Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 197,578,187 Issue: 990 | 25th day of Hiding, Y25
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Spelunking The Southern Connected Underground


by pikachu315111

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The world of Neopia has two major continents simply called the Northern Continent and the Southern Continent. The Northern Continent is considerably smaller than the Southern; it makes up Neopia’s north pole and mainly consists of two lands: Terror Mountain and Tyrannia. The Southern Continent is the main landmass where most of the other Neopian lands are located (which aren’t islands, Maraqua, or in orbit); it splits Neopia’s global ocean and connects to the (mostly) uninhabited south pole.

     

     While there are many adventures to have in the lands, few know that beneath them is a network of deep underground caverns and caves which spans across the entire Southern Continent! Called the “Southern Connected Underground”, it’s made up of 6 major caverns, each with a unique appearance, and there are multiple caves connecting them to one another! With a map in hand, freshly bought climbing tools, and a group of “eager” Neopets, join me and my Neopets as we go:

     SPELUNKING THE SOUTHERN CONNECTED UNDERGROUND!

     

     (When diving into the pitch dark black, remember to bring plenty of snacks!)

     JOURNAL ENTRY DAY 1: Neopia Central Catacombs

     I and my Neopets started our underground journey via the Neopia Central Catacombs, the caverns below Neopia Central. It’s suggested as the beginning point for first time spelunkers as it’s been thoroughly explored (with plenty of climbing equipment setup), easy to enter (through the Deep Catacomb), and is said to be the most colorful cavern.

     Passing through the Deep Catacombs, this was where the Arts and Literature Centre used to be, and was a sight for sore eyes (especially for a Neopian Times’ writer). Due to multiple remodeling projects above ground, the vibrations caused the ceiling of the catacombs to become unstable and rocks starts to fall down. It was decided to close down the Centre and bring it topside: The Collectible Coins shop relocated to Neopia Central; the Coffee Cave and various creative competitions (as well as the Chia Poet statue which originally marked the entrance of the Deep Catacombs) moved to a new Arts and Literature Centre on Roo Island; and the Neopian Times decided to go global having multiple HQs setup all around Neopia. Now all that’s left in the Deep Catacombs are abandoned dusty buildings, their roofs badly damaged. The only one left in any decent shape was the old Neopian Times HQ which was temporarily used as a storehouse until a proper one was built so had some reinforcing done to it. But enough nostalgia, for it was the caves behind the Neopian Times HQ which was our destination. I was familiar with these caves as they were sometimes used by Neopian Times’ writers to sneakily travel around the eastern side of the Southern Continent. However, today, we were going into the deeper parts.

     

     Entering the first major cavern it was a sight to behold! Tall, multicolored stalagmites and stalactites spanned the entire cavern, forming a spiky maze (for convenience, I’ll be referring to both stalagmites and stalactites collectively as “spikes”). The spikes were rocky mineral deposits that were slick from moisture which glistened when a light was shined on them; the spikes are all different colors because they’re formed from different minerals. At the base of the spikes, both above and below, bioluminescent plants grew and glowed in all different colors; the plants don’t use photosynthesis but rather absorb nutrients from the spikes, the chemical process causing them to glow.

     Getting around the cavern was a bit tricky. There was no singular path, rather patches of even floor which you needed to either climb walls or slip between spikes to get from one to another. The walls are just as slick with moisture so it’s easy to slip; the space between spikes vary so you better know how wide you are or else risk getting stuck. I, Firo my Fire Lupe, and Gala my Cloud Wocky were able slip inbetween the spikes just fine; unfortunately Freezo, my Ice Bori, had a more difficult time on account of his hard shell. He found the climbing to be easier thanks to his claws, whereas I and Firo had to rely mainly on climbing equipment; Gala however was fine either way being the nimblest of our team. Now if you were just following the path around the cavern even a novice spelunker should have no problem getting around. However, because we wanted to go down a cave leading to a different cavern, those paths aren’t so well marked.

