Tales of Dark Mountain: Moonlight - Part Three
Part Three: Decisions
When Alex got home, he walked straight to his room. He had made sure to get the worst of the mud he had attained from his side-trip off, though some still clung to his blue scales. However, he didn’t make it there without notice. “Alex, what happened to you?” came a voice. Alex winced and turned around to face Elise.
“Uh, I was taking a walk,” Alex said quickly.
Elise scowled. “Alex, I told you that you were supposed to come straight back home!” she cried, eying a smudge of mud on his leg.
A question burned in Alex’s mind. He wanted to know something. “Mom,” he began, “I want to know the truth.”
A quizzical look appeared on Elise’s face. “The truth? What truth do you mean?”
“About why I have these marks, and no one else in the family does.” He gestured to his birthmarks. “I want to know if I’m really part of the family, as in, born into it.”
Elise hesitated, looking away. Then she said quietly, “No, you’re not. A young Shoyress gave you to us as a baby. She died moments later.”
Alex’s eyes widened in surprise, even though he had expected her to tell him ‘no’. However, he still hadn’t thought that his real mother had died not long after giving him to his adopted one. Added to this, he felt stung that Elise hadn’t told him the truth in the first place. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” he yelped.
Elise’s eyes were sad. “I didn’t think it was the right time. I’m sorry, Alex. I know this must cause you pain.”
Alex nodded. “Well, thanks for telling me, anyways,” he mumbled, turning around and walking back to his room. Obviously, Elise forgot about his punishment.
Once in his room, Alex sat down on his bed and replayed the day’s events. ‘I will not force you to do anything, Alex. This is your choice, and yours alone,’ Tamack had said. But Alex wasn’t sure he could make such a difficult choice. Even so, he felt less responsible for his family, now that he knew that he had been adopted. Maybe they won’t miss me, he thought. However, he knew that wasn’t true. His adopted mother and father cared about him as if he was their own child. He didn’t want to cause them any more pain than needed.
Alex looked out the window as the sun set. A red glow illuminated the sky. Even if it was only light from the fading sun, Alex shivered. Shaking his head, he lay down in bed. Troubled thoughts whirled wildly through his mind as he drifted off to sleep.
Alex awoke when it was still dark. What Tamack had told him had left him in a troubled state. Though he had gotten to sleep, it had been uneasy, and he’d woken up a few times before this one.
Alex sighed and sat up in bed. He glanced at both his birthmarks in turn. “Why are decisions so hard?” he wondered aloud. He knew that he wanted to help. However, he didn’t want his adopted family to worry. He also knew that the road to defeating Scorgan would be long and dangerous.
Alex shook his head, confusion hovering in his mind like a dark cloud. Once again, Tamack’s parting words rang through his head. It’s my choice, he thought. But, what should I choose? However, in his heart, he already knew. He had to go with Tamack to try and stop Scorgan, no matter how afraid he was.
Alex pushed himself out of bed. He opened a pack and stuffed a blanket. Then, he took a sheet of paper and a half-eaten pencil off his nightstand. He scribbled out a note to his parents. Though he had been adopted, he still considered them his true parents. He said no more in the note than that he would be going away for a while. He flung his pack over one shoulder, grabbed the note, and quietly tiptoed down the hall.
He walked into the kitchen, scarcely daring to breath. He set the note on the table before opening the door to the refrigerator. He took out two bottles of water and a plastic-wrapped omelet and stuffed them in his pack. He closed the fridge door and snuck out of the kitchen.
He opened the front door, wincing as it gave a slight creak. He paused to listen and see if anyone was coming to investigate. When he heard nothing, he walked out the door and closed it behind him.
A chill wind blew outside. He shivered, wishing for the warmth of his bed. However, he shook the thought aside. I have to do this, he told himself firmly. He sprang into the air and flew swiftly towards the place where he and Tamack had last spoken. He hoped desperately that no one heard the beating of his wings and came out to investigate.
He let out a small sigh of relief when his feet touched ground. He looked around for Tamack, but the shadow Shoyru was nowhere to be seen. “Tamack!” he called out in a loud whisper. “Tamack!”
There was a rustling in the bushes, and Alex looked to his right to see a familiar shadow Shoyru pushing his way into the small clearing in which Alex was standing. His eyes glowed with happiness. “I hoped you’d come back,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, well, how about we get out of here?” Alex said, nervousness edging his tone. “I left a very vague note on the kitchen table at home, and I don’t want to be around when they start searching for me.”
Tamack nodded in understanding. “We’ll leave right away,” he said. He jumped into the air with Alex not far behind. The sun was just making its way over the horizon, coloring the sky a brilliant gold. And so, the day dawned when Alex took on the task of trying to save the Lirse and the Sorsay.
