A Faerie Tale: Part Three
A feeling of disappointment overcame me as Belinda and I approached the harbor, a feeling so overwhelming that it was a few minutes before I could encourage my paws to move again.
Carvar's ship was gone. When we'd ventured to the Deserted Tomb in search of the Island Draik Egg, I'd hoped to find the ship still present when we returned to our own borrowed ship and captain. But the rising sun left the empty water where the boat had rested shimmering in hues of orange and pink. They were gone, and the Magma Hissi and Faerie Peophin, whose accompaniment of the Pirates so enthralled my interest, gone with them.
"Did you get what you came for?" Avresi, our Baby Gelert captain, asked as we approached his little vessel.
"We did," Belinda answered shortly. Her tone made it clear that she would answer no questions as toward what it was, exactly, that we had come for. It was probably better she didn't; the Gelert hadn't the faintest idea he was harboring a couple of smugglers. With the Island Draik Egg stored safely in the never-ending pockets of my jacket, it wasn't likely that he would find out.
Avresi's shrugged one shoulder. He seemed to know better than the ask questions, other than those that needed to be asked. "Where to now, then?"
"Terror Mountain," Belinda answered, boarding the ship.
I boarded the ship after her, and shortly, we set sail for our next destination.
Having stayed up all night retrieving the Egg, the plan had been for us to sleep on the boat. Belinda dozed off immediately; she was probably glad to escape the rocking of the ship by drifting into sleep. I, however, couldn't do the same. Rather, my tired gaze scanned the ocean, searching for a ship that wasn't present. By the time we drifted over Maraqua, past Tyrannia, and finally docked in the icy waters at the base of Terror Mountain, I knew for certain – Carvar's ship was long gone.
Belinda woke with the docking of the ship. Sitting up and stretching, she looked about her, shivering in the sudden cold. Rising to her feet, she moved to the bow, where Viggo stood and stared glumly over his shoulder, back out over the ocean.
"Give me your jacket," she demanded, tugging roughly on his sleeve.
Viggo did as she asked without protest.
Belinda's eyebrows rose as she surveyed the Fire Eyrie. He didn't look as though he'd gotten a wink of sleep. Shoving his shoulder roughly, she forced his attention from the ocean to struggling to keep his balance as he nearly toppled backwards over the railing of the boat.
"Where's your head?" she grumbled, once he'd regained his balance.
"I..." Viggo hesitated, glancing once more out over the ocean before pulling his attention back to her. "Nowhere. Sorry."
Belinda continued to eye him suspiciously. Shifting uncomfortably, Viggo gestured over the icy, barren shore, to the little town nestled into the small mountain valley.
"I'll just be waiting here," Avresi said lightly as they disembarked.
Turning to the Gelert in union with Viggo, Belinda saw that he was shivering and rolled her eyes. It was his fault for not bringing along warmer clothing. Viggo, however, moved to her, reached into the borrowed jacket – much to her annoyance – and pulled a small sweater from the pocket. Avresi caught it gratefully, slipping it on as they headed for the valley.
Happy Valley, Belinda reflected as they stepped in line with the first of the shops, that was what it was called. Why, she hadn't the faintest idea. The chill air made her anything but happy. The valley wasn't their final destination, however; this was the Ice Caves, which were, in her opinion, much better suited to their name.
"How long until the Snowager is asleep?" Belinda asked as they made their way up one of the slippery paths inside the cave.
Again, Viggo reached for the jacket. Belinda was almost tempted to return the jacket to him simply to avoid the annoyance of this. Almost. She would be more tempted were it not so cold.
"Not for another couple of hours," Viggo said, surveying the watch that he pulled from the pocket.
Belinda resisted the urge to groan. She didn't want to have to wait another minute in this horrible frozen mountain. If they wanted the Ice Draik Egg, though, she knew she would have to. So she began to cast her gaze around for a somewhat comfortable place to wait. Before she found one, a movement behind Viggo caught her attention.
"Viggo...!" she started, but it was too late. The Pirate that stepped up behind him already had his sword pointed up beneath the Fire Eyrie's chin.
Viggo froze instantly. Around them, other Neopets paying a visit to the Cave stopped and stared, then hurried quickly along as though afraid that watching too long would cause them to become involved in whatever was going on. Belinda could see why they didn't wish to become involved. A half dozen Pirates stood behind the first, along with a Magma Hissi and another, cloaked Neopet whose species and color she could not determine.
"You didn't seriously believe I would let you get away with that stunt you pulled in Geraptiku, did you?"
At the sound of the voice, Belinda's eyes slid shut and a bubbling anger rose inside of her. Carvar. She knew the source of the voice before the Uni stepped away from the other Pirates. She'd told Viggo not to mess with him. Not only had he not listened, but he'd gotten caught in doing so.
