White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 126,483,444 Issue: 255 | 1st day of Gathering, Y8
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The Peophin Incident: Part Six

by kyrinn


Chaelian woke at just about the time the sun rose. The stinging in his side had weakened to a dull throb, and the Xweetok mentally reflected on his appreciation for healing potions.

     Glancing around the cave with his sharp green eyes, Chaelian saw that Teirryn and his brother Kaerhas were both still asleep. The cave entrance showed the sun lighting up the barren Tyrannian landscape, but surprisingly little light penetrated the shadows of the cave. Not even the light dares to enter this place, Chaelian thought grimly. No wonder the Lupes didn't come in after us.

     Making his way over the rocky ground, the green Xweetok poked his companions until they were awake. Kaerhas and Teirryn were soon roused from slumber, and the group dug through the packs in search of breakfast.

     "We're running out of food," Kaerhas mumbled through a full mouth. Last night's battle had left the Bori ravenous.

     "No matter. We're nearing the end of our little treasure hunt, one way or another," Teirryn responded, gulping from his water bottle. "We either succeed, or we die trying."

     "I applaud your optimism," Chaelian responded, starting to pack up and get ready for the day's adventures. "I, for one, refuse to die here, so we'd better succeed."

     "Okay, so dying isn't an option," Teirryn said. "That means the only choice we have is to find the treasure."

     "I'm ready." Kaerhas crammed the last of his bread into his mouth, nearly choking himself.

     After stuffing their meager possessions into their bags, the three companions broke camp and started descending further into the cavern, Teirryn leading the way. To all appearances, it was a perfectly normal cave. True, the shadows seemed to mass together more thickly than normal, and a strangely chill wind blew around the trio, but there was nothing that threatening or terrifying yet.

     "A torch, do you think?" Kaerhas whispered after ten minutes. It was as dark as night. Teirryn nodded, even though the others couldn't see him. There was the sound of the Peophin striking flint, and a torch crackled and flickered into life. It cast a small ring of light around the group, but the fire wasn't enough to penetrate the darkness before them.

     "It shouldn't be this dark," Chaelian muttered. "I've got pretty good night vision, and I still can't see a thing!"

     "It's probably magic," Teirryn responded. "Hang on..."

     "What is it?" Kaerhas asked, bounding forward to see. He was held back by Teirryn, who waved the torch around, lighting up the walls of the cave. The cavern had gotten quite narrow without them realizing.

     "See those marks on the walls?" Teirryn gestured to the stone. "It's a trap."

     Chaelian didn't see anything out of the ordinary, and he voiced his thoughts. "How do we get past a trap we can't even see?"

     "I can see it. And I think... yes, it has to be reset after it's sprung. Hang on." Teirryn passed the torch and his pack to Kaerhas. The Peophin slipped into the stream, which had widened so that it hugged one side of the cavern wall while leaving only a very narrow walkway on the other. Ducking beneath the surface, Teirryn found that it had also deepened.

     "Ahhh, that feels good," Teirryn said as he pulled his head of the water, shaking droplets from his thick red mane. "I haven't had a chance to swim in weeks."

     "Enjoyed your dip?" Chaelian asked sarcastically. Teirryn grinned.

     "Stand back," the Tyrannian Peophin warned. Picking up a loose rock from the bottom of the stream, he lobbed it at the narrow stone strip that was the only place to walk, and quickly ducked below the water. A sibilant hissing sounded overhead, the noise distorted by the water, followed by several thuds. Teirryn poked his head up again and glanced at both walls. Cleverly concealed holes in the trap wall had opened to send arrows flying across the cave. The arrows were now embedded deeply in the stone of the opposite wall.

     "Go!" Teirryn called to his companions, who were considerably startled at the abruptness of the trap. Kaerhas and Chaelian hurriedly crossed the trapped part of the cave. Teirryn swam along the course of the stream, which was now more like a river due to its width and depth, keeping alongside his companions.

     And so it went on: Teirryn led his friends around the numerous traps, teaching the two how to recognize and disarm them as they went. Soon, Kaerhas and Chaelian were quite adept at dodging them.

     "This place is worse than Geraptiku," Chaelian muttered as he evaded a spiked wall. The traps were getting more and more complex, but still the companions had managed to get by with only minor scrapes and bruises.

     "I worry about how we're going to get back," the Xweetok said, waiting for Kaerhas to catch up. "I don't want to try getting past these again. How long can our luck hold out?"