     

     Gala was the VIP here. As a Wocky she has low-light vision and, combined with natural agility, was able to guide the rest of us to the cave. We started in the morning and it was a few hours past the afternoon when we finally arrived; our stomachs reminding us we’ve hadn’t stopped for lunch. The floor in front of the cave was flat so we laid down a blanket and had a quick picnic. As we ate, I listened to the only ambient sound there was: the drippings of the stalactites onto the stalagmites; FUN FACT: Don’t know which one is which? Remember this: stalacTITES hang TIGHTly to the ceiling (and look like a capital “T”), stalagMITES stand MIGHTily on the ground (and look like a capital “M”).

     SQUEAK. A foreign sound grabs my attention. I asked if any of my Neopets heard it when one of the bags began rustling. Setting our food down, I cautiously approached the bag as my Neopets readied themselves. I quickly opened the bag and a startled Tigermouse looked up, turned to grab the sandwich it was munching on, and ran past us into the cave. “Well, there goes one of your sandwiches” Firo quipped to me. “And there goes all of ours” Gala said, pointing to some more Tigermice who had just swiped our picnic lunches. “HEY!" Firo shouted, “GET BACK HERE WITH OUR LUNCH”! Firo’s voice echoed throughout the cavern, around us we could hear some rubble falling. We hushed Firo to be quiet; seems the vibration of the surface remodeling has even loosened the ceiling here. SQUEAK. ”I hear you in there, come out” Firo demanded. SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAK. Before I could warn Firo those didn’t sound like Tigermice, a whole swarm of Batterfly came out from the darkness of the cave! We duck down as the Batterfly spread out into the cavern. Some smacked into a thin stalactite, cracking it loose and piercing the blanket and pinning it to the ground. Another few hit some stalagmites causing them to topple over adding to the chaotic cacophony. “We need to get out of here” I shouted to my Neopets, grabbing our bags and started crawling into the cave. “I guess we’ll have sandwiches on the go” Freezo sighed. Just then, our bags opened for a few more Tigermice to run out with the remainder of our sandwiches in their mouth, fleeing into the darkness. ‘Well, at least we still have energy bars’ I thought silently to myself, not wanting to jinx us any further.

     

     JOURNAL ENTRY NIGHT 1: Peninsula Cavern

     Free of swarming Batterfly and thieving Tigermice, we walked at a steady pace to the next cavern: Peninsula Cavern. The smallest and thinnest of the caverns, it’s located under the peninsula where the kingdoms of Meridell and Brightvale are settled (and the Darigan Citadel floats above). The connecting cave between the Neopia Central Catacombs and Peninsula Cavern led through a series of underground shallow rivers. No bridges down here, though we did find old worn out wood planks that may have one time been used as makeshift platforms. When we had to cross the river we’d try to find the shallowest point; sometimes we got lucky and it didn’t pass our boots, sometimes we were waist deep. The water was murky but didn’t look unpleasant, sometimes feeling like loose mud than water. But at last we reached the first sign we’ve entered the Peninsula Cavern: an abandoned mine!

     It’s not from randomness that Meridell (and later Brightvale) was constructed on the peninsula: its underground is rich in veins of valuable metals and gemstones. There are dozens of mines dotted around the peninsula; most of them abandoned having been exhausted of their resources. All mines at some point connect to the Peninsula Cavern. There’s nothing really valuable in the cavern, when the miners dug deep enough and made an entrance they knew they reached the mine’s boundary. The entrance gets boarded up as they had no point going in there, but it was handy for us and other explorers. We found one of these boarded entrances and were greeted with a dazzling sight: the floors, walls, and ceiling of the cavern had beautiful crystals growing out of it! No, the miners didn’t miss these, though they look beautiful the sparkling semi-transparent crystals have no value. A worthless endeavor for miners, but a worthwhile sight for spelunkers!