"I was rather hoping you would," Viggo replied lightly. There was something of joy in his expression though, Belinda was startled to note. Then she recalled that the Eyrie had been watching Carvar's ship on their way to Mystery Island and her eyes narrowed suspiciously as she wondered once more why he'd done so.
"A feeble hope," Carvar retorted coldly. Moving around the Eyrie, he cast Belinda the briefest of glances before turning his attention back to Viggo. "I'll tell you what, Eyrie. I'll make you a deal. You give me the chest, and I won't kill you."
"I don't have the chest," Viggo returned casually. "I never intended to take it. I was stopping you from taking it."
Carvar's eyes narrowed dangerously. For a moment, Belinda thought he would order the Pirate holding the sword to kill him on the spot. Instead, the dangerous look faded and a shrewd smile came to his face.
"Very well then. If you do not have the chest, you will give me a cut of the reward for the job you are working now."
"Hang on a moment!" Belinda interjected angrily. All eyes turned immediately on her. "Viggo didn't take your chest. It's still there. You can go back and get it. This job is ours, and so is the profit. How do you even know that we can give you a cut big enough, that taking it would be worth your while?"
"Oh, I'm certain it would be worth my while," Carvar said smoothly. "You are currently in the business of smuggling Draik Eggs, are you not?"
Belinda fixed him with her most hateful glare, after sparing a moment to cast a quick glance around to ensure that no one had overheard them. Luckily, the strange sight of the Pirates in Terror Mountain seemed to have been enough to frighten everyone off.
"How do you know about that?"
"I have my ways," Carvar answered easily. "So what will it be, a cut of the profit or your friend's life?"
Belinda couldn't help but to find it amusing that Carvar was leaving the decision up to her rather than up to Viggo. In a way, he was acknowledging that she was in charge. Confidence boosted by this, she stepped forward, pushing the sword away from Viggo.
"He didn't cause you any harm," she insisted. "Let him go with a warning."
Carvar was shaking his head before she finished speaking. "You must understand, Belinda...that is your name, correct?" The Kyrii gave the briefest nod of acknowledgement, and he continued. "I run a very tight schedule, have a lot of things to get done. I'm certain you understand. We are in the same business. We both make a living. You understand how any delay could have a disastrous effect on one's whole agenda. And if I let the reason for my delay go without repercussion..."
"It won't happen again," Belinda insisted as Carvar's gaze turned upon the Eyrie. "If he does interfere again, you can do what you want with him, I won't stop you. But he won't... will you, Viggo?"
"Of course not," Viggo replied shortly. His gaze was on the cloaked figure accompanying the Pirates as he spoke, however, and Belinda couldn't help but to think that he was lying. She said nothing, though; she would deal with him later, outside of Carvar's presence.
"Very well then," Carvar decided slowly. "I shall let you go with a warning... this time. Next time, mark my words, I won't be so agreeable."
Nodding abruptly to his companions, Carvar headed back towards Happy Valley. His companions followed, though Belinda noticed that the cloaked figure lingered a moment, watching them. Then the Hissi gave her arm a tug to urge her along and her hood slipped, revealing her to be a Faerie Peophin.
Belinda's eyebrows furrowed as she watched the Peophin right her hood and hurry along after the Hissi and Pirates. She kept odd company, the Kyrii couldn't help but to note. She quickly shook the thought aside, though. It wasn't any of her business. She had her own troubles to deal with.
Now, she turned her gaze back upon her biggest trouble of all, which was staring after Carvar and his companions with a curiosity that threatened to drive her mad. Seizing the collar of his shirt, she forcedly turned him so that he was looking her in the eye.
"Are you finished being foolish?"
Viggo nodded shortly, his gaze drifting away from hers to watch the Peophin and Hissi vanish from view.
Oh yes, he'd certainly been lying to Carvar. He was lying to her also. But she would deal with him later. Right now, they had a job to complete.
"Let's go," she ordered, dragging Viggo by his collar. "That hut up there looks like it might be habitable."
I couldn't help but to be amused. The hut that Belinda chose as our place of waiting while the hour of the Snowager's dozing approached was a place of play for young Neopets. They sat in bunches, coloring sheets of paper inked with designs relating to Terror Mountain, scribbling and giggling and smiling cheerily at us on the rare occasion that they looked up from their play.
The whole scene seemed to make Belinda ill. And yet, when the awaited hour came, she didn't want to leave. It was warm inside the hut, warmer than it was outside, at least.
"You go, get the Egg," Belinda declared, huddling into the corner with my jacket.
"All by myself?" I inquired.
"The Snowager will be sleeping," Belinda grumbled. "All you have to do is sneak in and steal the Egg without waking him. Not even you can mess that up."
"You really don't like the cold, do you?" I asked lightly. It wasn't like Belinda to suggest any competence on my part.
