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Skipping School: Part Three


by invalid

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     I think it was around dawn on the next day when I woke up again, and I wasn’t in the disgusting bag anymore, to my relief. But I still had plenty of other problems to deal with.

     All my legs were bound, my wings had been tied roughly together, I was gagged and blindfolded, I had no idea where I was, and I couldn’t tell where Triya or the pet-nabbers were. I couldn’t smell or hear any of them.

     I tried to squirm out of my bonds; the ones on my wings felt rather lose, but to no avail. I seemed to be in some sort of tiny, tiny, cage, with floor space and bars that would be cramped for a Moach.

     “Triya?” I tried to yell, but only a muffled murmur came through the gag. It sounded more like, “Sheeuh?”

     I was utterly helpless.

     Wasn’t I?

     Well, actually, no.

     It’s strange what thoughts can come to you when you’re stuck in some sort of holding pen. I bet I never would have thought that I could bite a hole in the gag, rip it in half with my teeth, let it fall, bite through the bonds, and take off the blindfold if I hadn’t been in this inspiringly dull cage.

     But then again, tearing my blindfold off might not have been the best decision. I really didn’t like what I was seeing through the bars of the cage.

     Because it’s not every day you’re pet-nabbed and you wake up in a cage in the middle of the Lost Desert.

     Yep, that’s where I was. In the middle of the Lost Desert, with no cities, people, landmarks, or water in sight. Just sand. Lots and lots of dry sand.

     Plus, I was completely alone. No Triya, no pet-nabbers. I guessed I must have fallen out of some wagon or box they were carrying cages in. But what were they doing, coming all the way out here? Maybe they had some sort of hideout? But where?

     If only I could get out of this cage! There was no door and no lock; it seemed as though they had put me somewhere and then built the impenetrable box around me. I must be important, or something.

     I wriggled my paw through the bars and brushed the sand in boredom. Maybe I could draw to entertain myself.

     “HELLO?!” I yelled. Hello hello hello…

     “ANYONE THERE?!” There… there… there…

     Stupid echoes. Does it normally echo in the desert? I sighed and stopped shouting; my throat was getting sand in it. I laid my head miserably down on my paws.

     And saw, to my surprise, that one of the bars was bent and loose where it met the bottom of the cage. See what giving up does for you? I’d never have found that otherwise! It was easy to push the loose bar out, and with a bit of squeezing and sacrificial fur, I slipped through the bars of the cage. I was free!

     And stuck in the middle of the desert with no where to go and no water to drink. I might have been better off in the cage. At least the metal wasn’t sandy and hot.

     Nothing to do but walk, I thought sadly. In one direction. I’ll get somewhere eventually…

     But, I knew I’d probably die of thirst first. Can I fly up and try to scout out my surroundings? No, the sand was blowing too much, I won’t be able to see. Can’t go up, can’t go out, can I go down?

     Excited, I dug as hard as could through the sand. Maybe their hideout was underground, and they used that Grarrl to dig to it! The Eyrie could have flown them here and the Ruki would know where it was, being from the Lost Desert, and now I just had to dig to find it!

     Assuming it was there. And hour later, I had come across nothing. I slumped wearily on the sand, more tired, thirsty, and dejected than ever.

     The sand settled and the air cooled as the sun set. “It’s worth a try, I won’t be able to see anything if it gets too dark,” I mumbled to myself. I jumped hard and let my wings pick up an air current, which sped me high into the sky. With less sand blowing through the air up here, I could see very far in all directions. But there really wasn’t much there; no river, no buildings, not even the tall peak of the Pyramids.

     Wait, what was that? A small spot in the distance caught the light of the setting sun and glimmered for a brief moment. It must be water, reflecting the sunlight! And it didn’t look too far. I mentally pinpointed its location and sped off, my insane thirst driving me on. Kate may be far to good at punishments and glares, but at least she gave me plenty of water to drink. I’ll never take that for granted again. Until I forget how it feels to be this thirsty.

     “Yes!”

     I had been right: there was a small oasis of water in the sand! It had a white rocky bottom so the water didn’t percolate out. It was perfectly cool and clear; I drank until my belly felt bloated with water, and my mouth was sufficiently moistened once more. And then I really had to use the bathroom, but that’s beside the point. I curled up in the sand right beside the water - my tail was actually dipping into it. I didn’t want to wake up and see it gone. I shivered and burrowed myself into the sand that still retained the sun’s heat as the air got colder.

