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Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem - Part Four

by cheopspyramid


Maps Gone Astray:

"Oh..." Ailis cried, saddened. "I hope he's okay. He's risking his very life just to save ours. Can't we go back?"

      "No," Keahi replied. "We mustn't put our lives in jeopardy again. And the Mystic isn't just doing this for us; he's doing it for every islander who can be affected by the Jungly Jem's powers. If we go back and are captured, then the looters will be able to find the Jem with ease."

      Ailis sat down on a nearby rock and cupped her face inside her hands. She sighed loudly and looked up. She threw her shoulders back and looked into the clear, blue sky.

      We'd been traveling for a few minutes after the entire scenario had occurred. We had made it through the warehouse where the Island Mystic was. We gathered the maps and supplies and hurried out of the factory, nearly escaping the looters that were after the Jungly Jem as well. At the time, we took a short rest from running away from the factory. Our small haven was a small, circular clearing in the midst of the forest. To the left, you could see the shore of the ocean in the distance, and the smell of brine reached our senses. To the right was just the forest, nothing special about it, except for the endless amount of coconuts that flourished on top of the palm trees. Far off in the distance you could see the towering volcano that was Techo Mountain, the focal point of the island disappearances that occurred long ago.

      "We need to travel to the mountain," Keahi said, looking up at the volcano as well. "Geraptiku lies on the opposite side and it's far too dangerous to try to go around the volcano. We either need to go through it or over it."

      "Through it?" I blurted out. "How do you suppose we go through tunnels of magma with temperatures of over two thousand degrees?"

      "There are empty tunnels, Damian," Keahi said. "Yet it's like a labyrinth and many have found themselves lost within them. With that, I suggest we go over the volcano, just in case."

      The ground quivered as the volcano off in the distance began to violently shake. While the brutal quakes continued to last, I was forced to grab hold of a palm tree in order to stay in place. Ailis clutched the rock that she was sitting on, but Keahi simply stood still with his arms crossed. His fingers fiddled around on his arm and he began to sway slightly back and forth, apparently bored with the situation. Finally he yawned and began to scramble through his backpack. He pulled out a map and began to look at it, all the while muttering to himself. "Alright," he stated. "We need to get a move on. Geraptiku is many miles away and the looters won't be much farther behind us. It should be about a two day trip. You two jelly-legs ready to go?" He snickered to himself and began to walk off into the brush of the forest.

      Ailis and I quickly followed him, through the trees and bushes and into the deep and misty forest. A light mist clung to the jungle floor, but went up to our knees, and therefore making it hard to see what we were stepping on. The humid air was here as well, and my khaki trousers didn't cool my body in the slightest way. Ailis, who was wearing her usual puffy white shirt and black pants, wiped the beads of sweat off of her forehead and panted. On the other hand, Keahi continued walking happily down the trail, slashing his large machete through the tangled vines that hung in our way. Occasionally he would stick one of his fingers in his mouth and raise it high in the air to tell which direction the wind was blowing in. He logged in most of his findings along the way, which made it easier for me.

      At long last we stopped for a moment in a small clearing. The clearing was surrounded by all sorts of tropical fruits, ranging from Zeenanas to Tobbie Fruits. I climbed up a small tree that housed many bunches of Zeenanas and began to pick them one by one and threw them onto the ground for Ailis to collect in her basket. Keahi was looking at one of our maps once again and glancing cautiously around the clearing, apparently looking for something.

      "Damian, what can you spot from up there?" he barked up at me.

      "Um…" I muttered while looking around. "I see the volcano over to the right and the sea is way off in the distance." I turned my head once again and looked on the opposite side of the tree. "I don't see anything else."

      I turned my head back around, and suddenly, right in front of my face, was a large, green Mynci. It screeched and hooted at me, frightened. And within all the chaos, he threw a Zeenana at me and pegged me with it right between the eyes. I screamed and fell from the tree, landing straight on my back. "EEP! EEP!" the Mynci cried at me, and then it scrambled around the tree's branches and took off jumping from tree to tree, into the distance.