     

     As we further explored the cavern something was bothering me. The entrance was indeed boarded up, but it wasn’t fastened down. Usually these entrances are still completely boarded up or had their boards mostly taken down by Neopians exploring these mines. But the one we entered was still intact, but not attached to the entrance, as if it was being used like a door... BANG. I and my Neopets stopped in our tracks; that didn’t come from one of us. We silently put our backs to a wall and listened. In the distance we heard what sounded like footsteps and possibly voices. We snuck closer to the source and what was being said became clearer: “Hurry up! Put your backs into it. Watch the merchandise”. We climbed up a cliff to get a better view and saw what was making all the commotion: a thieves smuggling caravan! I’ve heard rumors the abandoned mines were sometimes used by outlaws to smuggle goods or hide themselves, but I didn’t think they would go as deep as the cavern.

     “Well, look who we have here” a raspy voice from behind interrupted my thoughts. We turn to see a hooded figure, their face was covered with only their eyes visible, and was brandishing a dagger; “Enjoying the view, boys”? With a single movement Gala jumped to her feet and lashed out her Maractite Cord at the thief. “Excuse me, but I am a lady!” Gala announced as the cord tied around the thief’s dagger hand. With a full body twist, Gala sent the thief falling off the cliff and onto a pile of boxes below. “Well then, guess there’s no talking out of this one” Firo smirked as he drew out his Sword of Reif and Wand of the Light Faerie, jumped down the cliff with a midair flip, and landed in a dynamic pose. “He can be so extra at times” Freezo sighed as we watched from above. The glyphs on the side of Firo’s sword glowed red as the blade lit on fire, meanwhile, the wand’s focus orb pulsed with a yellow glow. SWOOSH! SIZZLE! BZZT! BOOM! I, Freezo, and Gala saw our chance to escape as Firo kept the majority of the thieves “distracted”. Of course, we ran into a few who came from the direction of the entrance. Freezo took out a tattered yellow scroll, unfurled it, and began chanting. “Hehe, reading your last will and testament?” the front thief chuckled as he prepared to charge with a long sword. “Thought I’d give you something ENLIGHTENING to sleep on” Freezo quipped as the Lightning Scroll began to spark before shooting out a bolt of electricity.

     

     As the thieves in front of us fell, a group ran up from behind us and a heavy net came down from above, pinning us to the ground. As the thieves surrounded us a ball of light hit one of the crystals on the wall causing it to glow brightly. This caused a chain reaction with the nearby crystals and soon all the crystals were glowing, blinding everyone. Relying mostly now on our sense of hearing, all around us the thieves began to scream one-by-one, each time the air become hotter, until we felt the weight of the net lifted from our shoulders. “Firo you jerk! Why didn’t you warn us?!” Gala said irritably. “Because then they would have also been warned, DUH!” Firo snarked as he turned and pushed us toward the entrance, “Also a ‘thank you’ would have sufficed”. By the time we were back in the mines our eyes had readjusted, but we could hear a horde of angry shouts behind us. Luckily, a mine means mine carts, and we got onto one that headed away from the peninsula and down toward our next cavern (NOTE: And finally giving Firo our thanks. Firo insisted that was necessary to include)!

     JOURNAL ENTRY DAY 2: The Cavern of Tombs

     The mine cart track took us to about halfway to the next cavern. Exhausted, we set up camp, ate supper rations, and went to sleep taking turns on watch. We woke up late morning, ate breakfast rations, and got to hiking while daylight was burning (figuratively of course, since we’re underground). As we continued down the mine tunnel we saw why the mine cart tracks didn’t go any further. Support structures indicating we’re in a mine became sparser and patches of sand started appearing. First it was only like a bucket amount every few feet, than steadily grew to playground sandbox size, than entire stretches of the tunnel was covered in sand. By now any signs we were in a mine was gone; even the walls and ceiling changed from dark brown dirt to red and tan sandstone. It wasn’t difficult to walk in the sand, but every now and again one of us would step down onto a deeper spot and stumble. Than we hit a downward incline, our steps disturbing the sand and we got caught up in a sand slide.

