Elaine's Expedition:Part Four
The next morning, Elaine walked into the kitchen area of Jaycin’s hut attempting to appear as calm, relaxed, and rested as possible.
Even though she felt none of those things.
After her nightmare, her thoughts had kept her awake much of the night, plaguing her emotions. She felt immense regret for not being entirely truthful with her parents; the fact that she had not told them how long she would be gone was getting to her, so she had promised herself in the night that she would get back to Krawk Island soon, while still enjoying her remaining time on Mystery Island.
"Hi there, Elaine; how was your sleep?" Jaycin mother’s asked, frying breakfast meats and vegetables in a pan for breakfast.
"It was great, thank you so much for allowing me to stay here," Elaine replied kindly, hoping she sounded genuine.
"It’s no trouble at all," she assured her, as Jaycin stumbled into a seat at the table, yawning. "Jaycin was always a late riser. Sleep well, Jaycin?" she asked her son.
"Like a baby," he joked. "Morning, Elaine."
"Good morning," Elaine smiled.
The trio ate breakfast together, making light conversation about the weather, before Elaine and Jaycin headed out for another day of exploration. "Have a good day, and be safe," Jaycin’s mother called to them on the way out of the door.
"Always," Jaycin waved back. Then he turned to Elaine. "Now, let’s head to that volcano, shall we?"
Elaine hesitated just a moment too long. "Sounds great," she blurted hurriedly, attempting to make up for her pause.
Unfortunately, Jaycin noticed. "Something bothering you?" he asked, cocking his head.
"It’s nothing," Elaine said quickly. "It’s just…I never thought I’d ever get to see the volcano up close," she tried.
"Well, now’s your time," Jaycin said, grinning, leading her in the direction of Mt. Techo.
She could already see its rocky edges looming in the distance. Gulping, she pushed her nightmare out of her mind. Elaine had wanted to see this volcano ever since she first glimpsed it from her dock on Krawk Island. One of her childhood dreams was about to come true; she couldn’t waste this opportunity because of dawdling on events that never even happened.
When the pair arrived before the volcano, Jaycin led them to an entrance at its base. A female Kougra was running the stand. When she noticed Jaycin, she waved him over. "Jaycin!"
Jaycin returned her wave, walked over, and hugged her. "Great to see you!" he said after the embrace. Then he turned to Elaine. "Elaine, this is my cousin, Kyla, and Kyla, this is my new friend, Elaine."
"It’s a pleasure," Kyla said, extending her paw.
"Likewise," Elaine smiled, returning the handshake.
"Now, then, Kyla, fancy you could help us out with some codestones?" Jaycin said playfully.
"Only for my favorite cousin," Kyla said, looking over Jaycin’s shoulder. "Where’s Olario these days?"
Jaycin scowled. "I know for a fact I’m your favorite cousin and not that klutzy Kyrii Olario." He held out his hands. "Codestones, please?"
Kyla laughed. "Alright, alright, here you go," she said, passing him a few circular stones with what looked like ancient markings etched across them.
They’re really codestones, Elaine thought to herself. She had only ever heard stories of the mythical currency used for training on Mystery Island. Back on Krawk Island, Dubloons were currency for everything – food, training, you name it. But here, codestones were sought after by all of those who wished to become stronger.
"Thanks, Kyla, let’s meet up sometime, yes?" he said as he ushered Elaine to follow him.
"I’ll count on that," Kyla said, waving goodbye. "Be safe up there," she called after him as they got farther away.
"Always am!" Jaycin yelled back.
Elaine gulped. "Be careful? Why’d she say that? Do bad things happen up there?"
"Eh, sometimes the volcano erupts, but that’s pretty rare," Jaycin said nonchalantly.
"Um…what?" Elaine asked, gulping.
"It’ll be fine," he reassured her. "The locals can tell when the volcano is close to eruption; they’ve had years of experience with it. We would’ve heard a call of evacuation if it was going to erupt anytime soon!"
That didn’t make Elaine feel much better.
"Now then!" Jaycin said, halting his pace briefly to readjust the codestones in his arms. "We climb."
Elaine peered up the path to see stone steps carved into the rough surface of the volcano. Gazing upward, the steps uneven and steep, and the volcano looked higher than it ever had from Krawk Island.
"I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not as bad as it looks. Trust me, alright?" he said, taking the lead on the way up the steps. "And if it helps, try not to look down too much."
As they made their ascent, Elaine attempted to take Jaycin’s advice. At first, she kept her eyes right at Jaycin’s back, keeping her pace even with his, reminding herself that with each step she got closer to something she had hoped to see her entire life. But as she got higher, her curiosity heightened as well, until she was finally able to will herself to look down.
The huts below formed a mosaic of color among the sand and palm trees. Neopians roamed like tiny Zytches, scuttling along to their various destinations. The sheer scale of it all from this height astounded her.
Surprisingly, it didn’t scare her.
