Secret of Silver Crest: Part Two
Lyara hadn’t been joking when she said that her home was chaotic. The older children yelled while the younger ones shrieked, and the baby twins squalled constantly. Tiran had been prepared to meet Lyara’s seven hyperactive siblings, but she had failed to mention the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins that lived nearby and dropped in whenever it was convenient. The house was filled with Cybunnies, the younger ones gaping at him openly, while the older ones gave him curious, yet subtler glances as they went about their work. Apparently, Tiran observed wryly, strangers were rare around these parts.
However, Lyara had been right when she said her mother didn’t yell at her as much when there were guests around, since after a brief spell of tears and scolding, she turned her full attention to making Tiran feel welcome. Lyara’s grandmother snagged his jacket after a few minutes and began adding layers to it, muttering about children about who were too thoughtless to dress for the weather. Everyone seemed to accept his story that he had simply wandered a bit farther from his home than normal and had gotten lost; before they arrived, he’d told Lyara very seriously that he would prefer if no one else knew why he’d left home, and she’d agreed, just as seriously. Either way, she seemed too busy standing over him (figuratively, of course) with a smug sort of smile, as if he were a prize doglefox at a petpet show, to bother with anything else.
Following a predictably hectic dinner, Lyara finally wandered off to play with her friends, leaving Tiran alone to sit on a snow bank, exhausted by just watching them. It was almost evening, but the sun still glowed low in the sky with the perfect clarity that always follows a storm, even a small one. Through the lengthening shadows, he observed another Cybunny, who approached and sat down next to him, smiling at him politely. She looked to be about his mother’s age, bespectacled and well groomed, with a carefully combed red ruff, and holding a massive tome in her left paw.
“Aren’t you cold sitting there?” she asked kindly.
He shrugged. “Our fur is as thick as yours, so it’s not bad. It only feels really cold at night or when it’s snowing.”
“Given that you nearly froze to death, I would think you’d want to spend more time inside.”
He shrugged again, still watching the horde of little Cybunnies frolic in the snow.
She followed his gaze. “It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? I can’t imagine having that much energy. Never could, really, not even when I was little. I always had the feeling that I was born into the wrong family. But my kids are just as active, so I guess it just skipped a generation. My name’s Dana, by the way. I’m one of Lyara’s aunts.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” She hesitated for a moment, and then continued on. “I couldn’t help but notice that Lyara has a new piece of jewelry.”
“Uh, yeah, I gave it to her.”
“That’s a pretty valuable gift.”
Tiran shrugged again. “I didn’t really want it, and she seemed to think it was nice, so I gave it to her.” The Cybunny had an odd, uncomfortable look in her eyes that was starting to make him nervous. He sighed. “Look, if you’re trying to say something, you can just say it. I’m not subtle enough to figure it out, and I won’t get offended.”
“Well...” She flipped open the book in her paws, and started flicking through the pages. “I couldn’t help but notice that the design on the pendant looked rather familiar.”
Handing the book to him, she indicated a picture, an image in her textbook that was an exact replica of the pattern on the pendant, only black and white instead of silver and obsidian, without the gold wire around the edge.
“So... what is it, then?”
She didn’t answer him, but merely continued looking at him oddly. “Did you come from Silver Crest?” she asked, seemingly out of the blue.
He hadn’t mentioned it before, but he was too surprised to lie. “Yeah, I do.”
“Your family’s pretty powerful then. Rich, influential, even gifted with magic, even though Bori don’t usually have an affinity for that sort of thing.”
“I guess we are,” he said uncomfortably. He had never actually thought about it, but his memory suddenly flashed with images of opulent homes, well-dressed visitors, and cousins and friends who suddenly grew distant and secretive, often involved with small explosions, odd, colorful flashes of light, and peculiar, whispered words.
“Have you ever wondered how they got all of that?”
Now that was a weird question, Tiran thought, but he answered it politely. “The normal way, I would assume.”
Dana blinked owlishly. “Perhaps not. There’s a story associated with the Bori of Silver Crest – a prevalent and not very positive one. Of course, derogatory stories are inevitably associated with those who have power, perhaps due to jealousy or spite, but then again, that medallion of yours seems to support the stories.”
“There’s a story, a legend, really about a young Bori who once made a deal with the darkness, to bring forth one of its creatures into the world in exchange for immeasurable wealth and power. The Bori did, and he gained all he was promised, but after he saw the creature he had summoned and all the havoc it would wreak upon the world, he repented, a little bit. He was unwilling to give up the power he had gained, but he was equally unwilling to set the creature loose. Therefore, he reached a compromise with the dark power – the creature would lay bound, dormant, until he or one of heirs decided to set it free, and he could keep what he had gained. But the cost was very heavy. Every generation, one of his own blood would have to be sacrificed to the beast, or it would awaken and be free to do as it wished. Of course, no one’s ever found evidence of such a monster, and it – are you all right?”
He was not. Fear and incredulousness swept through him in such strong waves that he felt physically ill, and the world seemed darker around him. His parents really had been talking about killing him, and not because he was the sole heir to his grandfather’s estate. And if he didn’t die, some monster of unimaginable proportions would be unleashed upon the world. It was almost beyond comprehension.
