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The Peophin Incident: Part Seven

by kyrinn


Chaelian paced back and forth inside of the stone prison. By his reckoning, it had been only ten minutes or so since the hidden wall behind them had come crashing down, trapping the three companions in a small, square room, but it felt like hours. The only way out now was the set of stone double doors, which were carved with decorations and a single sentence, which the Xweetok believed to be the key to opening the doors.

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

     Chaelian whispered the vexing words to himself. Next to him, the doors were stubbornly resisting all attempts made by Teirryn to break it down. The Peophin tried everything, from charging the door to hitting it with his spiked tail. Kaerhas stood next to Teirryn, cheering him on and giving well meaning but useless suggestions.

     "Okay, this obviously isn't working," Teirryn grumbled, breathing heavily. "The only way to get out is to solve the riddle."

     "But there are three of us, not two," Kaerhas was saying. "Maybe if we tied two of us together--Ow!"

     "You okay, Kaerhas?" Teirryn's voice called from the direction of the doors. The Tyrannian Peophin sounded tired.

     "Yeah, tripped over my tail," Kaerhas replied. "It's too dark in here."

     "I told you, this place is airtight. If we kept the torches burning, we'd use up air too quickly," Chaelian said absentmindedly. The Xweetok was still trying to solve the puzzle.

     "Y'know, there are two torches here," Kaerhas said thoughtfully. "What if they're the two the riddle meant?"

     Chaelian looked up, green eyes widening. "That's an idea! Teirryn, you still have your tinderbox and stuff, right? Light the torches!"

     The was the sound of flint striking, then a flame flickered to life. Chaelian took the lit torch while Teirryn went over to the second sconce to light the other torch. Kaerhas happily brought it to his brother, and the Xweetok, with a torch in each paw, went to stand in front of the stone door. Holding his breath in anticipation, Chaelian brought the two torches together so that their flames joined and the fire flared and crackled.

     Nothing happened.

     Chaelian stood there for a few more seconds, just to make sure, then sighed and lowered the torches. Behind him, the Xweetok heard Teirryn speak. "Well, it was a good idea."

     Kaerhas growled in response. "Stupid doors!! If I ever find the guy that built this place, I'm gonna tie him to a pole and let loose a barrel of Larnikins on him! And then I'll dropkick him all the way to Kreludor!" The Bori continued his furious rant, illustrated with violent gestures and much jumping around the room. Chaelian, used to his brother's outbursts, was about to tune the Bori out when a flash of movement caught his eye.

     Kaerhas' shadow.

     Chaelian leaped forward suddenly, startling both Teirryn and Kaerhas. Placing both torches back into their sconces on the wall, Chaelian moved to the back of the room and slowly started walking forward.

     "Chaelian, what are you doing?" Teirryn asked, watching in confusion. Kaerhas had stopped his tirade and was doing the same.

     "See there." Chaelian pointed to down, his eyes not leaving the floor. Both Teirryn and Kaerhas followed the Xweetok's line of view, and the Peophin sighed in realization.

     "Of course, that's what it meant," Teirryn said, comprehension dawning in his eyes.

     "What? What is it?" Kaerhas demanded, looking from his brother to the Peophin. Teirryn nodded towards the ground.

     "Look at the shadows cast by the three of us. We each have two, because there are two sources of light in the room. And I'm willing to bet when Chaelian reaches the spot where his two shadows join..."

     "The door will open," Chaelian finished. All three companions watched as the Xweetok's shadows moved closer and closer together. And then the shadows moved as if by magic (which it probably was), independent of the Xweetok, who had stopped and was watching without a hint of surprise. The dark shapes merged, joining to become one single, perfect outline of Chaelian. From somewhere came a low rumble.

      The silver markings on the doors flared so brightly that the companions were forced to look away. The rumbling intensified, and a slow scraping sound emitted from the walls and ceiling as the doors were opened by some unseen force, perhaps for the first time in centuries. As the gap between the doors grew wider, the three found themselves looking upon an extraordinary sight.