“Wait, we’re going to stow away on a ship?” Alex asked in dismay. Both he and Tamack were at the ports. Neopets and humans alike were rushing around, trying to get things in order.
Tamack nodded. “Either this or we have to fly over the sea.”
Alex agreed grimly. Neither had any neopoints, so they couldn’t pay to be ferried across the sea. “Ok, so which ship?”
Tamack peaked out from behind the mound of crates they were hiding behind. His tail barely twitched as he looked around at the ships. After a time, he pointed to a barge and said, “That one. I heard some neopets saying that they were taking the barge to Altador.”
Alex nodded, and began to crawl to the other side of the crates. As he scanned the ships, he saw the barge Tamack had pointed to. Sturdy looking neopets were rushing on and off the ship. The ones heading onto the ship were often seen carrying crates. He saw a few come off the barge and head towards their hiding spot. Tamack obviously saw them too. “Hide in the crates!” Alex hissed, tearing the side of one open. He ducked inside and pulled the side of the crate back up. It was a tight fit, but he still managed to squeeze himself into the space. He could here a slight scrambling sound, and figured Tamack was doing the same.
He held his breath as he heard footsteps coming closer. He held on tightly to the side that he had torn open, making sure it didn’t fall back open to reveal him. As the footsteps became louder, he heard the voices of the two neopets. “So, the captain wants all the crates on board?” asked one voice.
“Yep,” said a second. “Come on, we’d better start getting these loaded.”
Alex heard a slight grunt as the neopets each picked up a crate, then hurried footsteps as they walked back towards the barge. They did this again before Alex felt his crate being lifted from the ground. There was a groan from the neopet who had picked it up. “Hey, this crate’s heavier than usual.”
“So was my last one,” grunted the other. Alex figured that meant that Tamack was already aboard the barge. “Stop complaining and just do your job!”
“I am doing my job!” cried the first voice. There was a gusty sigh. “No respect, I tell yaw.” Alex felt the neopet carrying his crate turn around and begin to walk away.
Relief was what Alex was feeling as the neopet took his crate towards the barge. Though he wished the crate had a hole in it to peek out of, he was fine without it. Soon, he’d be on his way to Dark Mountain.
“Wait! Wait!” called a voice. The neopet who was carrying Alex’s crate came to a sudden halt. Alex was jarred against the side of the crate, and it was all he could do to keep the side from being pushed open and him from falling out.
The neopet who was carrying his crate asked, “What is it? I have to get this crate onto the barge, yaw know.”
“That’s just it,” the new voice panted. “It’s not supposed to go on the barge. It’s supposed to go on the ship to Mystery Island.”
Alex’s heart sank and his eyes grew wide. I can’t go to Mystery Island! he thought desperately. “Oh, all right,” the neopet carrying his crate said. “Well, here you go.” Alex felt the crate being pushed in a different direction. In that time, he pushed on the side he had torn open. Out he tumbled, onto the wooden dock. “What?” yelped the neopet who had carried his crate. His eyes burned with fury. “Stowaway!” he cried.
Alex whipped around and ran a few paces before jumping into the air. He yelped with surprise when a Cybunny jumped and almost grabbed his tail. He flew in a wide arc towards the barge. He heard voices behind him, but right now all he was concentrating on was getting on the barge. The large shape of a pirate Krawk loomed in front of him. He flew higher just in time to avoid being grabbed in the Krawk’s large claws.
He flew onto the barge and hid behind the class’s cabin. He heard the sounds of the neopets chasing him. He looked out from behind the cabin. The neopets on board the barge were either busy on deck or looking over the side of the barge to ask what the fuss was about. He let out a small sigh. No one on board the barge had noticed his presence.
Alex saw a neopet carrying a crate down through a door in the floor of the deck. He figured this must be the cargo hold. Once he saw the neopet reappear and walk away, he dashed to the door and slipped down it.
The hold was dark, the shapes of crates just slightly outlined by the sun coming from the deck above. He slipped down and hid behind a crate. He heard footsteps. He peeked out from behind the crate and saw two neopets come single file down into the cargo hold. One held a crate, while the other was the Krawk who had nearly caught Alex as he had dashed madly to the barge. “I’m telling you I saw the Shoyru fly onto this ship!” the Krawk was saying, frustration in his voice.
“And I’m telling you that very few neopets would ever want to stow away on a barge!” the other neopet retorted, plunking his crate down near the entrance to the hold.
“This one does,” the Krawk replied.
The other neopet just sighed. “Come on, we’ll be setting sail soon.” With that, he went back up the stairs. The Krawk looked around the cargo hold menacingly, then followed suit.
Alex waited in silence for a time. Then he heard a loud horn and felt the barge begin to move away from port. He felt excitement and fear coarse through him. Now, they really were on their way to Dark Mountain.
To be continued...