Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 124,467,804 Issue: 251 | 4th day of Hiding, Y8
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The Peophin Incident: Part Two

by kyrinn


Kaerhas opened his eyes. Blindingly bright light met his vision, and the Bori's head throbbed. Groaning, he quickly shut his eyes and lay back down on a hard, cold surface.

     Where am I? Kaerhas wondered. His memory was fuzzy and his brain felt like it was bouncing around inside of his skull. The Bori longed to go back to sleep, but he couldn't shake off a feeling of danger. It set alarm bells ringing in his head and wouldn't let him sleep.

     Slowly, Kaerhas opened his eyes again. This time, he managed to keep them open, though it made his head ache more than ever. Once his eyes had adjusted to the light, the blue Bori slowly stood up and looked around.

     He was in a small room. The stone walls were bare, devoid of any decorations. However, there were a few windows near the tops of the walls, just below the ceiling. It was from these that the cold white light was streaming in. A plain brown door marked the exit. Many cardboard boxes were scattered on the floor, and among them was a small brown and green shape.

     Kaerhas hurried over to his stepbrother and gently prodded the Xweetok. Chaelian groaned. His reaction upon waking was almost exactly the same as Kaerhas', and the Xweetok immediately rolled over again, his eyes shut tightly. Kaerhas persisted.

     "Chaelian, get up." Kaerhas poked the Xweetok again.

     Chaelian sensed a note of urgency in his brother's voice. The Xweetok sighed and opened his eyes to the light. Kaerhas helped Chaelian to stand, then let go of him once the Xweetok was capable of remaining upright.

     "You okay?" Kaerhas asked, concerned. Chaelian nodded.

     "Apart from a debilitating pain in my head that feels as if someone's whacking me with a hammer, yes, I'm fine." The Xweetok shivered. "It's cold."

     Kaerhas had noticed this also, but being of a species that had originally come from the Ice Caves, it didn't bother him as much as it did his brother. It did, however, give him a vague idea of where they were: somewhere on Terror Mountain. The Bori spoke his theory aloud to Chaelian.

     "You're probably right," Chaelian answered. "But how did we get here?"

     "That Peophin," Kaerhas said, his memory suddenly returning to him. Chaelian's question had reminded him of their plight. "Teirryn, wasn't it? Remember what happened last night? He said we were going to visit a friend of his, or something."

     Chaelian frowned. "Why would he drag us all the way to Terror Mountain, though? This makes no sense." The Xweetok stiffened as a sudden thought occurred to him. "Hey, where's Neji?"

     Kaerhas looked around the room for the robot Petpet or Chaelian's bag. There was no sign of either one.

     "I guess he's not here. Maybe we should try to get out of here." The Bori looked over to Chaelian, who looked rather dispirited.

     "Where could he have gone? You don't think that Peophin took him-"

     Chaelian was interrupted by a blast of icy cold wind as the door opened, admitting said Peophin. He struggled for a few moments, trying to close the door, then managed to slam it shut against the wind. Teirryn turned around to face Kaerhas and Chaelian.

     "Oh, you're awake. Good." The Tyrannian Peophin tossed a package he was carrying to the floor. "Now we can get started."

     "Get started with what?" Kaerhas grumbled. "We want some answers here. First you clonk us both on the head, and then you kidnap us to Terror Mountain or wherever we are. And my head still hurts."

     Teirryn tossed a bottle at the Bori. Kaerhas caught it in midair and examined the liquid inside.

     "It's a healing potion. Don't worry," Teirryn said, in answer to Kaerhas' skeptical look. "If I'd meant you harm, you'd probably be dead by now."

     Kaerhas doubtfully raised the bottle to his lips. As soon as he had swallowed some of the purple liquid, the throbbing in his head eased. The Bori passed the potion to Chaelian and turned back to Teirryn.

     The Peophin, seeing that he had Kaerhas' attention, continued speaking. "And I meant that we can now get started on our quest."

     Kaerhas brightened. The prospect of adventure always got his attention. "A quest? What sort of quest?"

     Chaelian cut his brother off. "What if we don't want to go on a quest with you?"

     Teirryn smiled grimly. "Oh, I think you will." The Peophin held up a familiar-looking bag.

     "Neji!" Chaelian made a lunge for his Petpet, but the Peophin dodged to one side.

     "Let's make a deal," Teirryn said, smiling irritatingly at the fuming Xweetok. "You two can come with me, and once we reach our goal, I'll give you this Petpet back. And who knows? You might find some other things that would be worth your while. After all, we're going on a treasure hunt."

     "Really?" Kaerhas asked, his eyes wide. "That sounds fun!"