     "We'll face that problem when we get to it," Teirryn replied cheerfully. "At least we know where all the traps are now."

     "Yeah, you never know. The ghosts might get us first." Kaerhas skipped forward happily.

     "Thank you for setting my mind at ease," Chaelian responded dryly. "If there are any ghosts."

     "Someone had to reset those traps," Teirryn pointed out.

     The truth of Teirryn's statement struck them, and they continued on in silence, each with their own thoughts. However, a few minutes later, Kaerhas' ears perked up.

     "Do you guys hear that?"

     Teirryn listened. There did seem to be a sound, different from the murmur of the river. It was a dull roaring, rushing noise. It sounded quite distant.

     "I hear it," Chaelian said. "What is it?"

     "I'll go ahead to look," Teirryn offered, diving underwater and speeding away. As he swam, he pondered. The noise was familiar, but he hadn't heard it in a long time. Was it a living being, or some natural feature? Another trap, perhaps? Magic? Teirryn journeyed down the middle of the river automatically. Swimming was second nature to him. A flick of his powerful tail propelled him forward easily. Too easily.

     Just in time, Teirryn saw his danger. A waterfall! he realized. That's what the sound is, and that's why the current's become so strong! Lifting his head above the surface, the Peophin noticed that the roaring sound was louder than ever. Teirryn turned and started swimming back the way he had come, fighting the current which threatened to pull him back.

     "Kaerhas! Chaelian!" Teirryn risked shouting, and got a mouthful of water for his trouble. His companions must have heard him, though, for within moments, they came running into view. Chaelian pulled a rope from his bag and tossed one end to Teirryn. Grabbing the rope between his strong teeth, Teirryn put all his remaining strength into swimming upstream while Chaelian and Kaerhas attempted to pull him out.

     Finally, with the help of the combined strength of Kaerhas and Chaelian, Teirryn won against the river and pulled himself onto the rocky bank, collapsing with a sigh.

     "A waterfall. Of course, I should have known," the Peophin muttered, accepting the towel Kaerhas found in the ever-useful supply packs. "That was dumb of me."

     "Well, you got out of it alive, so be thankful," Chaelian responded. Kaerhas, in the meantime, had gone a bit further down the cave to take a look at the waterfall. The Bori soon came trotting back, looking impressed.

     "Good thing you didn't go down that," Kaerhas called as he stopped in front of the other two. "There wouldn't have been much of you left if you did. That's the biggest waterfall I've ever seen in my life, and it has sharp rocks at the bottom of it too."

     "Well, that's good to know," Teirryn said with a toss of his mane. "Thanks for putting the image of me splattered over sharp rocks at the bottom of a waterfall in my head."

     "Actually, it would be more like you were stabbed," Kaerhas corrected. Teirryn shook his head.

     "Enough of that. Is there any way to get down?"

     "Yeah, the side of the cliff is really rugged and craggy. I think it would be possible to climb down."

     "Climb?" Teirryn repeated incredulously. "Have you ever seen a Peophin climbing down a near vertical wall? In fact, can you even imagine it?"

     Chaelian and Kaerhas had to admit they couldn't. Soon however, the brothers devised a plan. They would tie a rope around Teirryn and lower him down to an outcropping of rock that would support his weight. Then they would climb down themselves and repeat the process until they were at the bottom. Teirryn wasn't altogether too enthusiastic about this plan, but could see no alternative.

     "Well, fine then. Just make sure you don't drop me," the Peophin warned. "I'm bigger and heavier than you two."

     "Brace yourself against the cliff side with your hooves," Chaelian advised, tying a length of rope securely around the Peophin. Teirryn grumbled, but went to the edge of the cliff and carefully stepped down. Chaelian and Kaerhas grasped the rope, letting a little of it loose at a time while Teirryn nervously scrabbled at the rock with his hooves for purchase. After a few tense moments, Teirryn was safely situated onto the first ledge. Untying the rope, Teirryn tugged on it thrice to show all was well, and Kaerhas and Chaelian pulled the rope back. A few minutes later, Chaelian went down the same way, with the rope tied around him and Kaerhas hanging on. It had been decided that Chaelian would have a hard time climbing down as well, due to his injuries and his prosthetic metal arm. Luckily, Chaelian was the lightest out of the three, so Kaerhas didn't have too much trouble lowering his brother down. Once Chaelian had joined Teirryn, Kaerhas tossed the rope and the packs down, then climbed down himself, his long claws finally put to use gripping the rough stone. The Bori made it with ease, and the whole process was repeated four more times before the adventurers were finally at the bottom.