     

     The sand slide started at a 45 degree angle but became more vertical as we slid down, picking up speed. Expecting to land on a pile of sand we’d need to dig ourselves out of, our sandy trip ended with a THUD onto a tiled stone floor. We got onto our feet and checked the room we were in. Behind us was the chute we entered through, sand still sliding down from it which got filtered through grates on the floor; we weren’t returning that way. The room led out into a bigger chamber, decorative patterns lined the walls but nothing that looked like a written language. The chamber led into a hallway, a few more rooms open to us. We gave an inquisitive but careful peak into most of them, but they were all empty; it only made this place feel unsettling. We followed to the end of the hall and entered what looked to be a foyer; we were on the second floor. The entire building looked to have been carved out from sandstone; in the middle was what looked like a fountain or wading pool, but there was no water, only sand. We walked down the stairs and approached a large pair of stone doors. It took all four of us pushing against one door to open it wide enough for us to slip through. When we got outside, we looked around in astonishment; it looked like a city plaza. Or rather, it is a city plaza, just not for the living.

     The Cavern of Tombs, it stretches across the boundary between the Haunted Woods and Lost Desert. The exact history isn’t known, but archeologists have discovered records that date as far back as Lost Desert’s earliest civilizations. Believing the cavern was an underworld where the realms of the living and dead overlapped, to both appease the spirits and have their deceased rest peacefully, a “city of the dead” was built in the cavern. Instead of living quarters or buildings for businesses there were tombs, and instead of the streets bustling with people there were thousands of statues randomly placed about to give the illusion of inhabitance. While some tombs are fully constructed buildings, many more were carved out of the walls of the cavern (they tended to be the larger and more elaborate tombs, such as the one we came out of). However the largest tomb was of course in the center of the city, a pyramid fit for a king. Which king? Good question.

     

     As archeologists were here, preservation attempts have been made. Every statue had a metal fence built around it; the question of it deterring thefts answered by fences which surrounded nothing and had a big gap cut into it. Only a drawing on a small plaque each statue had attached to their fencing showed what was once there. There is no “treasure” to find down here, most of the artifacts have been moved to surface museums for education and safekeeping; any which was missed likely got snagged by graverobbers ages ago. The center pyramid has a bit more protection; a magical barrier was setup at its doors to prevent entry. While the pyramid is smaller than the Gebmids, when up close its size gives the optical illusion that it’s bigger than the dimensions of the cavern (no part of the pyramid touches the cavern’s walls or ceiling, the closest corner being a dozen meters away). With the statues and pyramid a standout, you’d be excused missing the smaller details; the city is beautifully designed. Tiled floors (many with individual or combined patterns), benches and seats (some with statues sitting on them), even remains of a faux marketplace which still had stands and bowls made of stone that were too plain & heavy to be worth taking.

     I and my Neopets had split up to examine different parts of the city; being its empty we could easily hear each other’s shouts. As I explored the abandoned marketplace, a wind began picking up (which was very peculiar was we were underground). Strands of sand and dust were lifted up and I had to hold a cloth to my mouth. AAAAAH! I heard Freezo’s yell coming from the plaza and I ran back there. By the time I got there a sandstorm was brewing and visibility was getting worse by the moment. Not helping were the statues’ silhouettes within the sand and their fences I kept running into. After running right into one, the sandstorm picked up and what sounded like a chorus of loud moans of agony was carried through the air. “LEEEAAAVE!” the statue in front of me screamed (or at least that’s what it sounded like), which I obliged.

     

     When I turned around I saw sudden movement: Freezo was darting from statue to statue. I caught up to him and he began shaking me while yelling “THE STATUES ARE SCREAMING”! I gave him a slap and told him to get it together; we needed to find Firo and Gala, both who went to the pyramid. Arriving at the pyramid, we spotted Firo who was leaned back against the pyramid with a shield in front of him. “About time you two showed up” Firo growled, “Me and Gala split up to explore the perimeter of the pyramid”. When the sandstorm began Firo headed back to the front hoping Gala would have done the same. Following close behind Firo who blocked incoming sand with his shield, we went around the side of the pyramid Gala explored. When we got to the corner, we saw Gala shoulder deep sinking in sand! Upon seeing us Gala screamed “HELP!”; we threw her a rope and pulled her out of the sink hole. When the sandstorm started Gala was about to turn back when she saw what looked like a cave out of the cavern; she tried going for it but got caught in the sink hole. While we could have discussed safety procedures right there, a harsher gale followed by a screech had us decide it was time for the next cavern and we (safely) navigated to the cave Gala found.