      "Made a new friend I see?" Ailis giggled. "At least he left you a gift." She grabbed the Zeenana and put it into her basket. As for myself, I got off of the ground and dusted myself off and then I resumed climbing up the trees once again. By the end of the hour we had collected many fruits that would last us for days, and thankfully I didn't have any more run-ins with Myncies. Over that period of time, Keahi had managed to draw out a plan of what we were going to do and what stops we needed to make before reaching Geraptiku.

      "Alright," Keahi stated. "After we cross through or over the volcano, there will be a small oasis with fresh water. From there, we need to collect quite a few bottles full of water and possibly a brisk swim." He smiled at Ailis's gleaming face and continued with his briefing. "Afterwards we can have a few more moments of travel before it becomes dark. We'll camp out near the city and then resume our mission in the morrow. Sounds like a plan?"

      Ailis and I both agreed happily. I believe all three of us were looking forward to the swim, as we needed to have some relaxation and fun. Sadly the oasis was far away and we needed to wait a few more hours before we would be able to enjoy ourselves. Nevertheless it encouraged us to walk faster and make better time.

      We began to walk once more, this time at a faster pace. Keahi merrily swung is blade from side to side, slashing the brush in front of us. As a path began to form, Keahi began to sing a hearty song that seemed vaguely familiar.

      "Dazzling waters, sparkling seas, all of which are home to thee. A thousand sights and homes alight, all of which are home to thee. Oh Maraqua, the homely land. Oh Maraqua, with pure white sand. My love gleams for the deep blue seas, of Maraqua: the place for thee."

      As his song finished, Ailis clapped vigorously and let out a howl of appreciation. "Wow! Is that Maraqua's anthem? I wish I knew Mystery Island's. It must be great being from another land. Especially one that was to have disappeared years ago."

      "Yeah," Keahi smiled. "It's not the anthem for Maraqua, but the area I lived in always had a vast history of music. That was one of the folk songs that the grand elder in our area used to sing frequently. But I miss my home deeply… I can't wait to go back home and tell them what I helped do! They'll be so proud."

      "So why exactly did you leave Maraqua?" I asked, curiously.

      "Well, I heard that all the mystics were in trouble here, and I needed to help out as much as I could," he replied.

      "But why would the fate of the mystics affect you?" Ailis questioned. "I mean, you are two lands apart."

      Keahi sighed and looked towards the mountain and turned back around to look at Ailis and me. He began to speak, but snapped his mouth shut, and then opened it once again. "I've never told someone this before, but I am a mystic as well. When Maraqua was destroyed, many people were in trouble and my parents, who were on Mystery Island, desperately tried to help the others. That's why I'm a mystic, while only mystics originate from Mystery Island: I was born there, even though our home was in Maraqua."

      Ailis stared at him, wide-eyed but lowered her head and turned back around. There was a long silence before we reached the volcano. Nobody truly spoke to each other; except for the occasional, "are we there yet?" But eventually a strong smell of sulfur reached our senses and sent a shocking impulse through our body, stinging our nostrils. Ailis coughed violently and sniffed while Keahi looked at his map and then back at the land. We were finally at Techo Mountain.

      I looked up at the majestic mountain that towered over us. Apparently someone had tried to climb it before, but was unsuccessful. Picks were lodged inside the mountain's walls and, horrifically, a pile of bones lay at the base. I looked through the yellow-white bones that lay scattered on the ground, all the while searching for some sort of supplies left behind by the Neopets that reached their early demise. Nothing was there, except for a slingshot and a silver ball, possibly a bullet.

      "Well, as you can see, we won't be going over the mountain. Looks like we're going through the tunnels," Keahi said reluctantly.

