The Peophin Incident: Part Six
Chaelian woke at just about the time the sun rose. The stinging
in his side had weakened to a dull throb, and the Xweetok mentally reflected on
his appreciation for healing potions.
Glancing around the cave with his sharp green
eyes, Chaelian saw that Teirryn and his brother Kaerhas were both still asleep.
The cave entrance showed the sun lighting up the barren Tyrannian landscape,
but surprisingly little light penetrated the shadows of the cave. Not even
the light dares to enter this place, Chaelian thought grimly. No wonder
the Lupes didn't come in after us.
Making his way over the rocky ground, the green
Xweetok poked his companions until they were awake. Kaerhas and Teirryn were
soon roused from slumber, and the group dug through the packs in search of breakfast.
"We're running out of food," Kaerhas mumbled
through a full mouth. Last night's battle had left the Bori ravenous.
"No matter. We're nearing the end of our little
treasure hunt, one way or another," Teirryn responded, gulping from his water
bottle. "We either succeed, or we die trying."
"I applaud your optimism," Chaelian responded,
starting to pack up and get ready for the day's adventures. "I, for one, refuse
to die here, so we'd better succeed."
"Okay, so dying isn't an option," Teirryn said.
"That means the only choice we have is to find the treasure."
"I'm ready." Kaerhas crammed the last of his
bread into his mouth, nearly choking himself.
After stuffing their meager possessions into
their bags, the three companions broke camp and started descending further into
the cavern, Teirryn leading the way. To all appearances, it was a perfectly
normal cave. True, the shadows seemed to mass together more thickly than normal,
and a strangely chill wind blew around the trio, but there was nothing that
threatening or terrifying yet.
"A torch, do you think?" Kaerhas whispered after
ten minutes. It was as dark as night. Teirryn nodded, even though the others
couldn't see him. There was the sound of the Peophin striking flint, and a torch
crackled and flickered into life. It cast a small ring of light around the group,
but the fire wasn't enough to penetrate the darkness before them.
"It shouldn't be this dark," Chaelian muttered.
"I've got pretty good night vision, and I still can't see a thing!"
"It's probably magic," Teirryn responded. "Hang
"What is it?" Kaerhas asked, bounding forward
to see. He was held back by Teirryn, who waved the torch around, lighting up
the walls of the cave. The cavern had gotten quite narrow without them realizing.
"See those marks on the walls?" Teirryn gestured
to the stone. "It's a trap."
Chaelian didn't see anything out of the ordinary,
and he voiced his thoughts. "How do we get past a trap we can't even see?"
"I can see it. And I think... yes, it has to
be reset after it's sprung. Hang on." Teirryn passed the torch and his pack
to Kaerhas. The Peophin slipped into the stream, which had widened so that it
hugged one side of the cavern wall while leaving only a very narrow walkway
on the other. Ducking beneath the surface, Teirryn found that it had also deepened.
"Ahhh, that feels good," Teirryn said as he pulled
his head of the water, shaking droplets from his thick red mane. "I haven't
had a chance to swim in weeks."
"Enjoyed your dip?" Chaelian asked sarcastically.
"Stand back," the Tyrannian Peophin warned. Picking
up a loose rock from the bottom of the stream, he lobbed it at the narrow stone
strip that was the only place to walk, and quickly ducked below the water. A
sibilant hissing sounded overhead, the noise distorted by the water, followed
by several thuds. Teirryn poked his head up again and glanced at both walls.
Cleverly concealed holes in the trap wall had opened to send arrows flying across
the cave. The arrows were now embedded deeply in the stone of the opposite wall.
"Go!" Teirryn called to his companions, who were
considerably startled at the abruptness of the trap. Kaerhas and Chaelian hurriedly
crossed the trapped part of the cave. Teirryn swam along the course of the stream,
which was now more like a river due to its width and depth, keeping alongside
And so it went on: Teirryn led his friends around
the numerous traps, teaching the two how to recognize and disarm them as they
went. Soon, Kaerhas and Chaelian were quite adept at dodging them.
"This place is worse than Geraptiku," Chaelian
muttered as he evaded a spiked wall. The traps were getting more and more complex,
but still the companions had managed to get by with only minor scrapes and bruises.
"I worry about how we're going to get back,"
the Xweetok said, waiting for Kaerhas to catch up. "I don't want to try getting
past these again. How long can our luck hold out?"
