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Treasure of the Caves: Part Seven

by ssjelitegirl


Kat's ears moved back and forth. "Well, am I the only one thinking that the heart and the skull refer to life and death?"

     "Let's stick to that theory for a while, shall we?" Saura looked at the squares with his eyes narrowing. "In that case the two lines would really be equalization marks and the sun really is the sun, seeing that the sun practically is the life, am I right?"

     "That doesn't explain the two circles between the lines and the heart," Ice said, "but you could be right. What about the arch?"

     "The door," Shad said firmly. "The only reason for this riddle here is to tell us how to open that other door, so that word can be the only possible word to end the sentence."

     "In that case the arrow simply connects the skull, let's say death, to that door," Ice remarked. "Reassuring. That only leaves the two rings."

     Tsuki was still quietly looking at the riddle. "Sun equals blank something life… sun is the source of life! The circles are supposed to be a well. That would translate the riddle into 'Sun is the source of life, death opens the door.'"

     "How does that help us?" Shad asked with a frown. "Does that mean that only ghosts are able to pass that door?"

     "Let me think," the Shoyru muttered. "I expected something like that, it's not as hard as it seems, even if a bit tricky. The book I found back in the Little Nippers Shop was useful indeed. It had some smaller pieces of old Daggers's biography. It turned out that he liked to write riddles as a hobby when he was young and he wasn't very good at it, because all his riddles had the same basics that quickly led to the solution once you knew the point. He liked comparisons. With some elementary logic his puzzles are easy."

     "You mean that we need to compare the two halves of the riddle?" Ice asked. Her stepbrother nodded and the Ixi looked up at the door again.

     "Life and death," she said. "Sun in one half… so death is in some way connected to the moon?"

     "Moonlight opens the door," Shad declared.

     "That's what I thought, but the first part makes the riddle tricky," Tsuki nodded. "Mentioning of the sun has to have a meaning. I think I know what the meaning is, too, but first we need to get some sunlight in here."

     Saura looked up. "Hey, there's a trapdoor of some sort! Bet there's a lever around here too."

     "He just couldn't mention that in the puzzle, could he?" Shad grumbled, lurking around the room and sniffing it frantically. "It could be anywhere… looking for treasures is one thing but looking for a treasure that isn't supposed to be found is completely another."

     Kat raised her head. "Then why did he leave the riddle?"

     The room was quiet for a short while.

     "Maybe he didn't," Ice slowly said. "Maybe there was someone else. Who knows?"

     "All the answers should be behind that door, so keep searching," Tsuki suggested and hit the two rings around his paws together. They rang again with that soft, long-lasting sound that echoed back in the room. Saura's ears twitched. He had great hearing and the room was smooth enough to let him hear some slight echo of an echo in a farther corner.

     "Try over there," he suggested, putting Ace down in the middle of the room and going to take a closer look. Shad was there the next second, sniffing the walls and then letting out an excited bark.

     "Here it is!" He jammed his nose against the wall, pushing in a small switch. The trapdoor above their heads opened and a ray of light slipped into the room. Everyone blinked. After Ace's soft flames the sunlight was piercing. The ray shone on the floor but seemed to have no effect whatsoever.

     "Well?" Kat asked, looking at Tsuki who was now searching under the ring around his paw. Finally he took something out and went to the beam.

     "Good thing I thought of that," he remarked, crouched down and put a jagged piece of silver into the ray. "I took that from the armor of that skeleton back in the hall. You can never be too careful. Now I also know what the riddle means. Sunlight must be converted into moonlight in order to open the door, and that can be done with silver. See?" He moved the piece, directing the beam onto the door. There was a quiet "click" and the door moved a bit. Tsuki stood up.

     "That didn't make much sense," Kat said, carefully sneaking to the door.

     "Gold represents the sun and silver represents the moon, nothing else to come up with here," the Shoyru replied. "That was the only hard part in this riddle. Let's go and see what Threelegs meant when he said that even if we find the treasure, we can't take anything away."

     Saura picked his petpet up again. Shad trotted closer. Ice gave a last glance towards the first door to make sure it wasn't planning to close, then they gathered behind the second door and Kat pushed it open.

     There was no room behind the second door. It was more of a cave, with stalagmites and stalactites poking out of the ceiling and floor. The place was filled with soft light emerging from high above, and some eerie bluish glow added to that. It came from the biggest pile of treasure the pets had ever seen. Most of the cave's floor was covered with piles of dubloons, golden cups and goblets, thousands of bracelets, necklaces and rings, jewels and small fragments of some indefinable objects that had been made of something valuable enough. But everything was glowing and seemed a bit… ghostly.

     "Dontcha dare to touch me treasure, ye landlubbers!" someone's voice suddenly echoed through the cave. "It be mine, all mine!"

     The pets blinked and looked around, trying to track down the owner of the voice. Ace the Wuzzle gave a loud fierce hiss.

     "Well, laddies?" Now the pets could see who had talked to them. A Ghost Quiggle floated nearer over the piles of glowing treasure. He seemed very old, his face was scarred and wrinkled, and at the moment pretty curious. "Ye don't seem very hungry for me treasure?"

     "Darkstar Daggers, I presume?" Tsuki asked with a frown. The Quiggle nodded.

     "That be me. Apparently ye laddies aren't as lilly-livered as one would guess at first sight. How did ye manage to get past me traps?"

     "You know, some knowledge and some plain old luck," Ice grunted. "What are you doing down here?"

     "Guarding me treasure," Daggers replied, raising a brow. "What do ye think? Ye're the first adventurers who have ever gotten this far though."