"Just get the stupid Egg," Belinda ordered.
And so it happened that I entered the Snowager's lair alone.
Well, not quite alone. There were plenty of other Neopets and their owners venturing into the cave in hopes of snatching something valuable from the Snowager's pile of treasures. The only difference was, most of these Neopets hurriedly filched items from the very edges of the Snowager's pile and scampered away with them. I didn't want the trivial items at the edges of the pile; I wanted the most valuable item of them all.
The trouble was, this item was likely located very close to the Snowager itself. I watched the great creature as it dozed atop its pile of treasure, oblivious to the scavenging going on around it. Until one of the Neopets ventured too close.
I saw the young Kacheek climbing the pile, followed her gaze to the negg that had caught her eye. It was a valuable thing, no doubt, tucked into the pile not a yard from the Snowager's tail. She treaded carefully, placing one paw after another so as to not wake the sleeping creature. Then she slipped, dislodging several items, sending them rolling down the pile.
Had she slipped further down the pile, there wouldn't have been an issue, but she was just a tad too close. She fell inches from the Snowager's tail, and the creature, as if sensing her presence, awoke, its head rising towards the top of the cave.
All at once, the Neopets around me scrambled for the exit. The Kacheek tried to escape too, but she was too late. The Snowager released an icy breath in her direction, and she tumbled, half frozen, down the pile.
I watched her owner hurry over to scoop her up as the Snowager settled back down to sleep. Gradually, as the owner escorted her Kacheek out of the cave, carrying her off to warm up, the other Neopets tentatively returned. As soon as the first approached the pile, however, the Snowager moved slightly and everyone rushed off once more with squeals of fright.
With the Snowager's slight movement, I caught sight of an icy egg nestled into the pile beside the creature's head: The Ice Draik Egg.
Safe for now in the small wall crevice from which I'd chosen to observe the scavengers from, I considered the positioning of the Egg carefully. Judging by how quickly the Snowager had awoken at the Kacheek's mishap, I figured I'd probably be quick to find myself frozen in a block of ice were I to try and take the Egg directly. Had Belinda come with me, she could have served as a diversion while I snatched the Egg. No, I corrected myself; I could have served as a diversion while she snatched the Egg. Now, though, I was left pondering how to go about the task on my own.
My pondering was quickly disrupted as I realized that I wasn't the only Neopet present in the wake of the Snowager's stirring. The Faerie Peophin that had accompanied Carvar was here, lingering in the opposite corner. She lowered her hood as I watched; she wasn't aware of my presence, as I was hers.
For the longest moment, I hesitated, simply watching her. Then, just as I was about to step out of hiding, she darted out of the corner herself, heading for the Snowager's treasure pile.
I thought, at first, that she planned to make a reckless run up the pile, as the Kacheek had. Instead, when she reached the edge of the pile, she tossed her cloak aside, taking flight.
Her delicate wings were silent. They carried her over the treasures, over the Snowager without the creature's showing the slightest sign of waking. For a moment, I hadn't the faintest idea what she was doing, where she was headed. Then I spotted the cave set into the wall high above the sleeping Snowager and its treasure.
The slope of the tunnel was far too steep, its walls to narrow for the Peophin to keep flight, I noted even before she landed in the cave's mouth. Immediately, her hooves slid from beneath her on the icy floor of the tunnel, and she tumbled down towards the Snowager.
Involuntarily, I stepped out of my place of concealment, as though I could help her, though I knew I couldn't. And so, when the Snowager raised its head in alarm, knocking her away in the process, she ended up flying straight into me. I knew what was coming next, but I couldn't move, so dazed as I was, and pinned beneath the Peophin anyway. Luckily, she reacted quickly, dragging both herself and me out of the way before the Snowager's icy breath could strike us.
For what seemed like forever, we lingered in the crevice, leaning against the walls, struggling to catch our breath. Then the Peophin turned to me, her cheeks flushed pink.
"I so sorry!" she said, sounding flustered. "I didn't know there was anyone else here... I didn't mean to..."
Abruptly, she trailed off, her eyes widening.
"You... you're that Eyrie Carvar was threatening..."
She broke off sharply, cringing as though she'd said something she wished she hadn't.
Sheepishly, I rubbed the back of my head. "Yeah," I acknowledged. "Long story."
She'd probably heard all about it when Carvar returned to his ship. I didn't mention this, though; she seemed far too displeased about her revelation that she knew the Pirate to want to talk anymore about it at the moment. Besides, there were other things I was curious to know.
"What were you doing, if you don't mind my asking?"
Again, the Peophin's cheeks colored. "I..."
For a moment, she hesitated, looking uneasily over her shoulder. I thought she might not answer. Then she spoke, releasing the words in a single breath.
