanks to a local young Shoyru, all of the Neopoints have been returned to the National Neopian Bank and it will be reopening tomorrow morning. The Meerca brothers have been arrested as well and we won't see them causing mischief for quite some time.
"On a less exciting note, the asparagus prices have dropped back down to an all time low!" the newscaster broadcasted.
"Yes!" Lura exclaimed.
Crystal looked at her as if she thought it was funny she got so excited over asparagus. Lura looked at her and they both started laughing.
"And that's it for tonight's news. Signing Off!"
48 Years Later...
"Do you still have Maggy? Anna asked.
"Yes, I do actually," Crystal answered. "Maggy! Come here, Maggy!"
Maggy came running around the corner and jumped up next to Crystal.
"Aww..." Toby sighed.
"And that's the end of my story! No one ever teased me about my dreams again. And here I am!"
"Wow! That was an amazing story!" Sam exclaimed.
"Top notch!" said Jenny.
"You tell stories much better than my parents!" Shelly told her.
Crystal giggled. By this time the snow had lightened up quite a bit.
"Well, we need to go," Mandy said, looking outside. "Can we come again next week?"
"Sure! That would be great." Crystal said calmly.
They all thanked her for the story, patted Maggy on the head, collected up their stuff, and went on their way. Crystal sighed.
"Well, that was nice," Crystal said to Maggy. "Who knows, maybe I'll inspire one of them."
Maggy barked in agreement. Crystal looked out her window at the falling snow, with a cup of tea in her hand and Maggy by her side. Which was her favorite thing to do. She was content and enjoyed telling the story to the curious little Neopets. And she couldn't wait to do it again next week. She knew the kids couldn't wait either.