"We'll face that problem when we get to it,"
Teirryn replied cheerfully. "At least we know where all the traps are now."
"Yeah, you never know. The ghosts might get us
first." Kaerhas skipped forward happily.
"Thank you for setting my mind at ease," Chaelian
responded dryly. "If there are any ghosts."
"Someone had to reset those traps," Teirryn pointed
The truth of Teirryn's statement struck them,
and they continued on in silence, each with their own thoughts. However, a few
minutes later, Kaerhas' ears perked up.
"Do you guys hear that?"
Teirryn listened. There did seem to be a sound,
different from the murmur of the river. It was a dull roaring, rushing noise.
It sounded quite distant.
"I hear it," Chaelian said. "What is it?"
"I'll go ahead to look," Teirryn offered, diving
underwater and speeding away. As he swam, he pondered. The noise was familiar,
but he hadn't heard it in a long time. Was it a living being, or some natural
feature? Another trap, perhaps? Magic? Teirryn journeyed down the middle of
the river automatically. Swimming was second nature to him. A flick of his powerful
tail propelled him forward easily. Too easily.
Just in time, Teirryn saw his danger. A waterfall!
he realized. That's what the sound is, and that's why the current's become
so strong! Lifting his head above the surface, the Peophin noticed that
the roaring sound was louder than ever. Teirryn turned and started swimming
back the way he had come, fighting the current which threatened to pull him
"Kaerhas! Chaelian!" Teirryn risked shouting,
and got a mouthful of water for his trouble. His companions must have heard
him, though, for within moments, they came running into view. Chaelian pulled
a rope from his bag and tossed one end to Teirryn. Grabbing the rope between
his strong teeth, Teirryn put all his remaining strength into swimming upstream
while Chaelian and Kaerhas attempted to pull him out.
Finally, with the help of the combined strength
of Kaerhas and Chaelian, Teirryn won against the river and pulled himself onto
the rocky bank, collapsing with a sigh.
"A waterfall. Of course, I should have known,"
the Peophin muttered, accepting the towel Kaerhas found in the ever-useful supply
packs. "That was dumb of me."
"Well, you got out of it alive, so be thankful,"
Chaelian responded. Kaerhas, in the meantime, had gone a bit further down the
cave to take a look at the waterfall. The Bori soon came trotting back, looking
"Good thing you didn't go down that," Kaerhas
called as he stopped in front of the other two. "There wouldn't have been much
of you left if you did. That's the biggest waterfall I've ever seen in my life,
and it has sharp rocks at the bottom of it too."
"Well, that's good to know," Teirryn said with
a toss of his mane. "Thanks for putting the image of me splattered over sharp
rocks at the bottom of a waterfall in my head."
"Actually, it would be more like you were stabbed,"
Kaerhas corrected. Teirryn shook his head.
"Enough of that. Is there any way to get down?"
"Yeah, the side of the cliff is really rugged
and craggy. I think it would be possible to climb down."
"Climb?" Teirryn repeated incredulously. "Have
you ever seen a Peophin climbing down a near vertical wall? In fact, can you
even imagine it?"
Chaelian and Kaerhas had to admit they couldn't.
Soon however, the brothers devised a plan. They would tie a rope around Teirryn
and lower him down to an outcropping of rock that would support his weight.
Then they would climb down themselves and repeat the process until they were
at the bottom. Teirryn wasn't altogether too enthusiastic about this plan, but
could see no alternative.
"Well, fine then. Just make sure you don't drop
me," the Peophin warned. "I'm bigger and heavier than you two."
"Brace yourself against the cliff side with your
hooves," Chaelian advised, tying a length of rope securely around the Peophin.
Teirryn grumbled, but went to the edge of the cliff and carefully stepped down.
Chaelian and Kaerhas grasped the rope, letting a little of it loose at a time
while Teirryn nervously scrabbled at the rock with his hooves for purchase.
After a few tense moments, Teirryn was safely situated onto the first ledge.
Untying the rope, Teirryn tugged on it thrice to show all was well, and Kaerhas
and Chaelian pulled the rope back. A few minutes later, Chaelian went down the
same way, with the rope tied around him and Kaerhas hanging on. It had been
decided that Chaelian would have a hard time climbing down as well, due to his
injuries and his prosthetic metal arm. Luckily, Chaelian was the lightest out
of the three, so Kaerhas didn't have too much trouble lowering his brother down.
