The Adventures of Trina: The Glass Key: Part Eight
"G ot anything to eat around here?” I said to the sound of my stomach rumbling. Honestly, after seeing the rotting furniture, I was afraid to ask.
“Yeah, but you’ll have to stick by me,” the White Kougra said. “You don’t have clearance there yet.”
I was taken down several glum chambers and into another metal room. Fortunately this one smelled like a restaurant. Regardless of being a secret underground lair, there were a good dozen or so people here. Dishes, utensils clinked and jangled in the background as I wandered toward a vending machine. Rusty—like everything else in this place—with patches of red paint, my heart sank in disappointment when I saw it was beyond rundown.
“This thing’s empty,” I said, kicking the flap where candy bars would normally spill out. Talking a closer look, a fabric of spyder webs had filled the empty slots. “Looks like it’s been dry for a while…”
“What do you expect? We’ve got a world on our hands on a daily basis. Making sure there’s always a bag of Neo Crackers in stock isn’t exactly a priority,” Kail said bitterly, hands at her sides.
I started checking on both sides of this contraption. “Seems easy enough. I’m sure I can get this up and running with just a touch of magic. Though I can’t guarantee anything will taste good.”
“Magic? To refill the vending machine?” the Kougra’s face was dumstruck. “I can’t think of a more wasteful use for magic!”
“I can!” I replied, though she remained unamused.
She rolled her eyes.
“I was just trying to be resourceful, that’s all,” I said filled with regret.
After raiding their fridge I made myself a succulent sandwich; complete with five layers of meat, cheeses, chocolate, and veggies, with one whole layer consisting entirely of ketchup—all of the food groups. Kail looked at me with befuddlement. Hey, I can’t help it if I like to eat a lot.
“So…where you from?” I asked after scarfing down a slice of tomato, attempting for once to start conversation. It was much too quiet in here.
“Roo Island,” she said plainly as she mindlessly fiddled with the straw in her glass of water, the only thing in front of her.
“Really?” I said with enthusiasm. “That’s awesome! I’ve always dreamed of going there! What’s it like?”
“A borefest.” She rested her chin on the table, sighing. I barely saw her between the cities of plates, glasses, napkins, and strips of bread crusts in front of me.
“For real? I’ve heard it’s all fun and games there!”
“That’s why it’s so boring. I have no time for such nonsense! Those islanders need to get it together and focus on what really matters, like my father!”
“Your father? What’s up with him?” I braced myself for a rant.
Her blue eyes moved side to side. “He’s been the leader of the underground for quite some time. He’s responsible for creating so many problems, ruining so many lives, and no one can locate him. All I want is for him to be brought to justice, but no one seems to care! They insist that their economy relies on games and such…can’t let anything taint their tourism business, oh no!”
“But you care, and I’m sure your co-workers do, too. Chin up—all that frowning can’t be good for you. I’m sure playing a game on Roo Island every once a while wouldn’t hurt.”
Her intense, blue eyes looked like they wanted to puncture my skin, so I quickly changed the subject.
“Oh by the way, any updates lately? About Trina?”
“We haven’t received any leads yet. We sent agents to investigate her home, though, and I’ll let you know how that works out. Sadly these things take time. I wish I could make the process faster but we have nothing to go on…”
“Oh…I’m not surprised. I know she won’t be easy to find. She tends to camouflage herself in with everything.”
Kail was flabbergasted.
“How can you do that? I mean, how can you tell jokes when your friend is in danger, probably as we speak?”
“Bad things happen all of the time…doesn’t mean we should never smile. Then evil wins. If I could stand up against despair, even for one minute, then I will laugh at despair in the face. Trina understands. And if there’s one thing I know about her…never underestimate her. She’ll never be some damsel in distress.”
I sounded pretty confident, hoping that the more I said it, I’d believe it. I sure hope I was right…
“You should try laughing sometime.”
“No,” Kail replied.
“Oh c’mon, it doesn’t hurt! Promise! No one’s watching, anyway!”