     "Thank goodness that's over with," Chaelian said, vastly relieved. Teirryn was quick to agree. Kaerhas, on the other hand, was too busy looking around and exploring the great cavern they were now in. It had an enormously high ceiling, due to the hundred-foot waterfall situated in it, and it was quite large. A soft, glowing light from the farthest part of the room caught the Bori's attention, and, deciding that they had had enough rest, he pointed it out to his companions.

     "A light? Could it be a ghost?" Teirryn asked, interested.

     "Looks ghostly enough," Chaelian responded, following Kaerhas who had gone, naturally, to investigate. What the Xweetok said was true: the light was a pale bluish-green, and wavered in a very ghost-like way. Chaelian felt no fear or apprehension, though, and whatever it was didn't seem very threatening. When the three got close enough, they saw that the light source was, in fact, a small mushroom with a white stem and a glowing, pale blue cap.

     "Wow! How cool!" Kaerhas said, reaching out a paw.

     "Don't-" Chaelian began, but was too late. Kaerhas drew his paw back sharply with a cry.

     "Ah! It's gone all numb," the Bori complained. Chaelian examined it, and found the blue fur covered with tiny silver spores.

     "Hold still," the Xweetok commanded as he splashed water from his water bottle onto Kaerhas' paw.

     "What did you do now?" Teirryn asked, peering over Chaelian's shoulder.

     "Poked a mushroom." Chaelian put the cap back on his water bottle. "Hopefully the effect will wear off soon." The Xweetok left Kaerhas as the Bori stomped around and shook his paw, trying to restore feeling to it, and examined the opening the mushroom led to. It was a stone passageway leading deeper into the cave, with glowing mushrooms placed at intervals inside to light the way.

     "Seems a little too welcoming, considering the ghosts don't actually want us here, doesn't it?" Chaelian muttered to Teirryn. Behind them, they heard a shout of relief. Kaerhas announced that he could feel his paw again.

     "I'm back to normal, except my paw's still a little tingly." Kaerhas bounded into the passage. "Come on, let's go!"

     "You sure this is the right way?" Teirryn asked.

     "It's the only way out of the big chamber," Kaerhas replied.

     Teirryn frowned and opened his mouth to reply, but Kaerhas had already darted in.

     "That fool," Teirryn sighed as he and Chaelian followed the Bori, careful not to touch the mushroom. "He'll get himself killed like this one day."

     About ten minutes into the tunnel, Chaelian noticed a change. The walls were slowly becoming smooth, and unnaturally squared against the ceiling, and the stone was becoming lighter, almost white. The mushrooms had also stopped growing, but the ghostly light remained. It was even getting brighter. Chaelian pointed the changes out to his companions, who had discovered the same things. Soon, the walls, floor, and ceiling began to show strange, carved symbols on them. The trio of adventurers walked on, feeling a sense of trepidation as they went.

     Kaerhas glanced from the walls to the floor, then spoke uncertainly. "Are those symbols... glowing?"

     At his words, the entire corridor suddenly went pitch black. A wave of fear crashed into Kaerhas, leaving him trembling against the cold stone floor. The Bori had never felt fear like this before. It was as though all light, all hope was gone from the world, leaving only him and the evil things that would prey on him behind.

     "Chaelian! Teirryn!" Kaerhas called, but his voice sounded weak and distant, and there was no reply. The terror drove through him like a sword, leaving him unable to remember anything, even who he was. Shadows started moving in on him; how the Bori could tell was beyond him, since his entire world had gone dark, but he knew they were there. If they caught him, he'd be finished. And why fight it? There was no reason to fight anyway, they'd win in the end. And so Kaerhas knelt hopelessly on the floor, sensing the shadows creep ever closer. And then-

     Giving up already, Kaerhas? I thought I taught you better than that!

     Kaerhas looked around wildly for the source of the voice, but saw nothing but darkness. However, the creeping shadows paused, looking uncertain. "Kyrinn?" Kaerhas whispered, unsure. He was sure he'd heard his owner's voice, but maybe he was just going crazy.

     You always said you wanted to be an adventurer; to discover new places, see wonderful things, journey all over Neopia, and maybe even other worlds! An adventurer can't give in so easily. And on your first quest, too! This darkness is nothing. You just need to strengthen your heart, and you'll see that you carry your own light within you. And what about your friends? You can't just abandon them like this!

