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The Beast in the Tomb


by henna1993

--------

She watched the sun set over the ocean. Orange, fading into the pink-purple clouds of twilight. As she lay back on the beach, watching the first stars twinkle like faeries high, high up, Clara sighed contentedly. A perfect end to a perfect day. Even after all these days, she still could not believe her luck. To actually have won a trip to Mystery Island! Out of all the pets in busy, bustling Neopia Central, she, the awkward, clumsy Ruki in thick glasses, had managed to win the poetry contest at school, and then, wonder of wonders, been awarded an all expense paid trip to Mystery Island! She looked back, past the small huts bordering the beach, and into the vast jungle that encircled Techo Mountain. How different, how peaceful Mystery Island was compared to Neopia Central. Why, in Neopia Central, you could hardly hear yourself speak over all the bargaining in the stores, the endless babbling of thousands of pets coming to shop and the yowls of hundreds of stray petpets, each trying to find a new owner, among a thousand other sounds.

     A loud, grunting noise ripped through the soothing silence of the beach; until now the only sounds to be heard were the gentle lapping of the waves on the sandy shore. Clara propped herself up on her elbows and looked down on her sleeping companion. He was a large Grarrl, green in colour, with a permanent grimace on his face, and when awake, small beady eyes, which were always half closed, as if bored with the world. She groaned, and then mentally shook herself. She was not going to let Jake spoil her holiday, she was certain of that. How on Neopia he had managed to come second in the competition was beyond her, for Jake wasn’t exactly the sharpest nail in the box. Frankly, she was not even sure he could read, let alone write a whole poem. “He must have bullied someone into writing it for him,” she thought as she lay back down on the soft, white sand. Sleep soon overcame her, and her last thought before she drifted off into dreamless slumber was of the fantastic time she was going to have in the coming week.

     Freezing water dripped down her face, trickling down her shirt and thoroughly soaking her. She leapt up, waking in a hurry, only to see Jake before her, holding an empty bucket, smirking at her bewildered face. She opened her mouth, struggled with the furious words churning in her head, and finally turning on her heel, strode off in the opposite direction, all the while telling herself that it was unladylike to punch Jake in the jaw.

     It was almost noon by the time Clara had cooled off. Feeling rather guilty, she remembered the instructions Ms. Pincer, her English teacher, had given her before she left: to stay with Jake at all times. So, slowly becoming aware of a gnawing emptiness in her stomach, she set off to find Jake, and a bite of lunch.

     Jake, predictably, was nowhere to be found. Tired of wandering up and down the beach, and feeling a bit worried, Clara decided to ask a few Myncies playing volleyball, if they had seen Jake.

     “Hmmm, a green Grarrl you say,” said the first Mynci, serving a volleyball over an oversized net. “'Course I seed him; frightened our Turdle to bits he did, and then knocked our Pawkeet out of the air with that there rock... been stuck with an extra big net ever since.”

     “Yup, that sure is right, and he went thataway,” said the second Mynci, hitting the ball back and pointing towards the Lost City of Geraptiku. Clara ran in the direction he pointed, and, looking back to wave goodbye, saw the first Mynci getting clobbered by the ball.

     Geraptiku was an odd place, a bit spooky to tell the truth. The sun did not seem to penetrate through the heavy mist; the land was dark and gloomy. As Clara walked slowly through the deserted village, avoiding the suspicious looking piles of skulls, she had the strangest feeling she was being watched. Feeling the hairs standing up on the back of her neck, she peered through the gloom but could not see anyone. Summoning up her courage, she called out, “Jake... Are you there?” In reply, a bloodcurdling snarl rent the air. She opened her mouth to scream, but her voice had disappeared. She tried to run, heart thumping loudly, but her feet felt as if they were glued to the floor. A clawed hand gripped her shoulder, ripping her favorite blue beaded necklace from her throat. She gasped and squeaked out, “Help, please, Jake, someone, please...” Her voice died away, and to her surprise her captor let go of her. She managed to stagger a few paces but was stopped, however, by a loud guffawing behind her.

     “Oooh, you should have seen the look on your face when I gave that snarl... priceless! And when I grabbed you... Oh man, I wish I had my sketchbook...”

     Clara stood speechless as Jake went on, gasping for breath, “ And... Hehehe... the way you were trembling... priceless, I tell you.”

      It was Jake.