“I’ve got things to do,” she said while she was scooting out of the booth. “See you later.”
“Then I’ll make you laugh when you least expect it! Mark my words!”
“Good luck with that,” she said dryly, but with a slight smile.
“Where are your fried foods? Because it’s FRI-day!”
She gave me a blank stare.
Ouch! I’m guessing puns are out. * * * * *
Haphazardly they gathered around an office desk. Stacks and stacks of papers concealed the small figure buzzing behind them, the tapping of a typewriter matching the fast beats of Cassie’s heart.
“Almost done,” squeaked a female voice, and the typing picked up speed.
“Okay, here it is!” A pink Kau finally stuck her head though a gap on the desk, and handed a paper in Mr. Aardo’s direction. However, the Brown Wocky snatched it up. Spectacled, his eyes frantically darted from side-to-side, as if he was watching a game of table tennis.
“What does it say?” Pat said loudly, flying to see over his shoulder.
Suddenly, his face twisted in horror. He passed the message on to Mr. Aardo without blinking.
“’Off to Terror Mountain for a Heartwarming adventure. Trina.’”
He turned the letter in their direction. An ink blob was next to Trina’s signature, but sure enough, that was all it said.
Something was wrong. Actually, everything was wrong.
“That’s not her handwriting!” Cassie yelled.
Mr. Aardo now shared the Wocky’s shocked expression.
“Yeah…she’s right. It’s almost cursive…” Linny said upon a closer look. “Trina hates cursive.”
“She was never able to get it,” Pat said while shaking her head.
“I know my friend,” Cassie began, “If she was going away on an epic journey, especially for a long period of time—and during neoschool—she would’ve told me about it. I’m 100% sure about that.”
In truth she wasn’t at all sure. It was definitely odd, yes…But they were in high neoschool now…Trina was hanging out with that Liz an awful lot. Maybe, as much as he hated to admit it, she was growing out of her childhood friends. Still, Trina’s a dedicated student before an adventurer.
“She might have wanted to protect us,” Pat said with disappointment. “Maybe she didn’t want us to come along, because it was dangerous? I don’t know—that seems like something Trina would do. After all that happened in the past, it makes sense…”
“It does make sense,” Cassie said with a frown. “But still, why has the letter been forged? Tomaru, you were in class with Evrilin. Does this look like his handwriting?”
He shook his head. “Not at all. It’s much too girly. Maybe that’s what he wants us to think…”
“It could be Liz’s,” Linny mused.
“It’s likely that I still have one of her lab reports, but that wouldn’t make any difference. She’s a master of disguise. Of course she’d disguise her writing.”
“’Heartwarming’ is capitalized…” Mr. Aardo pointed out.
Cassie was so caught up over handwriting she didn’t even notice it, yet there it was in plain sight.
“So?” asked a confused Tomaru.
“That’s no coincidence. It can’t be, not with the famed Heart of the Mountain residing in that land. I hate assumptions, but I think there’s a good chance she went after the Heart.”
“I’ve never heard of this Heart,” Pat said stressfully. “What is it?”
“It’s a marvelous crystal that revived the Bori civilization,” Mr. Aardo said. “Without its magic, the Boris cannot survive.”
“So Liz or Evrilin is after the Heart?” Cassie asked.
“It can’t be either of them,” the Wocky said. He retrieved the letter and pointed to the blob of ink. “That’s no mistake; look closely.”
From inches away, Cassie could distinguish a star shape along with the letter B inscribed inside it. Mr. Aardo must have noticed too, as his jaw was falling off his face.
“It’s her,” said the Wocky, his tone wringing with hatred, his face wrought with anger.
“This complicates things,” Mr. Aardo said.
“Who is it?” Pat asked, worried. “What does this mean?”
“It means we must leave for Terror Mountain this instant,” the Wocky snapped. “Frankie, could you get the sector A’s in on this, plus the rest of the Senior Seven?”
“I’m on it!” Mr. Aardo shouted as he dashed out of sight.