     Suddenly, Kaerhas could see Kyrinn's face clearly: her dark hair tied in a ponytail, her brown eyes, glinting with amusement, framed by her glasses. With that vision came his memory, and with memory came-

     "Hope," Kaerhas whispered out loud to himself. And then, quite unexpectedly, Kaerhas found himself standing in the stone corridor once more. The Bori blinked, disorientated for a moment, then recovered and saw the dark mass of shadows blocking the passageway. Stretching out a paw, he reached into the shadows, calling his friends' names again. This time, his voice was strong and confident. He felt someone clutching at his paw and pulled back, dragging Chaelian out of the shadows. Leaving his brother to recover, Kaerhas called out Teirryn's name until he found the Peophin, and pulled him out as well. With all of the companions safely out of the shadows, the darkness slowly shrank until it disappeared, and the symbols dimmed and stopped glowing.

     Kaerhas slumped down against the wall, trembling, though this time in relief. Next to him, Chaelian and Teirryn were recovering, still weak with fear. At length, Chaelian spoke.

     "That was... terrifying." The Xweetok shuddered at the memory. "Thanks, Kaerhas."

     Teirryn smiled shakily. "I knew I made the right decision when I knocked you out and forced you into this crazy adventure."

     Kaerhas laughed, and within moments, all three of them were in hysterics for no reason at all. It felt good. The laughter helped drive away the last of the fear, and soon the experience was nothing more than a bad memory. Kaerhas told his companions about the memory he had, and how he managed to defeat the darkness.

     "That was an incredible curse," Chaelian said, retrieving his bag and pulling it on.

     "It was. I hope there aren't any more around," Teirryn agreed. "Traps are one thing, but defeating magic isn't quite so easy."

     "Whatever! We can take whatever comes!" Kaerhas' optimism had returned, and the Bori bounced around the corridor, impatient to get going again.

     Apparently the three companions had overcome the cave's defenses, for as they started down the passageway again, the legendary ghosts themselves appeared. They were vague, glowing outlines of what they might have been in life. The ghosts floated out of the walls, their mouths not moving, but Kaerhas could still sense their emotions: feelings of anger, revenge, hatred. Their touch (if it could be called that) was insubstantial, but it chilled the Bori to the bone. Even so, it wasn't nearly as terrifying as the curse the companions had just faced. The little group drew closer together, and continued down the corridor.

     "I see a wall ahead!" Chaelian said, quite suddenly. At his voice, the ghosts dashed away in a flurry of movement. The Xweetok could still sense them hiding inside the walls.

     "You sure that's a wall?" Kaerhas asked, and was about to skip forward to investigate when Teirryn stopped him.

     "We're going together," the Peophin warned. "I don't trust you not to do anything stupid when you go dashing off like that."

     "How mean!" Kaerhas grumbled. "And after I saved your life, too." But the energetic Bori kept pace with his friends.

     The light changed. Before, it was the same silvery ethereal light that the ghosts emitted, seeming to come from nowhere. Now it was brighter, warmer, with a reddish glow to it. The companions found the change strangely comforting.

     "Fire, maybe," Teirryn suggested. Chaelian nodded, pointing ahead to a couple of torches resting in iron sconces mounted on the corridor walls. They cast their firelight on what Chaelian had taken to be a wall blocking the passageway, but which, upon closer inspection, proved to be a pair of double doors, made from the same white stone as the walls. They looked thick and sturdy, and were veined with silver patterns.

     "There's something written here." Teirryn leaned forward, examining the miniscule script by the wavering torchlight. "It's a different script from the symbols all over the walls. I can read this one." The Peophin paused, then translated.

     "When two become one, the spell is undone."

     At that moment, a rush of air combined with the rasp of stone sliding against stone sounded, followed by a loud crash behind them. The companions whirled around in alarm. A cloud of dust and smashed rock arose, causing Chaelian to cough and to cover his face with his cloak. When the haze cleared, the Xweetok found himself facing a blank stone wall which had fallen from the ceiling, completely blocking the way down the corridor from which the adventurers had come and boxing the trio in.

     They were trapped!

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» The Peophin Incident: Part One
» The Peophin Incident: Part Two
» The Peophin Incident: Part Three
» The Peophin Incident: Part Four
» The Peophin Incident: Part Five
» The Peophin Incident: Part Seven
» The Peophin Incident

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