     Relief flooded Clara, but quickly disappeared as bubbling, frothing anger took its place. “That was a dirty trick, Jake, I can’t believe you did that. How dare you! I swear, I’ll... I’ll...” she screamed, stamping her foot.

      “Jake, oh Jake, help me,” he replied, mimicking her in a high falsetto voice, snickering.

      “Oh, you’re impossible!” Clara yelled, and bursting into hot tears, she stumbled away into the pervading mist.

***

     Jake sighed as he watched Clara fading away into the darkness, blue beads dropping off her necklace and bouncing on the floor. He had done it again. He had promised himself he would start afresh; winning this trip had been such a big thing for him. His owner had been so proud, and he had vowed that he really would try to suppress his mean streak. Clara was such an easy target, though; she got upset so easily. He laughed again as he thought of her face when he had grabbed her, then stopped abruptly. A piercing scream rang through the air, bouncing off the deserted huts and chilling the very marrow of his bones.

     Jake ran in the direction Clara had headed, the horrible scream still echoing in his ears. If anything had happened to Clara, he would never forgive himself. He passed a small hut, from which yelps and other funny noises were emanating. He glanced curiously inside as he sped past, and saw a blur of primitive looking petpets chasing each other around in the gloom. As he ran, he noticed the landscape growing darker and darker, and the number of skull piles had increased drastically. He could now see the silhouette of a large building in the distance, and as he drew closer he became aware of a musty smell hanging heavy in the air.

     Jake stopped running. A large sign was hammered to the front of the building, written shakily in what looked like blood: The Deserted Tomb. Enter at your own risk. Beware the Beast lurking within. Ye have been warned. If Jake had been in his normal state of mind, he would have laughed at the warning. But the run through the creepy village had taken a toll on him and he shuddered. Putting aside his fears, he walked up to the door of the tomb. It was made of iron with funny looking inscriptions carved on to it. Green slime oozed from it and it had an overall aura of menace. At its base, there lay three blue beads. Gulping, Jake pushed the door. Slowly, slowly, the door creaked upwards. A strong smell of mildew rushed out, and gagging, Jake ducked under the iron door and warily strode into the tomb.

***

     Clara had run from Jake, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. She couldn’t believe she had actually been worried about Jake earlier, hunting for him on the beach. She was ashamed of the tears that wouldn’t stop, and furious with herself for falling for Jake’s tricks. Her perfect holiday had been spoiled, and Jake would undoubtedly spread the story of her freaking out throughout the school when they got back. Tears blinding her eyes, she didn’t look where she was heading, and when she finally calmed down she found herself in front of an old iron door, oozing with green slime. Feeling reckless, she pushed at it and ducked into the tomb through the slowly opening door.

     The stuffy, stale air made her sneeze. Her sneeze echoed throughout the many corridors of the tomb, bouncing off the dusty walls and finally fading away into nothingness. She walked through the tomb, losing herself in the numerous passages. A sound of heavy breathing behind her brought her to a standstill.

     “Very funny, Jake. I’m not going to fall for that again,” she snarled.

      She continued walking, and a harsh grating voice rang out, “ROAAARRR, ME HUNGRY!”

      “Jake, do you really think I’m that dense... I know it’s you... duh.”

      A feathery, glowing hand gripped her shoulder, and she turned around to give Jake a piece of her mind. She let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint.

***

     Jake raced through the grimy corridors of the tomb, avoiding the wooden beams protruding from the walls and jumping over the rocks jutting out of the floor. He stumbled over a thin, invisible wire stretched tight between two such rocks, and a volley of arrows shot towards him from holes in the walls. He yelped and dove for the floor, as the arrows whizzed harmlessly over his head.

***

     Clara stirred feebly and opened her eyes. As far as she could tell, she was lying on a cold stone floor in a small dingy room. The only source of light was from a flickering candle perched on a wooden table. It illuminated a large pile of bones and what looked like a nest, made from rags of clothes and frayed ropes, lying next to a large stone door. She moaned and hurriedly got to her feet, but as she did, a sharp pain shot through her ankle, and she fell back down. She had twisted her ankle, and it was already beginning to swell. She trembled as the memory of what had caused her to faint sprung vividly to her mind. She had to get out of here, and fast. The Beast may decide to come back for her at any moment.