     JOURNAL ENTRY NIGHT 2: Backbone Passage

     Finally safe from the sandstorm, we travelled up the cave until sand and sandstone gave way to frost and cold gray rock. Vertically “splitting” the Southern Continent is a long mountain range called the Backbone Mountains. It’s below this mountain range the largest cavern lays: Backbone Passage. As the name implies, the cavern was once used as a way to cross the Backbone Mountains without having to risk climbing them. However the Backbone Passage doesn’t come without its own dangers, just because you’re not climbing high doesn’t mean it’s less cold; in some places the passage’s temperatures goes below the average freezing temperatures of the mountains. The passage fell into disuse once air travel and teleportation (both magical and technological) became more widely available, not to mention safer ground-level paths were made through the mountains. While not commonly used, there are some small paths through the mountains which use the safer parts of the passage. But for I and my Neopets, we’re on a cavern exploring adventure, so we’re going to travel up the Backbone Passage until reaching our next cavern connecting cave. (EDIT: Hello, Freezo here. Originally my owner jotted down a few bad ice puns here, but as an Ice colored Neopet I decided it was my duty to remove them. Now back to the “adventure”).

     

     We stopping for a short break and to prep ourselves (putting on more insulated clothes and got out ice piercing walking sticks). As we stepped into the entrance to the passage, we immediately slid down an icy slope to a bottom of a crevice. It would take a lot of effort with our walking sticks to get back up, if at all possible; only way out is to move forward. Our path would take us underneath a large lake in the Bakcbone Mountains called the Greatest Lake; its streams flowed down into the rivers and lakes surrounding the mountains which than flowed to others all around the Southern Continent). Also, the coldest part of the passage is underneath it.

     Though we weren’t underneath the lake yet, it was still icy and thus slippery. We had to slow down our pace and rely on our walking sticks to keep on our feet. This gave us a chance to look around and marvel at the pristine beauty of the layers of ice. It was as if the cavern was made of glass; a basement of a crystal palace. There were crystal formations all around, not unlike the crystals in the Peninsula Cavern, but where those were transparent gemstones these were cyan pillars of ice. During the wet season, heavy rainfall causes the Greatest Lake to overflow. Not only do the surrounding rivers and lakes also overflow, but Backbone Passage is completed flooded. The warmer water erodes the top layer of ice, cleansing it of any dirt or other impurities. When the wet season ends, the excess water freezes over renewing its glass-like sheen.

     

     As we approached the center of the Greatest Lake, the temperature kept dropping. While Firo and Freezo were doing fine, I and Gala started to struggle. Being a Fire colored Neopet, Firo naturally generates heat so I and Gala stayed as close to him as we could; Firo took out his fire sword for a bit but the warmth it generated was too fleeting. Freezo took the lead, being an Ice colored Neopet and a Bori he had double the natural resistance to the cold (EDIT: Hello, Freezo again, I just wanted to mention that’s not how it works; while I’d agree I have better cold resistance I wouldn’t say it’s by double)(EDIT: Okay Freezo, no more editing privileges for you). The air became harder to breath, each breathe feeling like a sharp sting. The insulated clothes couldn’t stop us from shivering; our feet, hands, and face were numb. Only our blurred vision let us know we were still moving forward. We finally made it to the center of the Greatest Lake, the coldest spot in Backbone Passage. The ice crystals coming up from the ground were huge; the ice was nearly pure white and mirror-like as we saw blurry reflections of ourselves. And it was silent. FLOP. Except for that; looking behind us, Gala had collapsed. I tried to walk forward but I was next to hit the ice and snow. It’s times like this why I carry a Ring of the Lost. If only I could feel my hand to reach it...