     It felt like no time at all had passed when I woke up. Maybe because I had a most terrifying experience upon my return to consciousness. THERE WAS A BUG SITTING ON MY NOSE.

     “AHHHH! Eww! Eww! Eww! GET OFF!”

     I screamed and flailed, and the Scriblet fluttered calmly away and landed on a rock by the water, clicking his wings together with an annoying rustle. I glared fiercely at him. It.

     “Get away, I don’t like petpetpets,” I said sternly.

     The bug clicked his wings again and didn’t leave. I pouted and turned to the pool of water to get another drink. And glimpsed my reflection.

     “WHY, YOU LITTLE - ”

     I snarled and lashed out at the Scriblet, who dodged and rustled his wings even faster. It almost sounded like laughing, and if I hadn’t been so furious, I probably would have laughed too. But I had perfect right to be furious. The Scriblet had drawn goofy ears, a nose, and whiskers ON MY FACE! It was hideous. No wonder they’re called Scriblets.

     I dunked my head in the water – it was a nice, bone-jarringly cold wake-up call – and scrubbed my face all over with my paws to try to get it off. I emerged soaking and shivering, shook my head to shake off the droplets, and checked my reflection in the water again. It was clean.

     “Th-thanks f-for that,” I stuttered at the bug. “N-now look, I’m all w-wet and sh-shaking.”

     The bug jumped in the water and swum a full circle, then hopped onto his rock again and stared at me. He was taunting me.

     “S-so you’re trying t-to prove something to m-me?” I said, hoping I sounded very aloof. But unfortunately, I think the chattering of my teeth ruined the effect.

     The Scriblet replied by drawing an arrow pointing towards the pool.

     “What, you want me to g-get in that again? Are you crazy?!”

     He looked at the arrow, then back at me.

     “Why?!”

     He looked at the arrow, then back at me.

     “That makes no sense,” I growled. “I’m just starting to warm up. There’s no point, I’m clean.”

     He looked at the arrow again, then back at me. This was getting extremely repetitive. I sighed. I was arguing with a bug, after all. Maybe the desert had made me go insane.

     “Maybe I’ll try it when it’s hot out,” I told him. “It’s still chilly cause it’s still morning.”

     The Scriblet seemed satisfied. But instead of settling down or flying away, he flew into the air and circled around the oasis. I watched him lazily, until he suddenly plummeted downward like a rock. I rushed over to where he had hit the sand, worried.

     I found him sitting in the sand, perfectly unharmed. I guess that was just his way of landing. But I also noticed a little white piece of parchment behind him. I picked it up and read:

     

hiela valandi

     Isindia shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Calririum shiela valandi

     Yslandir

      It was torn at the beginning and the words didn’t seem to finish. It looked like part of a Qasalan spell scroll, but it could have been from Sakhmet too. Why didn’t I pay attention when we were talking about historic languages?

     “I don’t understand this, it’s not in modern Neopian,” I murmured. I muttered the syllables to myself. It sounded Qasalan, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe there were more paper scraps here? I dug in the sand for almost an hour, I think it was. The sun was starting to rise and get hot on my back. I finally found one more scrap of paper, though.

     

Eleka shiela val

     Tlylli shiela valan

     Eleka shiela valand

     Resrnda shiela valandi

     Sihtn.

      © Words of Antiquity

     Bits and pieces were missing from both scraps, but I could piece it together. It was a spell and it was from the Qasalan scroll shop, Words of Antiquity; I had been right.

     “You’re a weird little bug,” I said to the Scriblet.

     He simply flew back to the pond, landing with the same rock-fall descent, and sat by his little arrow once more. I sighed.

     “Fine, I’ll go for a swim.”

     I held the parchment pieces gingerly in my mouth and stuck a cautious paw into the water. It didn’t feel too cold, just comfortably cool. Setting my resolve, I bounded in quickly so I wouldn’t lose my nerve.

     Turns out, there was no need. It was very comfortable in the water. I returned to the surface and opened my eyes, shaking my head and scattering droplets.

     “Happy now?” I asked the bug. He pointed at the arrow again.

     “I’m in the water, nothing’s happening,” I pouted, my words coming out muffled due to the fact that I was still holding the pieces of the spell. He pointed at the arrow. Big surprise.