     Hobbling painfully, she staggered to the door, and tried to wrench it open. It wasn’t locked, but it was jammed, and after struggling with it for a couple of minutes, she had to admit defeat. She looked wildly around, but the walls were made of thick stone and there was nothing helpful in sight. Her ankle giving way beneath her, she sank to the ground and head in hands, started to sob softly.

***

     Carefully moving through the corridors, looking out for telltale signs of booby traps, Jake made his way into the heart of the tomb. He had heard many legends of this place, of the magnificent treasure hidden within, but also of the fearsome Beast, lurking in the shadows, waiting to devour hapless treasure seekers. “Don’t think about that,” Jake scolded himself. “It’s your fault Clara came in here, and you’re going to find her, or die trying. Anyway, everyone knows the Beast is a myth, just like Jelly World, made up to prevent daring pets entering this stuffy old tomb. Why, I can’t wait to get back to Neopia Central to tell the gang all about it.” And with this cheery thought, he moved on.

     The next moment he was cowering in the shadow of a large rock ledge, fighting to control his deadly urge to scream and run. His heart was thumping so loud, he was sure the Beast could hear it drumming away. It was big, bigger than anything he could ever have imagined. It looked ghostly, glowing blue in the dim light, but Jake realized it was solid enough as he heard it slithering across the ridged floor. It stopped in front of his hiding place, and Jake could feel its scarlet eyes scanning the corridor, sensing an intruder, no doubt, with its long red tongue, darting to and fro between its sharp, venomous fangs. For what seemed like hours, although it was only a few seconds, the Beast scrutinized its surroundings, trying to discover the source of its discomfort. Then, an eternity later, it slithered away, its ruby headdress narrowly missing the ceiling.

     It was a full five minutes before Jake dared to move from his hiding place. His senses numbed by what he had just witnessed, he headed in the direction in which the Beast had come from, speeding up as he realized the danger Clara was in, not daring to think of what he would find if he were too late. He ran down the winding passage, ignoring the stitch in his side, until he reached a large stone door. He hesitated for the space of a heartbeat, and then turned the handle, hoping desperately that Clara was on the other side.

***

     Clara gasped as the handle of the old stone door turned. She huddled in the corner on the cold, damp floor, not daring to look up, panic clouding her mind. As the door slowly creaked open, adrenaline rushed through her veins and Clara screwed up her courage, deciding that she was not giving up without a fight. Disregarding the stabbing pain in her ankle, she launched herself at the shadowy silhouette at the door, pincers out, teeth bared, knocking it to the floor, growling at it ferociously.

***

     It required all his strength for Jake to open the stone door. As he stepped into the small room, he had only a split second glimpse of his surroundings, before a blur of red and black knocked him to the ground, hard. Head swimming, he tried to make sense of the furious mass on top of him, slashing at his arms and face with sharp pincers and wicked teeth.

     “Clara?” he asked in surprise.

      Clara froze.

      “Jake?” she asked in disbelief. She got off him hastily, and said sheepishly, “Sorry, I... I thought you were the Beast.”

     “Don’t worry about it,” Jake said, rubbing the small cuts on his arms. “I totally deserved it after the way I treated you earlier; I’m the one who should be sorry.” They looked at each other for a few minutes, and then laughed in unison.

     “Well, we better stop standing around and get moving. The Beast could come back at any second.” Clara shuddered and took a step forward, then yelped. She had forgotten about her ankle. She turned pale and leaned against the wall.

     “What’s wrong?” asked Jake, worried.

     “My ankle... I think I twisted it earlier,” Clara said weakly.

     “Can you walk?” Jake asked nervously, anxiously peering down the dark passage for any sign of the Beast. Clara tried walking again, but it was too painful, and she sank to the ground. Jake looked around the room desperately, his gaze travelling on the nest, the bones and finally landing on the wooden table. “Perfect,” he thought gleefully.

     Five minutes later, Clara was following Jake down the maze of passages, her ankle held firmly in place by the splint Jake had made for her from the legs of the old table and bits of rope from the Beast’s nest. “I have to admit,” Clara said to herself, “Jake can be pretty clever sometimes.” Her ankle hardly hurt at all, and she had no trouble keeping up with Jake.

     “Are we almost there?”Clara asked a long while later.

     “Hey, don’t worry, we’re nearly out, I remember this corridor... I think,” Jake replied. Both of them whispered, so as not to attract the attention of the Beast. “Once we’re out, we’ll need to get you to the hospital. I make a pretty swell doctor, if I may say so myself, but that ankle of yours will need real...” Jake broke off suddenly.