     I woke up by a campfire. I was wrapped in a blanket as chunks of ice melted off of me. “BRRRRR”. I looked next to me to see Gala also wrapped in a blanket and a layer of frost melting off her. Freezo came up to us and put a bowl filled with a warm stew in our hands, the warmth felt good as it further unthawed our hands. Firo explained that they had to think fast, so he and Freezo used an Ancient Lupe Wand and Scroll of Freezing, respectively, to freeze us in a layer of ice until they could drag us someplace safe to warm up. We were past the Greatest Lake and near the cave that’ll lead us to the next cavern. But that’s a hike for tomorrow, for the rest of the night we drank warm beverages and slept around the fire; after this adventure we’re going to have entire new chapters of safety procedures.

     

     JOURNAL ENTRY DAY 3: Cavern of the Misty Valley

     Waking up around noon, I and Gala were fully thawed and we all were ready to go. As we went through the cave the temperature got warmer and more humid. We began seeing small wisps of mist which grew bigger and thicker. Puddles of water formed under our feet, not a problem but with the mist obscuring our vision it was an irritating “surprise” whenever one of us stepped in one. It was all building up for when we finally entered the next cavern: Cavern of the Misty Valley. Underneath Shenkuu, or rather the rivers which Shenkuu towers over, is a mist-filled cavern which the people of Shenkuu consider mystical. An ancient Shenkuu tradition stated new Emperors were taken down into the cavern, left with only a day worth of provisions, and had to find their way out to prove their worthiness of the throne (though there are no historical records of a Shenkuu Emperor having actually done this). The mist is said to misdirect you and seemingly even teleport you without you knowing; claims unproven but demonstrate how disorienting the mist can be.

     Entering on a cliff, below was a blanket of mist with only tops of presumably tall stalagmites poking through. I turned to my Neopets to tell them to stay close... or I would have if they were with me. I was all by myself on the cliff. “HELLO!” I shouted back into the cave we just exited, a thick mist billowing from it. “HEY! WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?” Firo yelled from somewhere within the mists below. “Seems we lost sight of each other in the mist and took different paths into the cavern” Freezo’s voice echoed elsewhere. “In that case everyone stay where you are” Gala next shouted, “I’ll come and find you”. Gala’s voice came close under the cliff and, figuring she wouldn’t find me up here, I propelled down into the mist. SPLASH! I ended up landing in a pool of water. I tried to reorient myself but the mist was just prevalent in the water and I ended up getting tangled in the rope. I was running out of air and couldn’t figure out which way was up. Suddenly my rope tugged, dragging me above water as I let out a gasp. I took a deep breath and looked up, I was at the water’s edge and standing over me with the rope was a miffed Gala.

     

     With a rope connecting us, Gala took the lead finding Firo and Freezo. Being Cloud colored, Gala had a sort of sixth sense when navigating through obscured air conditions like smoke, fog, and mist. She can’t see through it, but she’s able to sense where things are and what they are if she’s familiar with it. The good news is Gala knows in the general direction Firo and Freezo are at, the bad news is that it’s like a water maze in the mist. Gala can prevent us from falling into another pool of water or walking into a stalagmite, but there’s no clear path. We got to where Firo was, but there was a flowing stream of water between us. Gala was able to toss a rope over to Firo and we tied the ropes between two stalagmites for Firo to climb across. Well, that was our plan; Firo tried to zip line across using the walking stick, and the sudden weight shift caused the stalagmite on his side to break. As he began swinging, Gala instructed him where to turn and Firo just barely missed going into the stream and landed on our side. SLAP! Firo let out a small “ow” as Gala smacked him in the back of his head.

     With the three of us tied together, we went to find Freezo. Freezo somehow ended up in a crevice and it was agreed it was easier for him to climb up than one of us to go down. There wasn’t much room for us to pull him, so he had to feel for spots on the wall he could get a grip on. Gala guided him to potential spots she could sense as I and Firo held onto the rope, slowly pulling up when we felt some give. A few times he slipped and we almost were dragged down with him, but he was able to catch himself by digging in with his claws. Finally he got to the top of the crevice and we all agreed it was time to leave. I and Gala went over the map and figured out the next cave we needed... it was at the bottom of the crevice. SLAP! I’m not sure which of my Neopets slapped me, but I wouldn’t argue it wasn’t deserved. At the very least we knew the path to climb down.

