Ludroth and the Cursed Bridle
The passage ahead of us stretched out of sight into the darkness.
Our owner, an adult man named BG, held up one hand, signaling us to stop.
"Urasina," he said, turning to me, "When you flew over these ruins earlier, you said you could tell where the treasure room was likely to be."
"It should be at the end of this passage," I replied, gesturing with one front hoof down the narrow hallway.
"OK, take the lead," he said, standing aside so I could get past him. "Keep a sharp eye out for any more traps. Knowing how many we've disarmed so far, there's sure to be more."
I began to move down the passage, being careful where I placed my hooves, and using my Light magic powers to make my horn shine brightly. I may be a Speckled Uni, but hunting treasure in my homeland of the Lost Desert is far more fun than trying to look perfect all the time.
BG followed along behind me, holding a large floodlight that illuminated the passage far better than my horn could. Behind him came my younger sister, Ludroth the Darigan Peophin, with her magical lightning lance, Thundacrus, slung on her back. And behind Ludroth came one of the middle sisters of the family, Ming the Royal Girl Bori. With her shield on her right foreleg and her sword held in her left front paw, she was ready for trouble.
As for me, I had my archery bow slung on my back as well, within easy reach in case I needed it. It may be rare to see a Uni archer in Neopia, but I'm pretty skilled, if I do say so myself.
Some distance down the passage, I noticed one floor tile that was slightly different from the rest. My Light magic practically screamed "TRAP" as my gaze fell on the tile.
"Hold up, guys," I cautioned. "This odd tile is a trap trigger."
"What kind of trap?" Ming called from the rear of the line.
"I don't know, and I don't want to find out," I answered. "We'd better avoid stepping on it."
Ming and I spread our wings and took off. She used to be a Faerie Bori, but when she got painted Royal, her wings remained. None of us had ever figured out why.
I flew over the tile and landed on the other side. It was safe.
BG and Ludroth jumped over the tile.
Ming flew along behind them.
"We'd best remember where that is," BG suggested, looking back at the tile. "We'll be coming back this way."
We watched as he pulled a paintball out of one of the many pockets in his cloak and threw it at the wall by the odd tile. It left a bright green mark when it hit.
"Let's advance," he said.
A short distance onwards, I saw a faint shimmer in front of me. But it faded as I tried to get a better look.
"Tripwire," BG said suddenly, pointing his floodlight a few feet ahead of me. Sure enough, a hair-thin wire was strung across the passage.
"Everyone fall back," I ordered.
Ludroth, Ming, and I scooted backwards as BG pulled a sword out from under his cloak. Then he swung hard, with enough momentum for him to jump backwards as well.
Three huge spears erupted from the right wall, driving their spearheads into the left wall.
"Nice catch, BG," I said, eyeing the trap.
Our owner nodded and looked more closely at the spears.
"Is it a magical trap, or a mechanical one?" he asked.
"Mechanical," Ludroth piped up. "It's been triggered, so it won't activate again."
Ludroth is good at telling magic from mechanics. Since she's a lightning mage, I can see why.
BG slashed downwards with his sword, slicing right through the spears. They clattered to the floor, completely harmless.
"Everyone be on full alert," I said, moving forward again.
But we were lucky. There were no more traps, and soon we stood before a sealed door.
"I've got this," I said, approaching the door.
"It's best if we both do it," BG replied.
We body-slammed the door simultaneously, and it was ripped right off its hinges.
"Treasure, here we come!" cheered Ming excitedly.
On the other side of the door was a circular room with a stone pedestal in the middle. And on the pedestal was...
"A bridle?" Ludroth and I said at the same time.
"What kind of ancient ruin would be hiding a silly bridle?" Ming asked, perplexed.
Just then, I heard a voice in my head.
"Put me on," it urged. "I will grant you powers beyond your imagination."
I shook my head and mentally ordered the voice to be quiet. I'm a very powerful battle-Uni, so it shut right up.
"I swear that thing is talking to me," I growled. "It's magical, and DANGEROUS."
"I-it's talking to me too..." Ludroth whimpered. "A-and I don't know if I can resist its call..."
Ming looked worried.
"I'm glad Bori can't wear bridles..." she said quietly, placing one forepaw on Ludroth's shoulder, as if to steady her.
BG moved towards the pedestal, his sword at the ready.
"Magical and dangerous," he repeated. "Then, there's only one cure for that!"
I watched him raise his blade to cut the bridle to shreds. But that voice sounded in my head again.