Once Chaelian had joined Teirryn, Kaerhas tossed the rope and the packs down,
then climbed down himself, his long claws finally put to use gripping the rough
stone. The Bori made it with ease, and the whole process was repeated four more
times before the adventurers were finally at the bottom.
"Thank goodness that's over with," Chaelian said,
vastly relieved. Teirryn was quick to agree. Kaerhas, on the other hand, was
too busy looking around and exploring the great cavern they were now in. It
had an enormously high ceiling, due to the hundred-foot waterfall situated in
it, and it was quite large. A soft, glowing light from the farthest part of
the room caught the Bori's attention, and, deciding that they had had enough
rest, he pointed it out to his companions.
"A light? Could it be a ghost?" Teirryn asked,
"Looks ghostly enough," Chaelian responded, following
Kaerhas who had gone, naturally, to investigate. What the Xweetok said was true:
the light was a pale bluish-green, and wavered in a very ghost-like way. Chaelian
felt no fear or apprehension, though, and whatever it was didn't seem very threatening.
When the three got close enough, they saw that the light source was, in fact,
a small mushroom with a white stem and a glowing, pale blue cap.
"Wow! How cool!" Kaerhas said, reaching out a
"Don't-" Chaelian began, but was too late. Kaerhas
drew his paw back sharply with a cry.
"Ah! It's gone all numb," the Bori complained.
Chaelian examined it, and found the blue fur covered with tiny silver spores.
"Hold still," the Xweetok commanded as he splashed
water from his water bottle onto Kaerhas' paw.
"What did you do now?" Teirryn asked, peering
over Chaelian's shoulder.
"Poked a mushroom." Chaelian put the cap back
on his water bottle. "Hopefully the effect will wear off soon." The Xweetok
left Kaerhas as the Bori stomped around and shook his paw, trying to restore
feeling to it, and examined the opening the mushroom led to. It was a stone
passageway leading deeper into the cave, with glowing mushrooms placed at intervals
inside to light the way.
"Seems a little too welcoming, considering the
ghosts don't actually want us here, doesn't it?" Chaelian muttered to Teirryn.
Behind them, they heard a shout of relief. Kaerhas announced that he could feel
his paw again.
"I'm back to normal, except my paw's still a
little tingly." Kaerhas bounded into the passage. "Come on, let's go!"
"You sure this is the right way?" Teirryn asked.
"It's the only way out of the big chamber," Kaerhas
Teirryn frowned and opened his mouth to reply,
but Kaerhas had already darted in.
"That fool," Teirryn sighed as he and Chaelian
followed the Bori, careful not to touch the mushroom. "He'll get himself killed
like this one day."
About ten minutes into the tunnel, Chaelian noticed
a change. The walls were slowly becoming smooth, and unnaturally squared against
the ceiling, and the stone was becoming lighter, almost white. The mushrooms
had also stopped growing, but the ghostly light remained. It was even getting
brighter. Chaelian pointed the changes out to his companions, who had discovered
the same things. Soon, the walls, floor, and ceiling began to show strange,
carved symbols on them. The trio of adventurers walked on, feeling a sense of
trepidation as they went.
Kaerhas glanced from the walls to the floor,
then spoke uncertainly. "Are those symbols... glowing?"
At his words, the entire corridor suddenly went
pitch black. A wave of fear crashed into Kaerhas, leaving him trembling against
the cold stone floor. The Bori had never felt fear like this before. It was
as though all light, all hope was gone from the world, leaving only him and
the evil things that would prey on him behind.
"Chaelian! Teirryn!" Kaerhas called, but his
voice sounded weak and distant, and there was no reply. The terror drove through
him like a sword, leaving him unable to remember anything, even who he was.
Shadows started moving in on him; how the Bori could tell was beyond him, since
his entire world had gone dark, but he knew they were there. If they caught
him, he'd be finished. And why fight it? There was no reason to fight anyway,
they'd win in the end. And so Kaerhas knelt hopelessly on the floor, sensing
the shadows creep ever closer. And then-
Giving up already, Kaerhas? I thought I taught
you better than that!
Kaerhas looked around wildly for the source of
the voice, but saw nothing but darkness. However, the creeping shadows paused,
looking uncertain. "Kyrinn?" Kaerhas whispered, unsure. He was sure he'd heard
his owner's voice, but maybe he was just going crazy.