      They were standing at the entrance of a huge cavern, possibly even bigger than the one that held the waterfall. The cavern walls were made of white marble, with beautiful mosaics and carvings upon them. Slender columns of gilded marble stretched toward the high domed ceiling. Even the floor was streaked with silver. It would have been a place of incomparable beauty at one time, but now, however, the columns were broken. The walls were cracked and crumbling, and tiny cascades of eerie-looking, greenish-blue water flowed down the crevices. Even the floor had a deep rift running across it, and in the middle of the room, an enormous pool of the same green water was situated, giving off a faint, glittering glow and reflecting the broken ceiling. But all of that was nothing compared to the feeling of evil that saturated the room. And slowly, shimmering in and out of existence, the chamber began to fill with ghosts.

      It seemed as if all the spirits in the hallway had returned, this time clutching ghostly weapons, bringing along with them even more of their ethereal companions and gathering in front of the three travelers. Chaelian could feel their emotions as he did in the corridor, but now it was a solid wall of anger and rage, preventing the Xweetok from even moving. Slowly, the ghosts advanced, their outlines becoming clearer, more defined. And this time, Chaelian knew, the spirits would be able to touch them, to destroy them.

     The Xweetok shrank back from the feeling of fury produced by the ghosts, sensing his brother next to him. The Bori was shivering, eying the spirits with growing fear. Teirryn, on the other hand, had gone very still, his golden eyes fixed on the pool in the center of the room. Chaelian took a deep breath.

     "You know, we should probably leave," the Xweetok began in a shaking voice, but even as he spoke, he felt the presence of the ghosts behind them, blocking the entrance. Teirryn shook his head.

     "We can't leave. They won't let us." The Peophin was still staring at the pool of water. "Besides, we've come too far to quit now...."

     "But we can't-" Chaelian began, then stopped. Teirryn was starting to move forward, the sound of his steps echoing jarringly in the silence. The ghosts stirred, seemingly readying to attack. Chaelian leaped forward and grabbed a corner of the Peophin's cloak. "What do you think you're doing?"

     Teirryn tried to shake his friend off. "There's something I need, and it's in there." The Peophin nodded toward the water. "Even if I could, I wouldn't leave without it."

     "You won't be able to leave with it, either!" Chaelian kept a firm grip on the tattered cloak. "The ghosts won't let you, and we'll die anyway-" The Xweetok sighed, seeing Teirryn's face. "It doesn't matter, does it? You'll go looking for that thing no matter what I say, and the ghosts will attack us either way...."

     Teirryn nodded, a faint smile on his lips. "Sorry I got you into this mess. I really thought that we could do this...."

     "We're not finished yet," Kaerhas whispered. "Teirryn, you go into the pool. Chaelian and I will hold off these guys for as long as we can."

     "And what happens when we need to escape?" Chaelian returned.

     Kaerhas shrugged, his cheerful smile appearing on his face. "We'll get to the details later. Ready?" Without waiting for an answer, the Bori leaped forward at the nearest group of ghosts with a snarl. On the other side of Chaelian, Teirryn did the same, though instead of charging at the spirits, the Peophin was charging at the pool. Checking a sigh, the Xweetok threw himself in the midst of the ghosts trailing behind the Peophin, distracting some enough so that they circled around him instead of Teirryn. Through the wall of semi-transparent spirits, Chaelian saw the Peophin dive into the pool with barely a splash.

     Kaerhas was lashing out with his claws and tail, his Immense Rubber Axe of Doom clutched in one paw. The Bori was putting up a brave defense, but he had been in the Battledome a few times before. He knew it wouldn't last very long now. His claws barely touched the ghosts; it seemed as if they were merely blown back by a breath of wind, and they were ready and eager to attack a few seconds later. On the other hand, the touch of the spirits was as cold as death, and every time he came into contact with their insubstantial swords and axes, the Bori felt as if he were simultaneously burning and freezing.

