|Fear. The be-all, end-all survival aid.
The natural sense of danger, the impulse to run, to escape the danger with your life. What forces your body to hold still so the enemy doesn't see you.
And yet fighting it is just as hard as obeying it.
For a Cybunny like me, this is all fine and good if you're with others you know or steer clear of the Haunted Woods. Any sign of trouble, just leave. Common sense, right?
But me...there's just something about finding treasure that makes my pulse race in a way that I want to run toward what's causing it, not away. I even have a map, foolishly won at an auction by paying what countless others thought was way too much for it.
So...what's stopping me?
You guessed it. Fear.
But if I could just process that fear, or even write it out, I just might have the courage to do this. I just hope this journal falls into the right paws.
9th of Sleeping, Y20
It's a difficult map to read. All treasure maps worth pursuing are. I've run into some troubles but, after looking at my maps, I felt the familiar coil of paralyzing fear unfurl deep in my belly.
The treasure, worth many more times what I paid for this map, is of course located in none other than...
Date: Jan 9th
The hidden, dark and probably lost temple of Lutari Island...
Many laughed at me for purchasing such map of an unknown stranger, though I did not.
I knew this island had to be cursed in one way or another because of it absence in Neopian literature.
You know, before going head-on in a new adventure, you should know what to expect of, at least, the final destination.
However, after spitting through dozens of Travel Brochures, I have yet to find anything about Lutari Island...
How comes that such a vast land in the middle of the ocean is so feared and abandoned by many Neopians?
Was it the locals? Perhaps they didn't want to deal with tourism in the first place.
Or maybe the Island has more to offer than meets the eye.
Maybe, something of value is hiding in the thick mist that surrounds the Island.
And if so... if this map beholds what I think it does... It won't be a secret for long...
After tightening my Cybunny Ocean Warrior Shoes, I took the first boat from Mystery Island.
A long journey at sea awaits!
13th of Sleeping Y20
I'm nearly out of food, exhausted, totally washed-out... Until suddenly, far at the horizon, land began to shape.
My heart was pounding. Not much longer before I can leave this old rotten boat.
Suddenly my heart stopped for a second. I could swear something was moving on the shore...
I pinched my eyes... and saw...
Date: Jan 9th
A figure. It was too far to make it out. But there was someone... or someTHING there. They darted off before I could get a good look at them, but at least the island was inhabited.
Of course, I didn't know if they were friendly or not.
I was so eager to get off the boat, I didn't think about that at all. Instead, I set my sail for the beach and dragged my ship aground. The last thing I would need is for the rough seas to strand me here.
I tied the boat to a large rock near the shore, and then pulled out my map. I first needed to find my bearings. But, at least with the ocean part of the journey complete, the easier part could begin!
16th of Sleeping, Y20.
After two days of being lost in the jungles of Lutari Island, I have finally located the temple!
It was not easy. I had to scavenge for food and water, as well as locate a shelter within the jungle. But that wasn't the worst part.
No, the entire time, I could hear something rattling and rustling behind me. Only once did I get a glimpse of a Lutari's tail over the last two days.
I don't know why they haven't made a move yet. But tomorrow, if all goes well, I will begin my exploration of the lost temple of Lutari Island...
Date: Jan 10th
17th of Sleeping, Y20
I'm standing in front of it. The Temple's entrance. I can tell it was once covered in vibrant colors. Reds have faded to rust, the yellow barely visible over the rock base of the columns, but the blue has remained in chipped chunks. I run my paw over it, catching the loosened flakes and bring them closer for inspection, when I hear a rustle behind me.
I drop my hand and turn around, my echoing, "Hello", reverberating through the jungle. That chill, the sense of fear, shudders up my spine. I stand my ground patting my belt for my spear. But no sounds remain. I exhale a long breath, thinking I need to pull myself together.
I dust off the remaining paint flakes from my paw and light a torch to enter. I scan the archway, search for symbols or words, anything to signify where I am entering. But I brave the dark corridor, so black that my torch is the only color I see.
I reach an antechamber. Feeling along the walls, I touch another torch mounted on the wall. I light it, walking the perimeter until I've lit all twelve torches in the room. My eyes are widening at the walls before me.
A beautiful mural, what looks like the history of Lutari Island lays before me. The colors, the images, the inlaid beads into the walls, I am awestruck. So much so that I hit a trap.
A tile beneath my feet gives way, tiny stones fall on my head, and the whole temple begins to shudder...