“That’s quite a lot of personnel,” the pink Kau said from behind. “That would drain the arsenal. We mustn’t leave room for any vulnerability now.”
“Empty the arsenal if you have to!” he demanded.
“Let’s not be so rash about this,” she added. “We need to handle this carefully. If we succeed, I’ll have a lot less paperwork to file and an empty drawer, for once!”
“Of course, Prilla,” the Wocky replied. “See you on the front lines.”* * * * *
“W-Where…are we?!” Pat yelled over the shrieking wind.
“Terror Mountain,” Kail replied, unimpressed.
Cassie pulled her coat closer to her flank. The Glass Key members were kind enough to lend it to her, a grey parka that was a perfect fit. Yet, beneath the thick layers she still shivered; nothing could truly cushion her. It was hard to wage war against a faceless enemy, this faerie that everyone feared. No matter whom she pestered, lips remained sealed. Things made less sense as time went on. Just a second ago she was weaving through a crowded room. Now, snowflakes were falling.
“But how?” Pat gasped, out of breath. “How in Neopia? One minute we were in—well, wherever it was—and now we’re in a completely different land!”
“That’s some impressive teleportation,” Tomaru commended, clapping. “None of that wobbly-feeling. But how could you teleport so many of us all at once?”
“Years of practice,” the Brown Wocky said.
“But I have it down to a science,” Aardo said smugly. “Now it’s quite simple, really.”
“All you need is one of these to teleport.” Kail placed a finger on her neck and out of thin air, a silver key dangled from a thin chain. “We always keep it with us, but it’s hidden by an invisibility charm. Fortunately, it’s undetectable by our enemies. It appears with our touch. The gold keys are more powerful, but they’re exclusive to our seven senior members.”
Cassie recalled Mr. Aardo holding a gold key, back in the neoschool’s supply closet. Senior member or not, she was still suspicious of him. He wants the Staff, after all.
“Submerse the key in water and you’ll be transported to the nearest checkpoint, if there’s one in the vicinity,” the Kougra continued.
“Just normal water?” Tomaru twitched.
“Yeah, it’s actually a clever idea. Unless you’re in a desert, you’ll always be near a water source. Whether you’re being pursued or you need to relay a message, it’s a lifesaver. However, at any time, the number of available checkpoints is limited to three. With so little of us stationed worldwide, surveying a dozen checkpoints was beyond challenging—and frightening. We’ve had enemies tamper with them. Imagine teleporting right into the enemy’s lair.”
“Yikes!” Tomaru gasped.
“Oh, I almost forgot—the keys are not unlimited,” the Kougra warned. “If we teleport too often they’ll weaken substantially. Once that happens your ability to teleport becomes unstable. One minute you may be having lunch and suddenly you’re in the Haunted Woods, with no way to return for months. We can’t just spring up new checkpoints anymore; the catalytic reaction burns far too much magic. It has to be fed gradually to prevent destruction, a process that takes a year. Anyhow, one guy ended up in the middle of the ocean. Luckily he was found marooned on an island before scurvy took hold of ‘im.”
“That said, you guys are temporary members—don’t fret. There are many of us on duty today. If we could find someone that lost, it’s only a matter of time before Trina’s found. Everything will be fine.”
“I’ll believe that once I see Trina again,” Cassie said, arms crossed.
“You will,” she said reassuringly. “Already, we’ve dispatched teams in the ice caves and around the foot of the mountain. Some are even scaling the mountain as we speak to get an aerial view of the area. As for me, I’m going to hit the slopes. It’s been a while since I used my snowboard…”
“What should we do?” Linny shivered. “I think we should be close to the Heart if there’s a higher chance that Trina’s over there.”
“Our agents got it covered. Lie low and help out whenever you can. If you come across anything, give us a signal.”
Cassie groaned. It just wasn’t enough… * * * * *
Battered and bruised, Trina stumbled onward, step by step, three feet of snow wrapped around her legs. She was frozen in time. Every footprint vanished in the wind. Happy Valley should be less than an hour away, but no matter when she glanced at her map, it was always an hour away.