     This battle will end quickly, Kaerhas thought to himself as he charged through the crowd of spirits, scattering them. Teirryn had better hurry up, or we won't last much longer out here...

     Chaelian was thinking the same thing as his brother. The Xweetok was not faring as well as Kaerhas, not being a fighter like the Bori. Chaelian was trying to go over to join his brother, but every time he moved in that direction, the ghosts would increase the fury of their attack. Slowly, the Xweetok was being driven to the other side of the room.

     They separate us, and then they'll kill us, Chaelian realized. Shaking his head, the Xweetok realized that the only thing he could do now was to keep fighting. A lot of good that'll do us, the Xweetok thought bitterly as he pulled off his bag and started rummaging through it in the hopes of finding something, anything that might aid him. Maybe there's still a healing potion in here somewhere...

     Chaelian backed up against the rubble of a broken column, hoping that the ghosts wouldn't be able to go through the marble to get to him. Apparently they couldn't in their current stage, and the Xweetok managed to keep the spirits at bay while he went through his bag.

     Water bottle, blanket, cloak, map, Chaelian thought to himself as he touched each of the objects. Wait... map? I thought Teirryn had the map...

     The Xweetok pulled out the roll of parchment he felt and glanced at it. A scroll! Now where did that come from... oh yeah, Chaelian thought, remembering taking it from the Snowager's lair. Well, I suppose this could help.

     Chaelian jumped forward as he'd seen his brother do, and the ghosts fell back momentarily. Quickly, while the spirits were regrouping, he pulled the ring off the scroll and unrolled it, scanning the page as fast as he could. It appeared to be a spell.

     Chaelian knew, of course, the dangers of trying out a strange spell without knowing what it did or how to cast it, but, he reasoned, things could hardly get worse. With that thought in mind, the Xweetok mumbled the unfamiliar words, guessing at the pronunciation, and was utterly amazed to find that it worked.

     Or at least, something was happening. The words on the scroll were glowing with a fiery brilliance, melting and spreading out on the parchment, turning the page into a sheet of white light. Chaelian, still holding the paper, could somehow see through the glow, and found that as the light shone on the spirits, they shrank back, wailing and covering their faces. Feeling hope grow in his heart as the light illuminated the room, the Xweetok ran through the cavern, heading back toward his brother, followed by a mob of ghostly figures who kept well out of the glow of the spell. "Kaerhas!" Chaelian called, trying to get his brother's attention.

     Kaerhas turned at the sound of his name being called. The Bori's brown eyes widened at the sight of the Xweetok holding what appeared to be a shining light in his paw, and he watched as Chaelian swung the light in an arc, dispelling the ghosts that clustered around him.

     "Chaelian... what is-" Kaerhas gasped, but Chaelian shook his head.

     "Later." The Xweetok grabbed his brother by the paw and started pulling him toward the pool. "We'd better find Teirryn and get out of here as soon as possible. I don't know how long this'll last."

     Kaerhas nodded, leading the way to the pool as Chaelian edged along behind him, the shining scroll held fast, warding off the rather persistent ghosts. At the edge of the water, Kaerhas took a deep breath and, shuddering, plunged the upper half of his body into the icy liquid. The Bori searched the murky green depths for the Peophin, but could see nothing beyond blurry dark shapes and shadows. Finally, the cold forced him to pull back to the surface, where he shook the water from his blue fur. Teeth chattering, he made his report to his brother.

     "That's not the only problem," Chaelian gasped. The Xweetok looked exhausted, but still held the scroll high. "I think this spell is draining my energy. I don't know how long I can keep this up."

     "Great, now what?" Kaerhas glanced apprehensively at the ghosts, who were drawing nearer as the spell's light began to waver. "We can't go in there or we'll freeze to death."

     "We may not have a choice," Chaelian replied grimly. "If Teirryn doesn't hurry up, one way or another, it'll mean our deaths."