Date: Jan 16th
… Something in a strange language. Something ancient, that all my studies of linguistics, all the time pouring over books, has ill-prepared me for. I stare blankly, aware my mouth is hanging open.
The Lutari frowns, then understanding comes to his vivid gaze. Slowly, he lifts his shoulders in a clear shrug. The message cannot be mistaken.
What are you doing here? What do you want?
I shake my head helplessly, trying to demonstrate what I’ve lost with hapless gestures, even trying in my own language.
“My map… Where is the map?”
Recognition comes to the Lutari’s features, however, nothing prepared me for his slow smile of understanding. And suddenly, he’s speaking my language.
“The map. We should discuss that. It never should have fallen into your hands. It isn’t YOUR map. It belongs to the Lutaris of this island. It is the key to who we are, to our ancient past.”
I shake my head, dizzy and weary.
“It’s mine! I paid for it! I need to know where it leads!”
The Lutari smirks slowly.
“Where it leads? That, I can show you…”
Date: Jan 17th
"...but I can't guarantee you'll like the answer."
Fear. It really is the be-all, end-all survival aid. I can’t deny the tremor that ran up my spine in that moment.
But I could never pass up a hook like that.
22nd of Sleeping, Y20.
I spend another day in the hospital before I'm cleared to leave. My new guide, I learn, is named Talus, and I'm still not sure whether I trust him.
He was willing enough to lead me back to the temple. He even helped me resupply with native fruits, and corded ropes he said we'll need. But the look in his eye... sometimes, I catch him smirking at nothing in particular. Like this is all a private joke at my expense.
And all Lutaris have broad, bushy tails - but his silhouette in the corner of my eye reminds me of the figure that haunted my earlier entries.
We’ve finally reached our destination after a tiring day’s travel. Admittedly, it was quicker with Talus’s guidance. The temple’s massive shape looms before us, and I quietly resolve to keep on my toes. I'm not falling for any traps this time… old or new.
23rd of Sleeping, Y20.
The initial stage of the exploration went well. I knew to look for the net trap, but Talus pointed out several more that I might have missed in those dim, yawning corridors. He cheerfully explained each one as we passed, and after hearing about the way the ceiling was rigged to collapse, or spike-laden walls that would thrust forward and crush the trespasser between them… I was lucky I’d stumbled into a mere net.
There was a reason for that, though. The Lutari had given me a very pointed glance when he said that it was to handle the casual adventurer. The smarter ones, he claimed, needed a little more deterrent.
And when I’d asked why that was – I think Talus finally came clean with me. The flickering shadows of our torches lent his face a grim cast.
“I don’t trust you, Cybunny. It’s nothing personal – I don’t trust any of your type. Few of us do. The last time an adventurer made it this far into our temple, they stole something very precious to us.”
My heart twinged. I had wanted adventure, yes but I had craved treasure most of all. If I had made it this far on my own, if I had seen something bright and beautiful, beckoning treasure left on a plinth? I would have snatched it. I would have earned Talus’s scorn twice over, and given nary a thought to anything but my triumph.
Even now, a tiny, covetous part of me wondered what had been stolen. Gold? Jewels? Something ancient and mysterious, carved from magic and dark stone?
So I said nothing, and he continued.
“The storm over Lutari Island? You must have braved it to get this far. We live under fear of an endless cyclone, day in and day out. Villages have been wiped away. Tourism has dried to a trickle. All we get are your kind, now… seeking fame and fortune, heedless to those who call this island home.”
He scoffed. “That storm has raged ever since that adventurer stole our idol. Our idol and our map…”
Date: Jan 17th
I paused before responding, sensing that the theft of the idol was a cultural taboo that Talus painstakingly revealed. In an attempt to downplay my otherness as an outsider, I whimpered out, “Well, we do have the map now…”
Talus’ smirk grew wider as he coldly answered, “Yes, we do. Though my distrust of outsiders is transparent, I have to thank you for returning it to our Island, no matter what your intentions were.” He chuckled before he continued, “And now I must ask you for your help. I saved you from this temple, now you must help me save my Lutari brethren.”
Oh Fyora, that sure caught me off guard. What a tall request, to save an entire population! But how? There’s that fear rushing in again, jolting every synapse and causing me to almost impulsively flee. Almost. Talus had a fair point; he did save my life. I owed it to him, and to the Lutaris. I happily responded, “Absolutely. What would you like me to do?”