"I have a friend who likes coming to the Ice Caves. She told me there are some really pretty caves in the less accessible areas of the Mountain. I... I guess I just wanted to see some of them for myself."
I couldn't help but to smile at this. "Probably not the best idea to choose a tunnel that the Snowager is likely to make use of when it awakes," I pointed out gently.
I was starting to suspect that the pink hue of her cheeks might become permanent. "Right," she acknowledged, fiddling with the hem of her dress. "I suppose not."
For a moment, we were quiet. Outside the crevice, I could hear the Snowager settling back down to sleep.
"My name is Viggo," I said abruptly, holding out my paw.
"Sunrise," the Peophin acknowledged, though she seemed startled by the sudden introduction.
"Sunrise... that's a beautiful name."
Oh yes, the rosy color of her cheeks would definitely become permanent.
"So... you're a smuggler then, Viggo?" Sunrise asked carefully.
I gave a one-shouldered shrug, feeling my own cheeks redden, though I hadn't the slightest idea why her saying this made me uncomfortable. "You seem to keep strange company yourself," I commented, in an attempt to change the subject, however slightly.
Sunrise raised one eyebrow. "Yes," she acknowledged. "Though I expect my reason is better than your own."
Her tone was somewhat remorseful. I could tell that she didn't quite approve of Carvar's actions... in fact, from her expression I judged that she didn't approve of his actions in the least and would rather keep anyone's company but his.
This only served to heighten my curiosity. "Oh yes? How so?"
Sunrise hesitated. Again, I thought she wouldn't answer. Finally, though, she did.
"I'm... looking for Balthazar."
I couldn't help but to draw a breath at the name. Why any Faerie would want to find Balthazar was beyond me. Raising my eyebrows, I awaited Sunrise's explanation.
"I live on an island, just off the shore of Faerieland. Faeries come to visit there often. Only, recently, Balthazar has been taking advantage of their visits in order to capture them. They usually come alone or in small groups. I suppose they are easier to capture that way. I do my best to protect them, but..."
Sunrise trailed off then drew a deep breath and forced herself to continue on.
"Dardyn told me that Carvar would know where to find Balthazar. He does; he thinks that we can find him in Meridell. Carvar has... jobs... to finish first, that is why we didn't head there immediately but..." Sunrise drew herself up tall. "I'm going to convince him to stop taking the Faeries from the island."
I was quiet for a long moment, simply studying the Peophin. Her plan was foolish, I knew it. Dardyn – I assumed that he was the Magma Hissi and a friend of Sunrise's, if she trusted him enough to follow his lead – wasn't much of a friend if he planned on allowing her to go through with this. But then, I didn't try to dissuade her either. I could tell from the determined gleam in her eyes that even if I tried, my efforts would be in vain. So, instead, I simply smiled.
"You're right," I acknowledged. "You reason is better than mine. Very noble. I wish you the best of luck."
My words were sincere, yet they caused the Peophin to tilt her head, as if she wasn't quite sure of them. If she wasn't, she didn't say so. Instead, she looked to the cave's exit.
"I'm afraid I must be going," she said briefly, stepping from the crevice.
I didn't try to stop her, only raised my hand in farewell. She cast me once last glance before hurrying off.
I started to follow her. Then I remembered my reason for being there.
After Sunrise's escapade, the Snowager appeared to have departed; I thought it possible that it had some other treasures stored in the tunnel which the Peophin had been attempting to enter, and that the creature was now checking to ensure that said treasures remained present. Taking advantage of its absence, I darted up the pile of treasures, seized the Ice Draik Egg, and scrambled for the exit.
My paws drew to a halt at the base of the pile, however, a mound of dark blue fabric catching my eye. Surnise's cloak. In her hurry to leave, she'd forgotten it. Taking it up in my paw, I ran the soft fabric between my fingers.
A soft hiss, the sound of ice against ice behind me, alerted me to the Snowager's return. Hurriedly, I wrapped the Egg in the cloak – it was lucky for me that she'd left it, as I'd have nothing to conceal the Egg otherwise, Belinda having my jacket – and took a step towards the exit.
As soon as I did, an icy blast hit me from behind.
My fiery wings melted most of the ice before it could wrap around me and the blast did little more than douse my flames. Securing the Egg in my grasp, I hurried towards the exit, knowing well that without my fire, the next blast would easily freeze me solid.
I made it out just in time. The ice blast that followed me struck the arch above the entrance, sending rock and ice tumbling across the opening of the cave. It was probably for the best; the Snowager's hour of sleep had passed.
Belinda glared at me as I entered the coloring-page-filled hut. "What took you so long?" she demanded.
In answer, I seized my jacket, pulling it from her shoulders and swinging it over my own. Shivering, I stuffed the Egg, along with Sunrise's cloak, into my pocket. "Let's get out of here."
To be continued...