     * * *

     Teirryn swam through the freezing green waters, feeling the cold sink into his bones. The pool was far deeper than it had appeared from the surface, and the Peophin knew that if he didn't surface soon, he'd freeze there, but he kept going. He couldn't stop, not when he was so close.

     Teirryn's thoughts strayed to his two companions. The Peophin sincerely hoped that they were all right, and wondered how they were faring. He'd half a mind to turn around and go back for the sake of his friends, and was glancing back up behind him to where the surface was barely visible when a light flared, pure white, unlike the ghostly glow of the spirits. It was so bright it even managed to penetrate the shadowy water that surrounded the Peophin. The light dimmed a bit and Teirryn swam on, taking it as a sign that his friends were still alive.

     A glimmer of color in the dull green waters caught the Peophin's eye. Diving down as fast as he could, Teirryn finally found what he'd been seeking for so many years: the fabled treasure of the ghosts.

     Here, at the bottom of the pool lay wealth beyond anyone's wildest imagination. It was a treasure trove that would put even the Snowager's hoard to shame. Thousands upon thousands of necklaces, rings, and bracelets, studded with rare and costly gems, lay upon goblets and silken tapestries with gilded threads and rare works of art. All those beautiful objects lay at the bottom of this forgotten pool, somehow preserved by the ghostly waters. Seeing this cache of riches, Teirryn's heart sank. How was he ever going to find the one he needed?

     Swimming around the piles of treasure, Teirryn cast about himself for a glint of bronze, a familiar object. The water around him rippled, the currents distorting his vision, and suddenly, the Peophin felt very cold. There are spirits down here, guarding the treasure! he realized. Now that he looked, Teirryn could see the vague forms of the ghosts, reaching out to make him one of them. Terror nearly made him abandon his search and swim back to the surface, but he suppressed it, closing his eyes and concentrating.

     It was numbingly cold, and growing colder by the second. But even as the temperature dropped rapidly, Teirryn could feel something. It was hard to describe, but it was like a warm spring breeze amidst the biting cold of the winter wind, and it guided the Peophin onward. As he drew closer, Teirryn could feel a familiar presence leading him on, growing stronger as he went. Filled with hope, the Peophin opened his eyes and eagerly swam forward, the cold and his fears forgotten. And there it was: resting against a platinum medallion was, to Teirryn, the most beautiful object in the entire cavern. The Peophin picked up the necklace and, throwing it around his neck, began the journey back to the surface.

     * * *

     Kaerhas had been sticking his head underwater and calling Teirryn's name for what felt like hours, although the Bori knew it had only been a few minutes. Next to him, his brother had almost collapsed, but was still clutching the scroll and using it to drive back the specters. Kaerhas turned to the Xweetok.

     "It's no good; I can't find him!" The Bori looked over concernedly at Chaelian. "How are you doing?"

     "Not... good," Chaelian gasped. "Can't... keep this up..."

     Kaerhas noticed that it was growing alarmingly dark. As the light receded, the spirits edged forward, hungry for blood. With one last flicker, the light spell went out, and Chaelian collapsed against the cracked marble floor, unconscious. The ghosts rushed forward, reaching for the intruders.

     Kaerhas gritted his teeth. Teirryn's words came back to him: We either succeed, or we die trying.

     "I, for one, refuse to die here." Kaerhas echoed his brother's words, walking boldly over to pick up the unconscious Xweetok. Then, with a defiant glare at the specters, ignoring the burning coldness of their touch, Kaerhas went to stand at the edge of the pool.

     "Teirryn, can you here me? We're coming!" The Bori's voice echoed in the vast chamber, and without another thought, Kaerhas leaped into the luminescent water with a splash, dragging Chaelian with him. They sank rapidly, the dim light from the surface fading as they descended.

     The last few ripples on the surface of the pond vanished, and the water was smooth and glassy once more.

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 Six
» The Peophin Incident: Part Eight

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