Talus’ smirk faded to a grimace. “This next room coming up is the idol’s shrine. There’s a large, defensive drop upon entering the room. Survivable to drop down by paw, claw, or hoof, yes, but easier to scale with these,” as he swung the corded ropes. “This room was unperturbed for ages until that thief got in. After the thief stole the idol from its pedestal, they tried to escape in the final corridor to make a clean getaway, but…” he trailed off.
“But?” I asked coyly.
“Well, that final corridor is the only way to exit the Temple due to the drop. It’s narrow and filled with wooden platforms hedged between the walls. They’re separated by nothing… just gaps that fall into a void. No Lutari can jump between them, certainly… and I don’t think the thief was able to, either. The idol is stuck on one of the middle platforms, irreverently tossed there as they were making an escape… Though I can’t say what became of the thief.”
I can’t help it- part of my guiltily perks up at the sound of the idol still being somewhere in the Temple. “So we can retrieve it?” I ask.
“Yes. And I need your help. Come with me into the shrine room,” Talus announced as he brazenly moved forward through the passage and towards a cracked golden door.
I follow behind him, avoiding more tiles and trapdoors as he grunts and points at them and then evades. We reach the large, golden door and with both of our strength, we’re able to pry the door open from its cracked position and sneak inside. The shrine in the Temple has an illustrious, ancient glory to it. It is octagon-shaped, with dusty beaded banners streaming from the raised ceiling. Even though the coat of dust, the brilliance of the reds, greens and yellows shine through. I’m in absolute awe before I even notice the golden pedestal in the middle of the room. Talus ties the corded ropes together and anchors them to the golden door’s knocker. With a decisive knot and a toss, he grabs on and lowers himself down the drop off and at the bottom, beckons me to do the same. I’m apprehensive, but this is the feeling in which I feel most in my element. I take one quick breathe and I scale down the wall with my powerful feet pushing, dropping, and stopping me as I make my way down.
Talus walked toward the shrine and said aloud, “Here- here, we must return the idol to. And there-,” he points to a small round ident on the back wall, his voice echoing in the room, “is the exit to the final corridor. Come, it is time.”
Him and I crouch and lower ourselves through the opening and before us is the long, narrow passage he described. Darkness and a cold breeze emanate from the gaps between the platforms, but Talus is focused on one thing: a golden Lutari head adorned with silver feathers and bronze beads lays unceremoniously on the fourth platform. Talus softly says, “This is where I need you. The jumps required are far too great for myself or any other Lutari to make… but should be feasible for a Cybunny such as yourself.”
It feels like there’s a knot in my stomach, but I know he’s right. I can easily clear those jumps and make it to the idol… as long as I focus. I can’t even think of the fall that would happen if…. No, I’m not even allowing the thought to enter my mind. I jump in place for a warm up, stretch my legs and without thinking, find myself leaping onto the first platform about ten body lengths away.
In the air, I can feel the emptiness beneath my feet, but I stay focused on my land. I make it. Talus lets out a cheer from behind me, but I barely register it. The platform sways a little under my weight, so I decide to get going. I jump to the second, and then the third- and pause. The fourth platform and the idol are at least thirteen body lengths away. I take another deep breath, give myself an extra step in my running start, leap and land with just enough space to fall forward.
The idol up closer is even more illustrious. It’s the kind of find that would cement my position in treasure-seeker history and guarantee a lifetime of wealth… Now was my opportunity to make off with it. The hairs on my back stood up, because three more platforms ahead, I could see a ladder and daylight breaking from above. Behind me, though, was Talus… and the shrine where the idol belongs. I could have done it, I really could have, just continued on right there with the idol for myself, but would it be worth perpetuating the cyclone, the misfortune of the Lutaris, their safety? No… it wouldn’t. I nestle the idol beneath my left arm and torso and swiftly jump back to Talus waiting for me at the start of the corridor. He reaches and grabs my right paw to ensure my final landing and then extends his own for the idol. Silently, we walk back to the shrine and Talus positions the idol back on its pedestal. Immediately, the dust around the room vanishes in a dazzling spark of golden light and the Temple reappears in a refurbished glory.
“You’ve done a magnificent deed,” Talus says to me as he pats me on the back.
I think to myself, “Yeah… I have.”
Outside the Temple, the cyclone has slowed to a mild storm, and by the time we walk through the jungle and to shoreline, the sun is peaking through large, somber clouds.
Talus is walking me to my boat when he pauses and reflects, “It may have been an outsider who betrayed our trust, but it was an outsider who restored it.”
A genuine grin grows on my face and I reply, “Maybe one day I shall return not as an outsider, but as a friend.”
Talus’ smirk returns. “One day you shall.”
Date: Jan 19th