Moltara's Winter: Part Four
Also by saltsman
Jon assumed the lead on running up a mountain of stacked obsidian. Though his feet hurt, he wouldn't dare stop and get hit by a snowflake. From up here, he could testify to Luna's theory about the snowflakes: they were, in fact, dangerous. He saw one of them hit the roof of a house, causing the tiles that compose it to freeze almost instantly, and saw the frost spreading into the house itself and down the walls to congeal everything it could find.
Behind him, Sarah and Paul tripped their way up the pointed rocks, with Luna bringing up the rear. They reached the peak, and the fall down the obsidian pile would be an awful one. Ten feet down, they saw a frozen house, but its surroundings were untouched.
"We need to slide down," Jon prompted them. "Be careful."
He was the first to jump in, rolling down the rocks with fierce speed. He collapsed with the dusty sand floor and started running looking for shelter. Snowflakes were falling like feathers, slow but steady, and they needed somewhere safe to plot their next moves. When they reunited, they continue to run through the quarry, making their way through the labyrinth of obsidian stacks.
Finally, they found an awning made of obsidian. Below it, the snowflakes wouldn't be able to reach them.
"What do we do now?" Paul panted.
"We need to find a way down the caves," Luna began explaining. "I've studied some maps of Moltara and I know for a fact that the quarry has an entrance to the piping system. If we find the pipes, we can follow it down to wherever it is that Entity is permeating through."
"Great plan, but we need apparatus," Jon said, rubbing his hurt forehead. "We can't just go down there, we'll freeze."
"That's the point." Luna ventured a walk past the awning's limits, looking for something. "If we fail, no one else knows how to stop this we need to have a backup plan. I know, Jon, the stakes are high and I agree with you. The whole town is probably iced up by now, but we already know for a fact that there are ways of bringing them back! Hurrying up will only be prejudicial to us."
"Yeah, Jon," reasoned Sarah. "We know you're eager to get your parents back and so are we. But we need to tread lightly here."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. What do you suggest?"
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a small obsidian fragment hit Paul in the head.
"What was that?" Luna yelled, angered.
"Hey, right here!" From the stack opposite them, through a small opening between two obsidians, there were two pair of eyes. A hand appeared through the fence and signaled them to come over.
"Should we?" Jon hesitated.
"I think these are quarry workers. Maybe they noticed the same thing we did: obsidian saves lives." Luna smiled. "Let's go, they look like they've got a nice shelter going on."
Together, they ran across the obsidian, dodging impending snowflakes. Some parts of the dust-covered floor were already frosted. To their surprise, when they reached the workers, they simply opened a door to let them in.
Inside, it looked like a small office room, with a bathroom, a refrigerator, some desks and cabinets.
"How's this even..." Jon began.
"Possible?" began the agitated Magma Krawk. "Yeah, we noticed these little flakes of cold, nightmarish death, and we also noticed it didn't freeze through obsidian so we decided to build ourselves some shelter, you know, until someone solves it!" The Krawk smile broadly. "Can I get you anything, Neocola, coffee?"
"Actually, we're the ones who set off to stop it." Paul grinned. "And yeah, I'll take a can of Neocola, please!"
"Hey, Mord, help him out here with that Neocola can! Come on guys, make yourselves comfortable and tell me all about stopping it."
"Actually... How would you guys fancy playing the hero as well?"
"Us?" The Krawk was giggling. He looked really dorky.
"Yeah!" Luna smiled broadly.
"Luna, what are you doing?" Jon mumbled.
"Well, guys... We need your help, desperately. But you'll need to be brave. Besides, if you do it, everyone will remember your name, because, believe me, they'll be talking about this for ages! Ages!"
The Krawk looked at Mord, a gigantic red Skeith, and started croaking.
"Let's do it, Mord! Let's do it, Mord! What should we do, Lady?"
"You need to run. Go back to the Neopia Central, reach the Defenders and tell them about what's going on here."
Jon lastly understood what Luna's plan was. It was very crafty, indeed.
"Tell them everything. Tell them about the freezing snow, the alive ice, about how obsidian can break through it and tell them that the Icy Entity is causing it all. They'll probably know what this is all about," Jon completed.
"Going to Neopia Central?" Mord jumped. "LET'S GO, UNI!"
"Uni?" Jon asked.
"That's my name," replied the smiling Krawk.
"So, what do you say?" Luna insisted.
"Why don't you go?" Uni eyed them suspiciously.
"Because we're going down the caves to see what is going on. We're really setting off to stop this. It could take weeks for the defenders to get here, but we at least need the guarantee that if we fail, someone will come for us and take care of this. If people don't stop this, in less than a semester Neopia will freeze entirely. We're all going to enter a state of nothingness and it will last forever."