Determinedly shaking the thoughts away for a moment, (as difficult as it was to do so) he managed to smile reassuringly at Dana. “Yeah. Sorry, I was just caught up in your story. I’ve, uh, never actually heard anything like it.”
“Hmm. Well I don’t blame you if you’re a bit offended. If people said these things about my family, I don’t know what I’d do. Still, I saw the medallion and I couldn’t resist asking you about it.”
“No, um, I’m really glad you told me. But, uh, what did the medallion have to do with it?”
“Well, supposedly, it was given to the Bori by the dark power to seal the bargain they made. The design on it is allegedly a representation of the face of the monster that now lies dormant.”
Tiran stared at the picture in Dana’s book, and for a moment, it seemed to show the face of a snarling monster, narrowed eyes filled with hunger and hatred; and then he blinked, and the design went back to normal – pleasant, abstract, and inoffensive.
Dana continued. “It’s supposed to be one of those things where a picture appears after you stare at it long enough in the right way, but I’ve never gotten those things to work for me. Not only that, but I presume that if you look at anything long enough, you’re bound to see something, even if it’s only in your imagination, so I wouldn’t necessarily put to much store in that story either.”
Tiran was nodding, an automatic reflex, still staring at the picture sitting innocently on the page, showing no trace of the monstrous face it concealed.
“I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow,” he said rather abruptly. “I’d better get to bed. Thank you for telling me the story. It was very... interesting.”
Dana nodded. “If you liked the story and you’re not in a hurry to get home, you may want to stop by Ivory Cave – it’s pretty close to where the Snowager lives. The cave lead to a plateau on the surface where there’s a flat rock that’s covered with runes, that’s reputed to be the place of summoning.” Her eyes glittered. “Or sacrifice. But who knows what it’s really for? It used to be a pretty big tourist attraction, until the Snowager came. Now everyone would rather see him instead. But still, it’s just something you might want to think about.”
Unable to think of anything to say in reply, he nodded and left.
The night seemed endless, and around midnight he began to regret going to bed at all, as even the snores of ten Cybunnies weren’t enough to distract him from the disturbing thoughts he was having. His family wanted to kill him. He didn’t want to die. But if there wasn’t a sacrifice...
Don’t be ridiculous, the rational part of his brain snapped. It’s just a stupid story. You have no proof whatsoever that it’s not just some nonsense that someone made up. You don’t even know for sure what your parents were talking about.
But somehow, he knew it was true.
The dawn came with agonizing slowness, and he watched the sun inch its way up the sky, sick with lack of sleep and revulsion. Suddenly, Happy Valley didn’t seem nearly far enough, and he was seized with the desire to go – to run – as far away as he could, to Mystery Island, perhaps, or even farther, if he could make it, but if nothing else, at least far away from this horror of a mountain.
Breakfast was brief, but goodbyes were extended, as Lyara’s family presented him with a newly modified coat and enough food to last for a month, extracting repeated promises from him to come and visit again. Lyara herself sulked a great deal less than Tiran expected, and she actually waved him off with a reasonable degree of cheerfulness.
For a while, he walked as if in a daze, too tired to pay attention to his direction, or even think, as he plodded through the brittle snow, blinking at the glitter of sunlight on ice without really seeing it. He walked through the endless cold for hours, not even paying attention as the azure sky lazily clouded over with small, inoffensive wisps of gray, then more enthusiastically wrapped itself in covers of thick dullness, with ominous little blinks of lightning. Only when he almost walked head on into a boulder did he pause and take in his surroundings, and when he did, he almost laughed and groaned at once. He stood at the head of the massive cave system – the Ice Caves – where he had perhaps unconsciously intended (or was somehow compelled) to go all along.
For a long time, Tiran stared at the mouth of the nearest cave – a rocky, jagged gap that looked like a smirking mouth – and then with a sudden sense of defiance, he strode decisively towards the nearest village.
Following the directions of a helpful Kyrii, Tiran soon found himself at the mouth of Ivory Cave, a colossal, unfriendly opening, like the entrance to an enemy castle. The cave itself was named for its pallor, a slightly yellowed white that came from countless years’ worth of bleached limestone deposits; polished smooth by the elements. The coloring continued all the way into the cave giving it a strange unearthly glow when the sun hit it at the proper angle. Even in the muted light of the overcast sky, it returned a doleful shine: reluctant but nonetheless present.
And for some reason he couldn’t make himself enter. He stood staring at the cave’s entrance for what seemed like ages, unwilling to take the first, somehow intimidating step into the glowing chasm.
“Hello!” said an enthusiastic voice somewhere near his knee.
Tiran looked down very slowly, hoping the voice didn’t belong to whom he thought. It did. Lyara grinned up at him, pleased and unrepentant, pendant winking about her neck, and a small pack of belongings and a sleeping bag on her back. He glared at her, cave forgotten for the moment.
“You are in so much trouble.”
To be continued...