Elaine looked over the side of the staircase, out to the water, where massive ships brought goods into the docks, and large vessels departed out to sea, embarking on new adventures.
Looking back below, she watched the ground’s events grow ever more miniscule as she climbed. So invested in the view, she almost didn’t realize when Jaycin stopped. Confused, she looked up.
And what she saw amazed her beyond words.
A crater, larger than she had ever imagined it to be, was right before it. It smoked slightly, emitting a faintly putrid smell, but it could be ignored, because one of the greatest sights Elaine had ever seen was right in front of her.
"Pretty awesome, right?" Jaycin said, gesturing towards the mouth of the volcano the best way that he could with his armful of codestones. "Well, now you’ll get to experience one of our most ancient rituals. Take five of these codestones,"
Elaine stepped forward, taking five from his arms. Examining the markings upon them, she did not know what they meant, but she decided that they were much more beautiful than dubloons.
"Now then," Jaycin began. "We will sacrifice them to Mt. Techo. In return, we will receive a red codestone – a codestone only the most skilled Neopets need for training…and a nice souvenir for the rest of us. On the count of three, we’ll throw each of our five codestones into the crater. Are you ready?"
"Yes, but once we throw our codestones into the volcano, how do we get the red one back from it?"
"You’ll see, Elaine; I’ll ask you again, just trust me," he smiled. "On the count of three. One, two, three…!"
Elaine and Jaycin hurled each of their codestones into the massive opening. As if alive, the volcano steamed and smoked a bit, producing more of the odd odor.
Then the ground began to shake.
Elaine’s first instinct was to grab for Jaycin’s hand. "Don’t worry, I’m right here," he assured her.
The volcano rumbled, smoked, sputtered, and suddenly, a molten rock flew out of the top of the crater. Eruption? Her nightmare flashed before her eyes; she shut them tight, allowing the visions to pass, and finally opened them again.
Suddenly, she realized the rock was heading straight toward her.
Gasping, she ducked, accidentally almost pulling Jaycin down with her. However, he kept his balance, and with his open hand, gracefully caught the stone.
Elaine, mouth agape, stood back up. "How’d you do that?"
He shrugged. "Years of experience." He held out the codestone. "For you."
Elaine smiled, and went to take it from him, only then realizing she was still holding his hand. Laughing, she unlatched her hand to take the codestone. "Thank you, it’s beautiful."
He chuckled. "I’m glad you like it."
The pair spent the next few minutes admiring the scenery; Jaycin told Elaine of the history, myths, and legends surrounding the volcano, while Elaine, slightly embarrassed, explained her childhood fantasy of coming to this very spot someday.
"Well, I’m glad your young-Elaine dreams could finally come true," he grinned. "But now, I think it’s time for another sort of adventure."
Elaine pondered the idea. They had traversed most of the island since she had arrived. Where else was there to have an "adventure"?
Jaycin led her back down the stony steps, which proved to be a much easier excursion than the ascent had been. They passed Kyla on the way out, who Jaycin tipped with a few thousand Neopoints. Kyla seemed to appreciate it.
Jaycin led Elaine through various alleyways and past more wooden huts, further north than they had traveled before. Strangely, the farther they traveled, the darker their surroundings became; the trees hung lower, the huts were more sparse and sporadic, and everything seemed to be getting quieter. Still, she followed Jaycin onward; he hadn’t steered her wrongly yet.
Finally, they arrived at an entranceway into what looked like a city of some sort. She peered at a sign above the entrance, which read "Geraptiku." Why does that sound familiar? she wondered.
"Know what this is?" Jaycin asked.
"I’ve heard of it, I’m sure…but I don’t quite remember where," Elaine admitted.
"Well, maybe it’s better that you know less," Jaycin said mysteriously. "Onward, we go!"
Slightly unnerved, Elaine followed him through the entranceway. The entire city seemed to be masked by tree cover, as it was much darker here than the sun-streaked sands of Mystery Island. Shivering slightly, she peered at her surroundings. The huts were run-down, the ground damp and muddy, and skulls adorned every structure she saw.
"Kind of a dim place if you ask me," Jaycin said. "But we’re here for one thing," he said, leading them to a monumental, stepped building. "And here we are. The Lost Tomb."
Suddenly, Elaine’s memories of stories of Geraptiku flooded in. Stories of Neopians entering the Tomb and never returning. Stories of Neopians escaping the Tomb, yet not being the same as they had been upon entering. The bad tales she had heard of the place definitely outnumbered the good, and she stood before the Tomb wondering why Jaycin had thought it was a good idea to bring her here.
"To be truthful, I’ve never been inside myself," he told her. "So it’ll be a new adventure for both of us!"
"That definitely does not make me feel better," Elaine said bluntly.
"How many times must I say this, Elaine? Trust me." He walked up to the mouth of the Tomb, taking a torch that sat in a sconce beside the stone doorway. "This will be fun. You coming?"
Mustering up her courage, Elaine walked up to the looming entryway to follow.
To be continued…