      I groaned and looked at Ailis who was complaining as well. It was much quicker to go over the mountain, but the bones showed that not all who attempted this feat were successful. I'd rather play it safe than take a risk that resolved in life or death. Keahi beckoned us to follow him into a small opening to the right of the mountain. Ailis and I followed him in warily, unsure what would be on the other side of the opening.

      Keahi flicked on his flashlight, illuminating the low chamber that we entered. Stalagmites and stalactites clasped to the roof and floor of the cavern, and a steady dripping sound echoed throughout the chamber. Suddenly, a swarm of Korbats flew from the darkness and out into the jungle, frightening Ailis and making her shriek.

      "This is the shortest route to the other side," Keahi's voice echoed. "It shouldn't be too long of a trip through here, but it may get a bit hot in a few moments. I hope you heavy sweaters put on some sort of deodorant or perfume!"

      Ailis giggled and flicked on her flashlight as well, revealing another large portion of the room. Following the trend, I turned mine on and followed Keahi down a narrow tunnel, deeper and deeper into the volcano's depths. As we sustained down the long, slender passageway, the heat grew more and more intense and the amount of natural light from outside decreased slowly. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and swiped it casually onto my knickers.

      The tunnel forked, but we took a left and followed the small stream of water that lay in the center of the tunnel's floor. It became hotter with each gentle step we took, and after a while it was far too much to bear. My face felt as if it were going to explode with the tremendous amount of invisible fire that licked past my cheeks. Ailis took her hand and waved it in front of her face and panted with her tongue hanging out of her parched mouth. I gasped for cool air, but none entered my straining lungs.

      At long, long last, the heat begun to wear off and cool air took over. Light glimmered from a minute point in the distance. We were almost free from the torturous labyrinth that entombed us from the fresh, cold air that we needed. I pushed myself onward, towards the simple light that seemed miles away.

      I saw Keahi and Ailis disappear behind a wall of brightness that stood in front of me. I took one step forward and a river of fresh air flowed into my lungs like a gigantic waterfall. When I entered the jungle once more, I spotted Ailis on the ground, laying sprawled-eagle on the earth. Keahi was resting on a tree and inhaled deeply and took short exhales, wanting to keep the air inside of him as long as possible.

      "The… waterfall…" Keahi panted, "is… over… there." He lifted a finger and pointed in the direction of a heavenly oasis with large palm trees surrounding a flowing waterfall and a dazzling pool of crystal clear water. I regained my strength and pushed myself towards the sanctuary. I ended up running quickly alongside Ailis, but either way, we made it to the oasis and jumped into the water with our clothes still on.

      A refreshing sense filled my body as I engulfed myself in the brisk water. I splashed Ailis with a huge wave of water and ducked as she returned the challenge. In a few moments, we were both having a fight with waves of water that flew everywhere. This was possibly the most fun I had ever had in the longest time; just Ailis and myself laughing joyfully and not caring about the worries in our lives.

      "Hey! Save some for me!" a voice shouted behind us.

      We turned around just in time to see Keahi in the air, spinning like a top and then coming down in a tremendous cannonball that sent a surge of water barreling towards us. Ailis shrieked giddily and dove underwater while I stood still, laughing, and took on the wave that Keahi emitted.

      As the day continued on, we began to experiment with different types of enjoyment ranging from Marco Polo to Jailbreak, but after a while we weren't sure what to do. An epiphany suddenly struck Ailis as she remembered what we did on our last trip to the Maraquan ruins: diving and collecting shells. Keahi seemed excited about this game and I was just as eager. We first checked the water to see if there were any shells at all, but of course, there were. Though happy, I was still a bit sad that I couldn't cheat this time.

      "Okay, ready?" Ailis shouted. "Catch as many as you can without going back up to the surface. One… two… three!"