     

     JOURNAL ENTRY NIGHT 3: Lair of Legends

     Getting away from the mist, the connecting cave to the last cavern was teeming with life. The last few caverns were pretty devoid of life, or any which were around didn’t want to bother with us. But this cave alone had more diversity of plants, mushrooms and Petpets than all the caverns we’ve seen so far. The walls were covered either in moss or vines, occasional flowers and unidentifiable berries growing among them. Mushrooms with big caps grew on the floor while smaller bioluminescent mushrooms hung from the ceiling. Petpet species native to Shenkuu and Altador coexist here, either living in the foliage or using the cave as a way to travel hidden. We’ve found Gikerot resting under leafs or munching on the flowers and berries; there was a Garfir and Hydruplit fighting over a burrow; and a few times a Petpet darted pass us, once a Naalala and another time a Sandan. And then we came to a large, ornate marble door: an entrance to the Lair of Legends.

     During the early years of building up the city that would be named Altador, a large cavern was discovered. At first the part that was closest to the city was used as a place of shelter and to store resources and valuables. As the city became more complete, the caverns were abandoned but thoughts of how they could be used in the future were thought about. However nothing ever came of these plans, at least officially. At an unknown time after Altador’s creation, some group had taken over the cavern and converted it into a labyrinth filled with puzzles and physical challenges. By the time it was discovered it has been abandoned yet again and by order of King Altador was sealed away. And then the Darkest Faerie betrayed Altador and the city was put into a thousand year stasis. In that time the Lair of Legends, as it would be called, was reclaimed by nature; many parts of the labyrinth had collapsed, was overgrown with plants and mushrooms, and Petpets have made it their home. King Altador’s sealed order is no longer enforced; though great caution is advised to anyone curious to go down there.

     

     We set up a quick camp in front of the marble door to eat the last of the rations and to get in a quick nap. Once ready, we opened the door which led to a top of a balcony. The balcony was Altadorian in design and it barely overlooked the tall walls of the expansive labyrinth. We walked down a curving staircase to the exterior wall of the labyrinth. There were multiple doors lining the vine-covered wall, each with a sigil above it. Before I could suggest we stick together, Firo had gone through a door with a sword sigil and Gala a door with a pair of wings sigil, a gate springing up behind both of them. Firo gave the gate a kick, causing the walls to rumble. “Think if I break the gates down the maze will crumble on top of us” Firo said looking at the dust that fell from the side of the walls. “I guess the only way out is through” Gala shrugged. “Race you to the end!” Firo chuckled as he ran deeper into the labyrinth. I, Freezo, and Gala could only sigh and shake our heads; Gala continued down the path she chose, with I and Freezo going through a door with a scale sigil.

     I and Freezo reached a room that had a giant scale with one side weighted down. With there being a stack of stones nearby, we added them onto the other side until the scale balanced itself and a door slid open. Easy enough, though that was just the tutorial room. Next room had stones of different sizes and weight, took trial and error to figure out the right combination to counterweigh the scale but still easy. The rooms continued rising in difficulty introducing new puzzle elements: different materials, using water, having to counterweigh multiple scales, needing to solve a smaller puzzle to get what we needed, etc.. I and Freezo even competed to see who could figure out the solution first. Over by Firo’s path we heard growls, yells, clattering of weapons, and explosions. Gala’s path was quiet, which made me concern until we got to a room and Gala was there! Gala’s challenge involved hopping from platforms to pull levers, nothing that difficult for her. However we came to a part of the labyrinth which had fallen apart, Gala’s path forward became blocked but the broken walls gave access to our path. We explained to Gala our challenge was solving scale puzzles... to then realize the next scale had been destroyed by rubble.