     "Look guys!" Shad shouted. He was standing on top of the golden pile and his paws had partly sunk through it. "That's what Threelegs meant! This treasure can't be taken away as it's not real! This is ghost treasure!"

     The Quiggle grinned. "Neat, aye?"

     The Neopets spread out in the cave, carefully poking and examining the items and coins. Shad was right. Even though the treasure could be touched, it was very light and semi-transparent: a mere echo of an old treasure.

     "How is this possible?" Kat asked the old pirate who gave her a proud grin.

     "This here is a memory," he replied. "A memory of what once was the greatest treasure of all times. The real treasure is long spent. Most of it went down with me ship, I suppose that fat old king of Maraqua found it and used it to rebuild his kingdom. The rest me spent on Krawk Island and some of it still definitely lays at the bottom of the ocean. But this here be the most valuable part - the memory of the old treasure as it once was, the greatest treasure in Neopia. And I be guarding it."

     "Only a memory?" Shad asked with a disappointed frown. "What's the point in guarding a mere memory?"

     Ice glanced at him. "Memories are fragile," she said quietly, "and so very important… but you wouldn't know, not unless you've lost them." Usually Ice didn't care about her case of amnesia much but naturally she would've liked to have her past back.

     "You must be quite a powerful mage," Saura remarked to the Quiggle who nodded.

     "Aye, well, just a few tricks I learned on me trips to Faerieland. Now tell me, how did ye get past the shadow and the blocks?"

     It took the pets quite some time to tell old Daggers the story and when they finished, he nodded with an amazed look on his face. "Apparently I need to start coming up with better guards as the young pets be growing up much smarter and more cunning than they used to be, aye."

     "I understand the shadow and the blocks but there are some small things I'd like to have cleared up," Tsuki said. "Why did you leave the track to this cave if you didn't want the treasure to be found?"

     "Because me needed to get the treasure here and it took a while," the pirate answered. "Me spent years gathering all the pieces of me memories together, goblet by goblet, bracelet by bracelet, and taking them all down here. It was hard work, yarr, but it be done for a while now and I be happy now, aye." The look on his face turned absent as he sat there, gazing at his wonderful everlasting memory with his old red eyes. The pets looked at him.

     "And you carved the message into the door after you had finished collecting the treasure," Saura said. "Why didn't you just block the way out?"

     "Impossible," Daggers replied. "The magnets cannot be removed. Besides, thar's still a chance that I may want to go out into the caves every now and then, scaring lil' landlubbers who don't feel like leaving the cave after getting a Krawk." He chuckled.

     The pets sat there, gazing at the gigantic pile of long lost items. They were all buried in their own thoughts, pondering about important things in life and all its values… Finally Shad the impatient one looked up towards the ceiling and asked:

     "Is there a way out of here? A way that wouldn't be bordered by a bunch of shadows and huge stone blocks?"

     Now the old Quiggle really grinned very widely. "Ye have no idea where exactly this cave is, aye?"

     "We're planning to find out," Kat replied, also looking up towards the sources of soft light. Daggers glanced at him.

     "Well, ye seem like a strong Uni, ye'd be able to carry yer siblings out of here. But yer way back home won't be easy, I can tell ye that. So far ye only had to mess with the scallywags of Krawk Island but yer way home brings ye through lands far worse."

     "Makes no difference… let's go," Kat said, flapping her wings. Saura picked his petpet up, Shad pranced closer and Ice looked around with hesitation.

     "Can I… at least have a memory?" she suddenly asked.

     Daggers glanced at her with surprise, then burst into laughter. It was a friendly laughter, however. "Me like ye, young Ixi. Ye can have one item from this pile. Only one. And don't be greedy. It has no value in Neopia out there. But they all have great value for me."

     "I understand that," Ice replied and looked around. Then she bowed her head down and picked up something small and shiny. It was an old necklace, nothing more than a tiny gem on a thin chain but it had the same ghostly aura as the rest of the treasure. The Ixi slid her head into the chain and the gem ended up on her golden collar all Ixi have around their necks. It remained there, making the whole collar glow very vaguely. Ice turned around, nodding at the others. "It's for Cryo. He wanted us to bring him something and I'll give it to him when we get home. I'm ready to go."

     Kat spread out her wings. "You're first then. You won't run away as soon as you're out of here. Hold on." Once her stepsister was on her back, she dashed up in the air, whizzed higher and higher past the stalactites dodging the sharp edges and spikes pointing out of the rock and there it was, a hole in the ceiling - not big but enough for an Ixi to climb through. The Uni remained floating below it.

     "Go on, you've been through worse," she encouraged.

     "Another word outta you…" her sister hissed, struggling through the hole. "Bleh, it's cold up here! And windy… at least there are some bushes." She was silent for a moment, pulling her hind hooves through and suddenly let out an amazed gasp. Kat was already on her way down.

     "Thank you, Daggers," she said to the old pirate after her siblings were all outside and waiting for her.

     "Fer what?" the Quiggle asked back. "Thank ye for understanding me. And good luck, lassie. Ye'll need it."

     "How are you planning to get through?" Shad asked, poking his dark muzzle down through the hole. He had had a lot of trouble pressing himself through but the size of a Lupe is nothing compared to the size of a Uni.

     "I'm planning to give old Daggers some more fresh air," Kat replied grimly, examining the hole. "Here goes…" She dashed forward and crashed through the hole, landing on the ground a few yards away. The Uni got up, shaking her head and trying to remain on four feet.

     "Now where did we end up?" she asked.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Treasure of the Caves: Part One
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Two
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Three
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Four
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Five
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Six
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Eight

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