Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 196,421,491 Issue: 913 | 18th day of Gathering, Y22
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Zulu's Adventure of Bravery

by diabloartificial



     Last week we left our heroes deep in the hidden cave. Having made it past the Snowager, they learned that Galem Darkhand had trapped the missing Neopian and stolen the treasure...

      Chapter 7

     Hannah, Armin, Kanrik, and Zulu started down the narrow, icy path in front of them. A few slips and falls down the road, the group approached the dark opening at the end of the tunnel. With only the light of the lantern available to them, each step they took was very risky. The group brainstormed the safest way to travel in this area and explore the routes available to them. They decided that Kanrik would lead the group with the lantern. They tied a rope from Kanrik to Hannah and Armin to keep the trio from getting separated. It was agreed that Zulu would fly overhead and use his night vision contacts to help guide the rest of the group. As the leader of the group, Kanrik's task was to navigate the way across the opening to continue the search for the missing Neopian.

     Despite the lack of light in the open area, Zulu was able to spot a bridge ahead; unfortunately, it was made entirely of ice. There was a vast canyon below them and one false step could cost them their lives! Kanrik informed the group that the only way across the canyon on foot was the ice bridge. The group looked at Kanrik and shook their heads.

     After a brief discussion of the dangers ahead, the group decided that only one of them should cross the bridge alone to ensure that it is safe enough to pass. Unsurprisingly, Zulu was nominated for this job. Zulu took a few steps forward and prepared himself. After a deep breath, he took a few more small steps forward, hoping that the bridge wouldn't collapse as he crossed it. The group watched in awe as Zulu walked across the bridge, and after a few nerve-wracking moments, he had made it to the other side!

     After Zulu’s successful crossing, everyone felt more comfortable walking over the bridge. Kanrik, Hannah, and Armin crossed the bridge in a single file line, focusing on the path ahead of them and not the drop below. In an effort to distribute their weight, they left as much space between them as the rope would allow. Only a tense minute later and everyone had made it across. After a sigh of relief and a quick celebration, the group continued onwards. Only a few steps forward and they were quickly brought back to reality. A large piece of ice fell from the ceiling, barely missing Hannah and Armin.

     Everyone was on-edge and paying better attention to their surroundings. If one piece of ice had fallen, many more could easily follow. The group continued walking forward until they saw a chasm in the distance. After reaching the trench, Kanrik, Hannah, and Armin took turns descending into the cave while Zulu held the rope. As usual, Kanrik went first and warned the group that the ground below was very slippery.

     Once all of them were on the ground, Zulu came down with the rope and the journey continued. It didn't take long before a glimmer of hope emerged. Kanrik stepped on something while walking in the cave, after checking the floor, he picked up a compass. The group were clearly getting closer to the Neopian and this compass must have been his! After finding the compass the group was even more motivated to continue. They progressed through the cave and came upon what they hoped would be their final challenge: an even smaller tunnel. With every step further forward the walls became tighter around them. It wasn't long before they would need to get on their knees one by one to proceed any further.

     The tunnel was extremely narrow and the ground was ice cold. The worst part of this scenario was that neither Kanrik, Hannah, Armin or Zulu knew how long this tunnel was, whether it turned in any direction, or if all of them could even fit through the tunnel. The group debated the most important question: Who would go first? Their choice was a little different from the norm. Kanrik was the largest in the group and so he would go last. Zulu would go first as he was the smallest and would easily fit through. If the tunnel wasn’t big enough for Kanrik, the team would have to leave him behind.

     It was no secret that Zulu, Hannah, and Armin preferred it when Kanrik was the brave frontrunner. Kanrik was the most courageous of the group and typically led the pack when taking on a new challenge. However, it was Zulu’s turn to step up and so he adjusted his goggles, straightened his helmet and took a long, deep breath.

     Chapter 8

     Zulu walked up to the tunnel entrance and got down on his knees. He took one last look back at his friends and began to crawl forward. The tunnel was awfully cold and damp, which quickly caused Zulu to feel very uncomfortable. His hands and knees were getting numb while he continued to look forward in desperation for some sign of the end. Thankfully, a few moments later he rounded a bend and found his glimmer of hope. There was some light ahead, and Zulu thought this was likely coming from an opening at the end of the tunnel.

     Excited about the light at the end of this narrow passage, Zulu began to move faster towards the opening. It wasn’t long before he reached the open air. After exiting the tunnel, he turned back and attempted to shout to his friends. His first attempt to communicate with them was unsuccessful, so he took another deep breath and shouted down the tunnel. This time Zulu was as loud as possible, hoping that his voice might echo through to the other side. Thankfully his calls were heard, but he could not understand the muffled sounds being shouted back to him.

     A few moments later, Zulu heard someone approaching him through the tunnel. Armin had made his way through the narrow crevice and quickly joined Zulu in the opening. Shortly after Armin came Hannah, who was barely able to squeeze around the last bend. The only person left to navigate the tunnel was Kanrik. Zulu called back through the passageway, hoping to hear something in return from the other side of the tunnel. Time went on and there was no sign of Kanrik…What had happened? Was he stuck?

     The group waited and hoped that Kanrik would emerge, but he did not. Both Hannah and Armin joined in with Zulu, all three of them shouting for Kanrik in unison. They did not hear anything coming through the tunnel, but they hoped Kanrik was at least able to hear that they had made it safely to the other side. The group looked at each other and decided that someone had to go back through the tunnel to locate Kanrik. Armin volunteered for the job and quickly headed back towards the other side. Hannah and Zulu watched eagerly. As Armin progressed back through the tunnel, he started to hear Kanrik struggling. It was clear that Kanrik was stuck and needed some help.

     Armin brainstormed the best methods for helping Kanrik out of the tunnel. He decided that he would need to pull Kanrik through the tunnel, but that he couldn’t do it alone. How was he going to pull him out without the help of Hannah and Zulu? There wasn’t room for them all in the tunnel. After a little bit of thinking, Armin had an idea. He pulled out his climbing rope from his backpack and handed it to Kanrik. He explained the plan to Kanrik and turned back towards Hannah and Zulu.

     After reaching them, Armin handed Hannah and Zulu the rope and explained that they needed to pull Kanrik through the tunnel together. Armin climbed back into the tunnel to pull the rope from inside and shouted to Kanrik that they were ready. The group counted down from 3 and pulled with all their might. It took a few tries, but eventually, they could hear Kanrik grumbling as he squeezed his way through the passage. Soon, Armin began to see Kanrik’s shadowy figure in the distance. Once Kanrik had made it around the final bend Armin backed out of the tunnel. Kanrik could see the others, and exhaled to become as slim as possible for the final push. The group gave it their all, and thankfully after some teamwork, Kanrik was out of the tunnel.

     Kanrik stretched and thanked the others for helping him out of such a tight spot. Everyone chuckled, relieved that they were all together and in good spirits. Regrouped and situated, the team progressed forward. The cavern they had entered was dimly lit, allowing the group to see how vast the underground chamber was. It appeared that the entire chamber was made of ice, which sparked with the faint sunlight as the group slowly walked to the center. As Kanrik neared the center of the cavern he heard muffled, indistinct noises that seemed to be coming from a crevice near the far wall.

     Kanrik motioned for the rest of the group to be quiet and follow him. Fearful that there might be another monster, they crept towards the sounds. After getting past a massive shard of ice, Kanrik was able to see a shadowy figure moving in the narrow opening. Kanrik gripped his thief's dagger, ready for whatever might lie ahead, and leapt into the chamber with the lantern held out in front of him...

To be continued…

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