     

     Trapped. We tried to see if we could dig out enough of the scale to activate the door, but it was a futile effort as most of the mechanism was under the floor. I doubt even Firo could force the door open let alone the three of us. We had access to some other challenges’ paths, but since their challenges weren’t solved there’s no going back to the entrance through them. One of these paths was right next to Firo’s, and from the sound of it Firo was ahead of us by one or two rooms. I then noticed the separating wall had a long vertical crack at the top of it, and with Firo safely ahead I made the suggestion to Freezo and Gala it was time to make our own path. Freezo used his Lightning Scroll to widen the crack enough for Gala to reach up there, climb over, and hang down a rope.

     We were now in the Sword sigil door’s challenge and all around us were destroyed pieces of armor. The next room was open and was more of the same, though there was also what looked to be wrecked wooden vehicles. There was a roar in the room up ahead and there we saw Firo fighting a giant Aroota made of fire! “We got your back!” Freezo shouted as he and Gala charged into the room. “DON’T!” Firo shouted back, but it was too late: in front of Freezo and Gala two more giant Petpets materialized: A Yooyu made of ice and a Garfir made of wind. I stayed behind lest an Electric Naalala or something joined the fray.

     

     For the next few minutes my Neopets battled the elemental beasts but not making much headway. Firo’s Sword of Reif harmlessly went through the fiery Aroota, Freezo’s Lightning Scroll bounced off the reflective body of the icy Yooyu, and Gala’s Maractite Cord was blown around by the airy Garfir. The giant Petpets attacked with methods that knocked my Neopets around: the Aroota had claws made of obsidian, the Yooyu rapidly spin in place flinging rocks and dirt, and the Garfir’s tail turned to solid-looking clouds when it struck with it. It was by an off chance that one of Freezo’s lightning bolts was deflected right at the Garfir when its tail was solid, the elemental giving out a shocked shriek as the cloud absorbed the lightning. With a look and a nod to each other, my Neopets swapped opponents: Firo charged at the icy Yooyu, his Sword of Reif melting it down; Freezo taunted the airy Garfir until it readied its tail, using his Lightning Scroll to cause a lightning storm within it causing it to dissipate; finally Gala whipped the fiery Aroota by spinning her Maractite Cord in a spiral, turning it into a flaming funnel that flew upward and burned itself out. As the water of the icy Yooyu evaporated, the door out of the labyrinth opened. “That was fun and all, but let’s skip the award ceremony and GET BACK TO THE SURFACE ALREADY” Firo growled. We all agreed and went up the nearest cave to the surface.

     JOURNAL ENTRY DAY 5: Back Home

     When we got back to the surface we awarded ourselves with a nice stay in Altador. Having washed up at a thermae and filled ourselves with figs, cheese, and bread, we returned home refreshed to rest. Well, for my Neopets at least; I had a journal to go through and an article to write. The Southern Connected Underground is an adventure to remember: Neopia Central Catacombs’ spectacular (but fragile) cave formations; the glistening crystal-encrusted Peninsula Cavern which thieves used as a smuggling route; The Cavern of Tombs’ city of the dead and haunted sandstorm; Backbone Passage’s pristine ice coating and subzero temperatures; the mystifying mist of the Cavern of the Misty Valley; and proving ourselves by overcoming the challenges in the Lair of Legends. If you’re up for a challenge and wanting to see beautiful sights very little have, I’d certainly suggest planning a visit to the caverns (though maybe not all at once as we did).

     

     

     But don’t take just my word, I’ll leave you with my Neopet’s final thoughts on visiting the caverns:

     Firo: NOOOO, FYORA! No, Fyora, please no. NO. NO! NOOOOOOOOO...

     Freezo: *Looks at you with a stern face before laughing* HAAAAA, HAHAHA!*Glimpses at you* HAHAHAHAHA!*Slaps his knee a few times* HAHA... *returns to a stern face* You serious?

     Gala: Don’t talk to me or my Petpet ever again *Picks up her Cloud Harris and leaves*.

 
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