     Much as he hated to admit it, Chaelian was intrigued as well.

     "A treasure hunt? Where?"

     Teirryn smiled, knowing that he had the full attention of the stepbrothers. "Does this mean you'll join me? I'm not going to tell you if you won't. Competition isn't good for this sort of thing, you know."

     Kaerhas and Chaelian glanced at each other and made a silent agreement.

     "Okay, we're in." Kaerhas spoke for both of them.

     "And you will give me back my Petpet when we're done?" Chaelian asked.

     "Of course. Oh, and one last thing," added Teirryn. "Once we start, there's no backing out."

     "Agreed. Now tell us what you know."

     "There's a legend I've heard of that hints toward a great treasure hidden somewhere in the Tyrannian Jungle. It was in an old song, and there seem to be clues in the words. Here, listen:

     "In ancient times when legends were sung of

     And stories were passed on of love and woe

     A fable, a tale of a world long forgotten

     Hidden beneath the mountain's ice floes

     And spirits who come to take what they've lost

     And peace sealed forever by their sorcerous touch

     Till the key is found to release those souls

     That remain in the wraiths' unrelenting clutch

     And each item of magic was taken beneath

     To the jungle, a place by the earthen waves

     And the flow of clear water, leading within

     To night beyond the entrance of the cave

     Guarded by illusions and those that remain

     To fend off outsiders and treasures keep

     With deathly cold hands, they reach out to life

     And pull them under to eternal sleep."

     "That's only a part of the whole song, but the rest of it has to do with other things," Teirryn explained upon finishing his recital.

     "And you memorized all this? Impressive," Kaerhas remarked. "And so you've figured it out, right?"

     "Not all of it," the Peophin admitted. "The Tyrannia part was easy, but I guess it wouldn't have been a hundred years ago, or whenever this song was written. We need to find a stream or a river or some body of running water, that much is certain. And it leads into a cave."

     "And what's with all that stuff about ghosts and spirits?" Chaelian asked. "And a key?"

     Teirryn shrugged nonchalantly. "It is only a legend. But I wouldn't be surprised if the treasure was guarded, and by ghosts. They seem to make a habit of doing such things."

     "Well, what's an adventure without a bit of danger? This'll be awesome!" Kaerhas declared. "Let's go!"

     "Hang on, I don't even know where the cave is," Teirryn interjected.

     "Do you know how to find out?" Chaelian asked. The Xweetok found it hard to believe that Teirryn would have gone to all this trouble if he hadn't known where the treasure was, or how to find out.

     Teirryn smiled mischievously. "If I had a good, detailed map, yes, I could find the location of the cave. There can't be too many streams and caves in Tyrannia, after all."

     Chaelian sensed something behind the Peophin's glib words. "And where would we be able to find this good, detailed map of yours, may I ask?"

     "As you've probably realized, we're currently in a house on the outskirts of Happy Valley. A few yards away is a house belonging to a renowned mapmaker, famous for his 'good, detailed maps.' I'm certain he wouldn't mind if we were to borrow one."

     "What, you mean stealing?" Kaerhas asked.

     "No, I mean borrowing," Teirryn retorted. "We'll give it back once we're done with it. And besides, he's got so many maps, he won't even know if one or two disappear for a few days."

     Kaerhas looked unconvinced. Chaelian voiced his doubts. "Are you sure?"

     "No. Now come on, we haven't any time to lose." Seeing his companions' doubtful faces, Teirryn added, "You did agree to my terms, one of which was 'no backing out.' We're not actually doing any harm to anyone."

     Chaelian sighed. "Okay, I guess. Let's go."

     "Great!" Teirryn gestured to the package on the floor in front of them. "There are jackets in there. Put them on, it's going to be cold outside."

     "So do you think we'll really find the treasure?" Kaerhas whispered to Chaelian as the Bori tore apart the paper on the package with his long claws.

     Chaelian shrugged as he pulled out a jacket. "Who knows? I guess we'll have to wait and see."

     * * *

     And so it was that Kaerhas and Chaelian found themselves shivering in the snow just outside of a small cabin. Teirryn nudged Chaelian in through the open door, pausing only to drop a bag in front of Kaerhas.

     "It's some equipment," the Peophin explained in response to the Bori's quizzical look. "Hang on to it; we shouldn't need any of it right now."

     Kaerhas nodded. "Good luck."

     Teirryn grinned and tossed back his wild red mane, then went inside the house, shutting the door behind him. The Peophin moved forward a few steps and nearly tripped on Chaelian.

     "Well, that was graceful," the Xweetok muttered.