To ease her icy fingertips, she snuggled inside of her coat. Muscles whose names she’d forgotten throbbed nonstop. Her mittens were discarded on the battlefield, and her last Negg was used against the Snowbeast. No food, no shelter, no relief…Always had she been able to escape by thinking faster, fighting harder, and relying on her friends. Never could she imagine it would come down to this.
Where had she made a mistake? Should she have turned down the light Faerie’s quest? Impossible. She vowed to prove herself, because she failed to find any other way to stand out…
Should she have asked her friends to come along, no guarantee that they’d want to venture with her? No, it’s selfish to ask them to put themselves in danger…
Did she, just a Neopia Central girl, underestimate her ability to survive in the wilderness? Should she have learned about it first, in a book or with Liz? It wouldn’t have been enough…
Should she have walked away from Joss—had there been signs of dishonesty she had missed? She defied his pursuit of his dream, and his heart…
Or most petrifying of all, had Brightstar set her up to fail? Outside of her friends, Brightstar was the only witness of her with the Staff. Maybe this was her punishment. Maybe she deserved this…
Or maybe she was wrong, like usual, and Brightstar trusted her.
Her ghost had finally bared its fangs. The Staff…had it been worth it in the end? She believed in legends, in myths, and in faerie tales, but she batted her eyelashes at the warnings written in stone. Mevolin said she was cursed…maybe he was right. Like its creator, those who meddle with the Staff suffer a cursed existence.
But, as the old man had said, the Heart could heal a curse. Could that be true for her, too?
Maybe she couldn’t win this battle, but one thing was certain: she wasn’t going to give up.
She planned to pour the last of her energy into a distress signal. This time, there would be no maybes. Somebody will see it. The northern lights sparkled in her head. It’ll stream across the sky, a beautiful light filling in the blank space. She would return the sky to blue. * * * * *
Kail was speeding down the hillside. Her snowboard, covered in blue swirls, weaved around one snow covered pine after another.
From the corner of her eye, a light in the sky caught her off guard and sent her flying into a snow bank.
A wall of light blue shone up above, as if the clouds parted and left a gaping hole. Like stars, it twinkled, and for a moment glitter was falling with the snow, tickling her face before fading away.
The description matched. Trinandra Willicks was calling to her. The light was summoned miles ahead, yet the desperation dripped on her fingertips.
Her heart skipped a beat when she spotted a parka straight ahead, sprawled out over the snow. Struck with fear, she turned it on its side. Such a poor, delicate thing lay before her. Her father had told her that such things were not worth saving, that this world would fall if left to the hands of the weak. But people were not made of glass.
Unconscious, disheveled, and still, the Wocky named Trina laid motionless in the snow. Yet, surprisingly, her body was warm. Not a shard of ice was attached to her pelt, periodically rising and falling very slowly.
A wand rested beside her, and a sinkhole melted under it.
She’s a frost element type, Kail observed. With one touch, the wand melted the snowflakes on her glove. This wand, though, is burning…Wait, this is…this is the warmth of the Heart. She’s drawn over some of its warmth somehow. But from this far away? That’s one powerful skill…
She nudged the Wocky and after a few attempts, her weary blue eyes found Kail’s. “Hello, Trina. My name’s Kail. I’m getting you off of this blasted icicle.”
She blinked. With all that energy powering her wand, she wasn’t surprised she couldn’t speak.
“You can trust me. Your friends, Cassie, Linny, Pat and some Scorchio—forgot his name—came looking for you. I’m here with them.”
At the mention of her friends’ names, her eyes flew wide open. She fought to sit up, to no avail.
“A storm’s coming. What do you say we skedaddle out of here?”* * * * *
Lines blurred and colors flashed. Sounds screeched and winds whooshed.
Slipping in and out of consciousness, I piggybacked on my rescuer, heart racing and head throbbing. I hung from her shoulders, clinging on for my life. Today has just been one deadly situation to the next. Without warning the Kougra would swerve and accelerate. First time on a snowboard, and already I was hoping it’d be my last.