"Don't let him destroy me!" cried the voice of the bridle.
I shook my head and mentally ordered the voice to be quiet. It obeyed.
But Ludroth wasn't so lucky.
"G-get out of my head!" she shrieked, lunging forward as if possessed.
BG turned to block her, but she was too fast for him. In one swift movement, one front hoof landed on the bridle, and a brilliant flash lit up the room.
"KYAAAAAAAH!" I heard my sister scream.
"Ludroth, get out of there!" I yelled.
The light faded to reveal that somehow, the bridle was now on Ludroth's head. And she looked panicked.
"I-it's taking over my body!" she cried. "I-I can't control myself anymore! G-get it off!"
She stared at us with sheer panic in her eyes.
"I-it's ordering me to hurt you! Run! Get out of here! I-I don't want to hurt you!"
BG moved in front of us, now carrying two swords.
"Girls, get to safety," he said to Ming and me. "I have to get this cursed bridle off of her."
We shook our heads.
"We're not abandoning you two," I hissed.
"Between the three of us, we can deal with this," Ming added, slamming the pommel of her sword against her shield, causing it to burst into flame.
At that, Ludroth cried out again and charged right towards us. We easily dodged her, but now she was heading for the door.
I reacted quickly, shooting a ray of Light magic from my horn that turned into a shimmering barrier, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the room.
My Peophin sister hit the barrier and was flung halfway across the room by the magic built into it. When she jumped to her hooves, it seemed that the bridle had been damaged by the blast and partially let go of her. She tried to get it off, only to somehow push it back to where it had been before, once more granting it control of her body.
"N-no! N-no more!" she yelled. "I can't hurt my family! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"
BG, Ming, and I prepared to strike as a team. We had to get the bridle off of Ludroth somehow. But there was trouble: Thundacrus was beginning to emit sparks, meaning the magical spear was preparing to attack on its own. This was dire. If the spear was responding to the cursed bridle and not to my sister, then she was very close to being completely overwhelmed by the curse. We had to save her, somehow, but not hurt her in the process.
A fight like that is not something I'm used to.
Ludroth was fighting to stop her spear.
"Thundacrus! Don't listen to that voice! It's not your mistress! I am!"
But it wasn't responding to her anymore. It spun on Ludroth's back to point directly at us.
"Split up!" I yelled, and the three of us dove in separate directions as a bolt of lightning shot past us.
"Come and get it!" BG roared, causing Thundacrus to spin and point at him. Ming and I watched as our owner effortlessly dodged two incoming bolts. As he did so, he drew a very odd-looking sword from beneath his cloak. It was jet black, with a serrated blade. It almost seemed to be absorbing the light in the room.
"The Reaper sword!" I whispered to Ming. "It can absorb magical bursts provided the magic user isn't too strong."
"I hope Ludroth isn't too strong for the Reaper..." Ming whispered back, looking worried.
It turned out that she wasn't, as the third bolt was easily absorbed by the Reaper. Same with two more bolts.
"Regroup!" I called to BG. "I've got an idea!"
He worked his way back to Ming and me, blocking Ludroth's blasts with the Reaper as he did so. The black sword was glowing now, charged with power. If BG had wished to do so, he could have launched Ludroth's own magic back at her, greatly amplified. But that would have destroyed her for sure.
"No! Split up!" Ludroth yelled. "That way I only have to hurt one of you!"
Once our owner was close enough, I used my Light magic to shield all three of us. The lightning blasts from Thundacrus weren't strong enough to affect my shield, as I was much, MUCH stronger than Ludroth. BG channeled the blocked charges in the Reaper sword into the shield as well, nullifying any lightning that might have somehow gotten through.
"Thundacrus! Don't!" my sister wailed as her spear lifted off her back and flew right towards us, shedding lightning as it did so. It hit the shield and stuck there. With a simple counter spell, I drained most of its power, channeling it into myself to reinforce the shields.
BG grabbed it. He probably received a weak zap in doing so, but he didn't care.
"Drop the barrier!" he yelled to me, flinging Thundacrus towards the door. I lowered my barrier and let the spear fly through, then raised it again. The spear clattered to the floor and stopped glowing; we had disabled it and robbed Ludroth of her main weapon.
"Thank you..." Ludroth groaned.
Then she cried out and charged us.
I dropped my shield and BG, Ming, and I split up again. Ludroth was after our owner once more. Apparently whatever curse was on the bridle saw humans as the biggest threat.