     "What are you doing standing in the middle of the hall?" Teirryn hissed back. "Come on." The Peophin beckoned to Chaelian, and the two crept silently down the hall.

     "Any idea where we're going?" Chaelian whispered.

     "Nope. But there's sure to be a room somewhere where the Usul keeps his maps... ah, there!" Teirryn carefully stopped in front of a door and slowly opened it. Peering in through the crack, the Peophin shook his head.

     "No, that's the kitchen. Careful, watch your step!" The Peophin caught Chaelian as the Xweetok stumbled over a rug, closing the door at the same time. "Let's go look over there."

     Teirryn and Chaelian continued to look into various rooms. Luckily, it was a rather small house, so it wasn't long before the two found the room that seemed to be the place where the mapmaker did his works. There was a sturdy-looking desk, covered with pieces of blank parchment and bottles of different colored ink. Finished maps were proudly displayed on the walls, while others were rolled up neatly and stacked in shelves or in the corners of the room. Chaelian felt a sinking feeling as he looked at all of the maps they would have to search. Teirryn, on the other hand, wasted no time but immediately began to examine the shelves.

     "I think... yes, these are sorted by regions," the Peophin muttered, more to himself than to his companion. Teirryn quickly scanned the labels on the shelves. "Here: Tyrannia. Let's start looking for one of the jungle."

     Chaelian pulled a map from the shelf, unrolling it carefully. It was a beautiful work of art; each landmark was carefully marked and labeled in elegant, flowing script, a key was drawn to the side, and the whole thing was colored with various pigments and inks. Unfortunately, it was not a map of the jungle, but of the plateau. Rolling the parchment up again, the Xweetok put it to one side and picked another map from the shelf.

     To the left of Chaelian, Teirryn was busily searching through the pile of maps. The Peophin had no time to stop and appreciate the artwork; he had only one thing in mind: find the map. His efforts were soon rewarded: Teirryn unfurled a map of the Tyrannian Jungle. He rolled it up and thrust the rest of them back on the shelf. Prodding Chaelian in the back, the Peophin led the way back to the hall. To his dismay, he found it blocked.

     "A Tasu!" Chaelian breathed. And it wasn't a friendly-looking, cuddly Tasu either. It was quite large, with sharp white teeth that could certainly leave scars. The Petpet growled menacingly at the two pets, crouching down, ready to pounce.

     "We can take it," Teirryn whispered back.

     "Not without waking everyone in this house," Chaelian snapped.

     "Sheesh, you sure are irritable when you don't get enough sleep," Teirryn muttered. "Okay, you're faster than I am, so distract it and I'll sneak up behind it."

     "Don't hurt it!" Chaelian hissed. "You've done enough damage for one day."

     "Fine, fine. Just go." Teirryn turned his eyes back to the Tasu. "You'd think we were planning an attack on the Snowager instead of one little Petpet."

     "Shut up." Chaelian suddenly sprang towards the door, slipping past the startled Tasu. The Petpet tried to turn around and go after the Xweetok, but Teirryn blocked its way. Chaelian wrenched open the door, nearly tripping over Kaerhas, who had been waiting anxiously for his two companions.

     "What? What is it?" Kaerhas asked as he helped his stepbrother up.

     "A Tasu attacked us," Chaelian explained, turning back towards the house in time to see Teirryn gently tap the Tasu on its head with his heavy fish tail. The Petpet immediately keeled over, unconscious, and Teirryn quickly went outside, closing the door behind him.

     "Come on, let's get going," the Peophin said, leading the way back to the abandoned warehouse that he'd proclaimed their headquarters. "I think we woke the Usul."

     Kaerhas and Chaelian hurried after the Peophin, their breaths coming in misty gasps as they struggled through the snow. It was with some relief that the two gained the relative warmth and safety of the warehouse.

     "Now, let's take a look at that map." Chaelian turned to Teirryn, who unrolled the "borrowed" map and spread it out between the three of them.

     Kaerhas narrowed his brown eyes, trying to make out the Usul mapmaker's tiny print. The Bori started searching the northwest corner of the map. "There," the Bori proclaimed, tapping the parchment with a claw. "There's a stream leading into a cave right there. It looks like it's deep within the mountains though... that's going to be quite a hike."

     Teirryn didn't seem to think so, though. On the contrary, the Peophin looked pleased. "Excellent. It just so happens that I know a shortcut that leads straight into the mountains. And, as luck would have it, the shortcut can be found right here on Terror Mountain."

     "Oh really?" Kaerhas looked up from the map. "Where is it?"

     Teirryn grinned. "In the Snowager's Cave."

To be continued...

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