      Once Ailis said "three" we all inhaled a vast amount of air and held it in our cheeks. Ailis was already underwater and Keahi and I dove downward at about the same time. Through the clear water, I could see the sandy bottom with the shells scattered across the floor. I took a big kick and thrust myself to the bottom. In this case, Keahi had a bit of an advantage because of his large tail and his experience in the water, but knowing Keahi, I assumed he would let off a bit. I collected one shell… then another… and then another. After a while, my arms were full with shells of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I gulped the air that was in my cheeks, but it wasn't enough to satisfy my straining lungs. I turned back around to face the bottom and collected two more shells, but I couldn't carry anymore and my lungs wouldn't allow me to stay underwater any further. I faced the shimmering surface of the water and kicked off from the sandy bottom. My lungs quivered and I felt my face straining from the immense pressure that I was feeling. My ears popped and I inhaled a large gulp of water. Almost to the surface. Almost to the surface. I gasped for air, but sadly, none reached my poor lungs. I coughed up some bubbles that rose quickly to the surface and popped; almost there. Ultimately I reached the surface and inhaled loudly and quickly and let the air rush back through my body. I threw my shells onto the surrounding land and waited for the others to come back up.

      Suddenly, I heard a loud splash and looked over to the center of the lake. There, I saw Ailis flying up out of the water and inhaling deeply; surely she had about as much shells as I did.

      "How--how many d-did you get?" she gasped.

      "I don't know quite yet. I just reached the surface."

      She swallowed deeply and then giggled. "You know what we both missed? Keahi is an animal from Maraqua… he doesn't need air." She began to laugh insanely and then she choked and gasped for more air.

      I chuckled as well; how could we have missed that?

      Keahi arose from the water about ten minutes later. When he came up, he showed no sign of breathlessness and it seemed as if he only came up because he ran out of room to hold the shells he collected. Ailis splashed him when he came up and laughed.

      "You little cheater," she giggled.

      "Hey!" Keahi shouted back with a chuckle. "I'm surprised you two didn't catch that earlier on. But I guess I win!"

      Either way, we had fun with that game, despite that we were oblivious to Keahi's scheme. We didn't bother counting the shells since we knew that Keahi had won, but instead we swam over to the waterfall and crawled into the small cove that was secluded behind the wall of falling water. We flopped like fish onto the cave floor and lay there for a while, not daring to speak.

      "Um… did you get the maps?" Keahi asked me.

      "I thought you got them? Didn't you place them by that big palm tree on the edge of the water?"

      "Err… yeah, you're right. Let's go check to see if they're there."

      We rushed out of the cove and headed towards the palm tree that stood by the gigantic lake, but nothing was there anymore. We looked around frantically to try and see where the maps could be, but when we looked beyond the cove, all we saw was a chubby Bruce waddling through the woods and a tall Kyrii alongside him, both of them holding our maps.

      "Oh my gosh, no!" Ailis screamed at the running looters.

      But it was too late… they were gone and we were stuck without our maps or the riddle that would help us find the Jungly Jem. The looters would most likely find the Jem and be able to control the mystics and all of their powers… there was nothing we could do.

      "Keahi?" Ailis asked, soothingly. "Are you okay?"

      He sighed and shook his head shamefully from side to side. "We need to rest… the trip will be even longer without the maps. Let's pitch our tents and go to sleep before we pass out from exhaustion."

      Later on that evening we set up our own separate tents that were evenly spaced from each other. Keahi's tent was next to mine and Ailis's was next to Keahi's. We bid our goodnights and crept back into our tents, not wanting to face the following day.

      I crawled into my sleeping bag and began to drift off into my deep slumber, but right when I was closing my eyes, I heard a loud ruffling sound and some muffled noises and then a twig snapping, but then it was all over and everything was silent. I shook off the ruckus and closed my eyes and drifted off into a numinous dream.

To be continued...

Author's Note: Tune in next week for a bit of a surprise!! Quite shocking, actually. Oh Maraqua... (And, no, that's not a clue as to what the surprise is.)

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Other Episodes

» Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem - Part One
» Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem: Part Two
» Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem - Part Three
» Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem - Part Five

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