“Watch out!” I managed to scream, my voice raspy.
At the last second, the snowboarder cleared the oncoming boulder without breaking a sweat. Both gravity and the wind propelled her down the hillside, with all the poise and vigor of a Pteri diving through the air.
“Don’t worry; I got this!” Confidence spread across the Kougra’s face. “Relax, we’re almost there!”
Suddenly, Kail’s muscles tensed and she skid to a stop. Even with blurry vision I could recognize a pair of yellow high heels in the snow. From there, my eyes panned upward: porcelain legs in the shadow of a long yellow gown, a golden necklace of precious gems and a tiara to match, and the serene smile of a light faerie.
“It appears you finished your mission earlier than I expected, Trina dear,” she said, her glossy lips shone as they formed each word.
I admired the faerie’s stunning dress until something obstructed my vision. Kail had stepped in front of me and squeezed my hand. Her body went still and I could feel her shivering. She wasn’t cold, she was terrified.
I tried to apologize for my shortcomings, but the words were distorted by my clattering teeth.
“Oh not now, dear. We’ll catch up when we’re back in Faerieland, in the Northeastern Tower.” Her voice was soothing. It wouldn’t be for long but for right now, I just wanted this nightmare to end.
“Trina, wait!” Kail protested, but it was too late. I gathered by the faerie and gave her a sight bow. Her dress was surrounded by warmth.
Brightstar’s eyes burned. I was taken aback, until I watched her frown in disgust at the snowboard. Snowboarding on an urgent quest—I could see why she’d be upset.
Suddenly, something rumbled in the distance. Miles ahead, an avalanche was sliding down a mountain.
I barely heard the Kougra gasp while Brightstar cusped her delicate nails around my wrist. In a second, the white landscape disappeared. Only yellow light remained. * * * * *
In the distance, someone was yelling. Yet, it reached Cassie as a whisper. Despite being Trina’s first friend, here she was, shut out. Minutes ago a second stream of light exploded in the sky and not a soul would tell her anything. Trina was close by, she could feel it.
The yelling ceased. The Brown Wocky now approached her, dejected. He refused to lift his eyes from his feet.
“Kail has something to say,” he said, face concealed by his hood.
“Where’s Trina?” Cassie fumed. “Was that an avalanche over there? Is Trina safe?”
He shook his head.
“WHERE IS SHE?”
A single tear tread down his face. Without warning, he collapsed to his knees and cried out in pain.
“The enemy has kidnapped my daughter!”* * * * *
“It looks like you really had fun,” Brightstar began back in the castle. “So much freedom out there in the open, the world all to yourself…”
“You’re right,” Trina breathed. “That was terrifying. I got blasted by the snowager.”
“Sounds exciting. Find any treasure?”
“Not really. Just a bunch of neggs.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. But in any case, the Heart is greater than any of his forgotten riches. I hope you did not run into too many problems retrieving it.”
“Yeah, about that…” Here it comes. A knot was moving up her throat.
“Can I see it?”
“Well, you see, the Heart isn’t exactly up for grabs. It belongs to the Boris, who need it to remain intact. It’s their life force, actually.”
“That is true, but irrelevant. Where is the Heart, Trinandra?”
“Where it belongs.”
With a jab of her fist, the window to a large dresser shattered and spilled at the Faerie’s feet. Trina gasped and felt chills throughout her body, the fur on her back standing still.
“Did you know,” she started, her eyes locked on a diamond-shaped shard in her hand, her nails moving along its smooth edges. A grin appeared on her pink lips. “That with enough force, glass will shatter on both sides?”
“I’m not sure I follow?”
“Oh, I think you do.”
To add to her confusion, Brightstar extended both of her arms forward and immediately glitter sprinkled from the domed ceiling. The pink sparkles tickled her nose, but she didn’t have a chance to sneeze. There was no time. She was so tired. After such a long day, she was ready to unwind. Besides, it smelled like a flower bed, so soft and airy. What a pleasure it would be to take a nap in a field of daises…
To be continued…