"Ming, quick!" I hissed to my sister. "Take this!"
I handed her one end of a long rope that I had found earlier on our exploration.
"Blitz Ludroth," I explained. "Get her hooves tied with the rope. Then BG can get the bridle off her."
Ming nodded, and we both charged. BG saw us coming and drew Ludroth towards us, jumping over the rope as we dashed past him. Ludroth wasn't able to evade, and before she could react, we had her immobilized.
"Get it off me!" my Peophin sister pleaded as our owner closed in. "I don't want to be its puppet anymore!"
BG nodded and took a firm hold of Ludroth's mane with one hand, then reached for the bridle clip with the other. Ludroth thrashed around, and then bit down hard on BG's arm.
I winced, but BG didn't seem fazed. Ludroth had grabbed his cloak, not his actual arm. The extra length of cloth on the sleeves of his cloak saved him.
But there was another problem now.
"Shoot!" our owner growled. "The bridle clip is fused together! I'll have to cut this to get it off."
"Leave that to me!" Ming called. Then she raised one front paw and slashed. Her claws cut right through the bridle, and BG ripped it off of Ludroth's head.
"Get rid of this!" he said, handing it to Ming.
The Bori grabbed the bridle from his hand and flew back towards the door. I dropped my barrier and let her pass, and she vanished down the hallway.
Ludroth had let go of BG's cloak, and was now collapsed on the ground, unconscious and unresponsive. I untangled her from the rope, but BG and I were both wondering: were we too late?
Then, thankfully, she opened her eyes. I could tell that she was no longer cursed.
"Is it over?" she whimpered, staring up at us. "Did I hurt you? Please say I didn't!"
"We're all fine, Ludroth," BG said reassuringly, kneeling down to pet her. "We're not warriors for nothing."
Ming returned just then, a perky smile on her face.
"Well, we won't ever have to deal with THAT thing again!" she remarked.
She turned to me.
"That tile you pointed out to us was an acid pit trap," she explained. "I hit the tile with my sword, making it open, and then dropped the bridle into the acid before it closed again."
I giggled, feeling very relieved.
BG helped Ludroth back to her hooves. Once she was standing again, she used her magic to call Thundacrus back to her, and carefully slung it on her back.
"Let's get out of here," she suggested weakly.
None of us needed to be told twice.
"Watch for the traps on the way back out," BG said as we hurried along. "We didn't disarm all of them."
We were careful, yet we moved quickly anyway. After a few minutes we exited the old ruins. It was clear to me that all of us felt much better as we stepped into the sunlight.
"Here Ming," I said, handing her my bow. "Hold that for a moment."
She nodded and took it carefully. Then I proceeded to lie down and roll in the sand. I rolled, and rolled, and rolled some more, just rolling away my stress. When I finally stood up again, my green and white fur was now a bit duller due to the sand sticking to it. I shook myself hard, shedding the sand and feeling much better.
"We should probably head back to Sakhmet," BG suggested as Ming handed back my bow. "We don't want to get caught out here when night falls."
Ming, Ludroth, and I all nodded and turned to follow our owner. Home sounded good after that kind of a fright.
"Ludroth, are you OK?" Ming asked.
"Ugh, I'm going to have a headache for a while, but that's about it, I think," the Peophin replied.
"I'm going to have to do some research on what exactly we were dealing with back there," I added. "Maybe my friends in the Losa Uni tribe will know something... They're pretty wise in the ways of the ancients."
"I'm just glad you got the bridle off me when you did," Ludroth sighed sadly. "I was losing the fight to keep my mind from being consumed... About all that was keeping me from completely falling under the bridle's control was thoughts of you all, and of Ketdav."
Ming and I nodded. Poor little Ketdav, Ludroth's blue Peophin colt, was so attached to Ludroth that if we had lost her to the curse, we probably would have lost him too. And none of us wanted that.
It didn't take all that long to get back to our Neohome. But before we went inside, BG made us all promise something.
"If Ketdav hears about this, he'll NEVER let Ludroth out of his sight again," he warned us. "Don't breathe a word of it when he's around, OK?"
We all nodded. Even if our owner hadn't brought that up, we wouldn't have told him anyway.
"It's getting close to bedtime," BG went on. "Ludroth, if you get nightmares tonight, don't hesitate to come find me. What with Urasina having nightmares almost constantly, I know how to handle them."
My Peophin sister nodded and nuzzled him. We were all so happy that she was still with us.