You always said you wanted to be an adventurer;
to discover new places, see wonderful things, journey all over Neopia, and maybe
even other worlds! An adventurer can't give in so easily. And on your first
quest, too! This darkness is nothing. You just need to strengthen your heart,
and you'll see that you carry your own light within you. And what about your
friends? You can't just abandon them like this!
Suddenly, Kaerhas could see Kyrinn's face clearly:
her dark hair tied in a ponytail, her brown eyes, glinting with amusement, framed
by her glasses. With that vision came his memory, and with memory came-
"Hope," Kaerhas whispered out loud to himself.
And then, quite unexpectedly, Kaerhas found himself standing in the stone corridor
once more. The Bori blinked, disorientated for a moment, then recovered and
saw the dark mass of shadows blocking the passageway. Stretching out a paw,
he reached into the shadows, calling his friends' names again. This time, his
voice was strong and confident. He felt someone clutching at his paw and pulled
back, dragging Chaelian out of the shadows. Leaving his brother to recover,
Kaerhas called out Teirryn's name until he found the Peophin, and pulled him
out as well. With all of the companions safely out of the shadows, the darkness
slowly shrank until it disappeared, and the symbols dimmed and stopped glowing.
Kaerhas slumped down against the wall, trembling,
though this time in relief. Next to him, Chaelian and Teirryn were recovering,
still weak with fear. At length, Chaelian spoke.
"That was... terrifying." The Xweetok shuddered
at the memory. "Thanks, Kaerhas."
Teirryn smiled shakily. "I knew I made the right
decision when I knocked you out and forced you into this crazy adventure."
Kaerhas laughed, and within moments, all three
of them were in hysterics for no reason at all. It felt good. The laughter helped
drive away the last of the fear, and soon the experience was nothing more than
a bad memory. Kaerhas told his companions about the memory he had, and how he
managed to defeat the darkness.
"That was an incredible curse," Chaelian said,
retrieving his bag and pulling it on.
"It was. I hope there aren't any more around,"
Teirryn agreed. "Traps are one thing, but defeating magic isn't quite so easy."
"Whatever! We can take whatever comes!" Kaerhas'
optimism had returned, and the Bori bounced around the corridor, impatient to
get going again.
Apparently the three companions had overcome
the cave's defenses, for as they started down the passageway again, the legendary
ghosts themselves appeared. They were vague, glowing outlines of what they might
have been in life. The ghosts floated out of the walls, their mouths not moving,
but Kaerhas could still sense their emotions: feelings of anger, revenge, hatred.
Their touch (if it could be called that) was insubstantial, but it chilled the
Bori to the bone. Even so, it wasn't nearly as terrifying as the curse the companions
had just faced. The little group drew closer together, and continued down the
"I see a wall ahead!" Chaelian said, quite suddenly.
At his voice, the ghosts dashed away in a flurry of movement. The Xweetok could
still sense them hiding inside the walls.
"You sure that's a wall?" Kaerhas asked, and
was about to skip forward to investigate when Teirryn stopped him.
"We're going together," the Peophin warned. "I
don't trust you not to do anything stupid when you go dashing off like that."
"How mean!" Kaerhas grumbled. "And after I saved
your life, too." But the energetic Bori kept pace with his friends.
The light changed. Before, it was the same silvery
ethereal light that the ghosts emitted, seeming to come from nowhere. Now it
was brighter, warmer, with a reddish glow to it. The companions found the change
"Fire, maybe," Teirryn suggested. Chaelian nodded,
pointing ahead to a couple of torches resting in iron sconces mounted on the
corridor walls. They cast their firelight on what Chaelian had taken to be a
wall blocking the passageway, but which, upon closer inspection, proved to be
a pair of double doors, made from the same white stone as the walls. They looked
thick and sturdy, and were veined with silver patterns.
"There's something written here." Teirryn leaned
forward, examining the miniscule script by the wavering torchlight. "It's a
different script from the symbols all over the walls. I can read this one."
The Peophin paused, then translated.
"When two become one, the spell is undone."
At that moment, a rush of air combined with the
rasp of stone sliding against stone sounded, followed by a loud crash behind
them. The companions whirled around in alarm. A cloud of dust and smashed rock
arose, causing Chaelian to cough and to cover his face with his cloak. When
the haze cleared, the Xweetok found himself facing a blank stone wall which
had fallen from the ceiling, completely blocking the way down the corridor from
which the adventurers had come and boxing the trio in.
They were trapped!
To be continued...