     I sighed again and went back under, squinting my eyes open just a crack. I hated having water in my eyes.

     And ended up seeing a heck of a lot of water as I widened my eyes in amazement. My jaw almost dropped the scroll pieces, but I managed to control that. Just barely. The pool looked like it went 20 feet down, and at the bottom, a glistening, marble-white city lay. I had a sudden urge to swim down there and explore, but I knew my breath wouldn’t hold if I wanted to do more than touch the marble. I came back up to face the Scriblet.

     This time, I spat out the scroll before speaking. “There’s a city down there!” I half shouted. “Or at least, a big house, maybe of marble, but I can’t hold my breath that long - ”

     The Scriblet pointed to the scroll I had spat out.

     “That? That can make me - breathe underwater?”

     Point.

     “I’ll take that as a yes. I just have to piece it together.”

     I carefully scrutinized the pieces, and came to a simple conclusion. The one I found first was the beginning, and the one with the copyright was the bottom. The first word, that was lost somewhere, was probably that eleka word again, and then with an added s to make shiela. On the second page, it was probably valandi all times were letters were missing. I thought carefully in my head to form the spell as a whole.

     

Eleka shiela valandi

     Isindia shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Calririum shiela valandi

     Yslandir

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Tlylli shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Resrnda shiela valandi

     Sihtn.

     “That seems right,” I muttered to myself. “The pages fit together so I know there’s not a middle piece missing, there’s not more to it because the top and bottom are cleanly cut…”

     The Scriblet pointed to them again.

     “I’m getting on with it,” I said. “Okay, here goes. I don’t really know how to pronounce Qasalan, but I’ll try…

     

Eleka shiela valandi

     Isindia shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Calriru- Oops, no, Calriri, Calririum shiela valandi

     Yslandir

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Tlylli shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Resrnda shiela valandi

     Sihtn.”

     Nothing happened. I didn’t expect it to work, I fumbled the spell. “I’ll try again,”

I told the bug impatiently.

      “Eleka shiela valandi

     Isindia shiela valandi

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Calririum shiela valandi

     Yslandir

     Eleka shiela valandi

     Tlylli shiela valandi

      Eleka shiela valandi

     Resrnda shiela valandi

     Sihtn.”

     Perfect. And I felt it. A sort of bubbling was filling my stomach and my throat felt really constricted all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe -

     The Scriblet was pointing frantically at his arrow. I smiled at him and leapt into the pool, finally able to get a breath of air. Well, water. Or I guess it’s the oxygen I needed. Either way, my lungs were pumping again and I was comfortable. I swam down as fast as I could, eager to explore the strange underwater world. I felt almost like I was in Maraqua, except there were no other Neopets around and no seaweed.

     It was when I was swimming around the biggest, shiniest, marble-y-ist building of the lot that I felt my lungs and chest starting to constrict again. Not thinking, because in most cases this would have been an extremely stupid decision, I pushed open the great stone doors and darted inside.

     And promptly fell out of the water with a splash and landed on a cold marble floor.

     Spluttering, I looked behind me. There were the open doors - and there was a wall of water, a rippling blue-green wall, but that water wasn’t flooding into the hall. Let Mrs. Couper see that and then try to explain basic physics. I was standing on dry ground, other than the puddle I was creating. I shivered and turned away, looking into the building. At least I could breathe – maybe the spell wore off.

     It was all white marble, and the only thing of interest was a painting of the Fountain Faerie above a staircase leading down. Against my better judgment, I went down the stairs. They were long and winding, and on my way down I had time to think about the repercussions of every other thing I had done against my better judgment lately. Sneaking out of school, jail-breaking Triya - all had ended badly. Very badly. But who knows? I purposely never follow my better judgment so I’ll never prove to myself that it would be safer.

     The stairs got dirtier as I got lower, and at the base, the marble was nearly black. It left a gross residue on my paws as I walked through it. It was sticky like tar; I flinched with every step I took. There was a door at the end of the passage, plain and simple looking. Completely unremarkable. But all the same, I felt the need to take a deep breath and steel myself before opening it.

     And I’m glad I did. Boy, I am so glad I did, because otherwise I might have dropped right then and there in a dead faint. And that would have been really embarrassing.

     To be continued…

 
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» Skipping School: Part Two
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