"Until the sun comes out," Uni pointed out.
"No. This is dark magic, Uni." Sarah tried to look frightening. "The sun won't melt it."
The workers shared a glance. Then started laughing altogether.
"If you say we are going to be famous, well, we will do it."
"Great!" Luna exclaimed. "Now, we need apparatus."
"Lady, fortunately that we have." Mord laughed and opened the cabinet.
And indeed, some stuff in there Jon had never seen in their entire life.
"Wait." Luna scooted over to the cabinet. "Are these obsidian-made hazmat suits?"
"Yeah." Mord smiled. "Pretty cool, huh? I love how shiny and purple-y they look. They are so cute, I think I'm going to wear them."
"Why did you start producing this?"
"Uh, some guy requested," Uni explained.
"Some guy... Who?"
"A Kacheek," said Uni while dressing up.
Luna looked like she was struck by a lightning.
"Was he white, really old?"
"Yeah, how d'you know?"
Jon eyed Luna, waiting for answers. Sarah and Paul were also confused. As the workers dressed up to leave towards Neopia Central, Luna searched through some weaponry found inside the cabinet. She picked up two hammers made of something Jon couldn't identify, five potion flasks and two needles.
"What are these for?" Jon asked.
She didn't answer.
Without giving off suspicions, she paced the room and stopped behind her own children. Then, she whispered, "I'm sorry." She then pinned the needles to the back of their heads. Paul and Sarah instantly blacked out and fell to the floor, unconscious.
"WHAT THE??" Jon backed three steps, afraid.
"Lady... Did you..." Uni's mouth was open.
"You two need to go, now! You need to get to the defenders as fast as you can and you tell them everything we ordered you too, but now add the fact that Vaughn is here!"
"Who's Vaughn?" Mord asked.
"It doesn't matter, please, go now!" Luna's eyes were jumping out of its sockets. Her Draik wings were shaking.
"You really are afraid." Jon noticed how weird Uni looked without the broad smile he carried with him all the time. "Come on, Mord. We have a long voyage ahead of us." And so they left.
"Care explaining?" Jon asked, crossing his arms in front of his body.
"Help me sort through the weapons, Jon. We'll need them. This whole thing... It goes further than I ever thought."
"Why? Who's this Vaughn freak and why did you knock out your own children?"
"Exactly because they are my children!" said Luna, her voice high-pitched. "Jon, don't you see this is dangerous? I can't put them through it. I was going to accept their tagging along because I thought that we'd be safe with these suits, but we won't! When it comes to Vaughn, we'll never be safe and the chance of getting out of it alive is the minimum."
"Then why are we going? Let's wait for the defenders!"
"Because there's no time," Luna explained. "Vaughn probably has an agenda, as he always has. If he's doing this, he has a reason. He wouldn't base his revenge on freezing people and living alone... No..."
"Yeah. Look, Jon, we have got no time left! We need to sort through the weaponry."
Together, they selected hammers, swords and potions. Unfortunately, since they couldn't hide big apparatus inside the hazmat suits' pockets, they had to go with small, but useful things. Obsidian-breaking hammers, healing potions and smoke bombs. They filled their pockets to the brim with it.
"We've got to go." Luna nodded towards the door.
Jon opened it, and looked back one more time to his best friends lying on the floor, unconscious. Once again, he felt like crying, but he needed to be brave in order to be fair to his parents, to repay them for everything they'd done for him. It was useful to keep in mind that he was doing this because of them.
Luna knelt down beside her children's bodies and kissed each one of them on the cheek. Jon heard her promise that she would go back, that they would all be reunite once again. Then, they left.
Outside, snowflakes were crumbling to the pavement way quicker than before. He wondered whether Mord and Uni were out of Moltara by now, and how were things outside. Together, Jon and Luna continued pacing the quarry, looking for the entrance to the caves where the piping system awaited them. Where Vaughn awaited for them.
"Hey, Luna... Who's this Vaughn?"
"Do you know anything about Atlas of the Ancients?"
"Must have skipped that class."
"The adventurers who discovered Moltara, four years ago?"
"Yeah, heard of that." Jon nodded.
"Then you must know that prior to that, things were very different in Moltara. Thankfully, I wasn't here to see it, I managed to escape when my children were only babies... But it was horrible, Jon."
She seemed lost in recollection.
"Well, that seems apocalyptic."
"Indeed it was." Luna agreed.
"But I still don't get it, who's this Vaughn character?"
"He was the emperor of cruelty... Vaughn, the Slayer."
To be continued...