     “What’s wrong?” Clara asked nervously.

     “Nothing... I thought I saw a gleam of light up ahead...”Jake said.

      Clara peered through the darkness, “I don’t see any... Oh!”

     “I don’t think that’s daylight, though; it looks like...” and with a gasp Jake ran towards the small gleam of light.

     “Jake, wait... I can’t keep up!” Clara pleaded.

      But Jake was already way ahead, and Clara soon fell behind. Muttering darkly about unreliable Grarrls, she made her way slowly towards the golden gleam of light. It grew much brighter as she came closer and closer, and she soon saw it came from the crack beneath a small, inconspicuous rock door, down a flight of stairs at the end of the corridor. She would never have even seen the door, blending so well in the darkness as it did, except for the glittering light coming from within. She paused before the door, wondering whether she should go in, or just try to find her own way out of the tomb. If Jake wanted to run after gleams of light, it was his own problem. She looked down at the carefully made splint on her ankle and sighed. Jake had helped her quite a bit, well, more than quite a bit, and they were going to find the way out of this maze of a tomb together, or not at all. “Plus,” she thought wryly, turning the handle, “Ms. Pincer did say I was supposed to stay with Jake at all times.”

***

     Jake had thrust open the small door without a moment of hesitation, the old legends feverishly spinning through his mind. He knew what that gleam of light was, and as he rushed into the large hall, he saw that he was right. Millions of candles illuminated the treasure trove. Huge piles of glittering gold, silver goblets, sparkling jewels; rubies, diamonds, emeralds, rare stones he had never seen before, and would never see again. Neggs, paintbrushes, valuable petpets and things he didn’t even know the names of, but that looked extremely expensive anyway. Everything he had imagined in his wildest dreams was in this dazzling, mind boggling hall. And sitting high above, watching Jake through furious eyes, sat the Beast...

***

     Clara gasped, only just managing to stifle a scream. She had entered through the small door, into a large hall full of treasure, and as her eyes had become accustomed to the light, she had seen the Beast, and it was bent over Jake’s prostrate form.

     Clara darted back into the dark corridor, her heart frantically beating against her ribcage. The Beast had not seen her. Her brain was telling her to get out of the area, and fast. Get out of the tomb, off Mystery Island, get back to Neopia Central, and forget that any of this ever happened.

     “It would be easy, the Beast was busy, and would probably be busy for the next few hours,” her panicked brain told her. But a small voice at the back of her mind conjured up the image of Jake, lying on the floor, not moving, as the Beast hovered over him. Jake, who had risked his life to save hers. “Jake,” she told the little voice sternly, “is the reason I’m in this mess, and anyway, he was the one who chose to run after the treasure.”

     “He was really sorry about teasing you, and everyone, even you, succumbs to temptation occasionally,” the small voice said. Clara sighed. The small voice was right; she had known it from the start. “Fine, I’m going in... piece of cake,” she said, taking deep breaths to steady herself. “I hope you’re happy.” The small voice merely laughed.

***

     Jake stared up at the Beast, his body paralyzed with fear. “All for a bit of treasure,” he thought miserably, “and poor Clara, she’ll be alone, not knowing what happened to me... I hope she finds her way out safely.” The stench from the Beast’s mouth almost knocked him unconscious again. He whispered, “Sorry, Clara,” then shut his eyes as the Beast lunged at him.

     “Oy! You, dung breath, over here! Yeah, over here next to the door. Can’t catch me, you slimy worm!”

     Jake opened his eyes in surprise. “Clara?” he thought, wondering.

     The Beast had slithered away from him, moving towards Clara. “Run, Jake! Get out of here!” Clara panted out, running from the Beast who had come rushing at her with surprising speed.

     Jake stood up, looking at the inviting piles of gold. He could just snatch some treasure and leave. He’d be rich for the rest of his life. Tempting thought.

     “Yeah, right, Clara. As if I’d leave you here with the Beast” he snorted. “Hey Beastie, look your dinner’s getting away,” he yelled, throwing a heavy silver goblet at it. The Beast stopped, turned, and hurtled towards Jake. “Oops,” he said, starting to climb up the mountain of gold behind him.

     “Jake! A sword!” Clara cried. Jake looked up, and sure enough, at the top of the mountain of gold, there was a bright ruby encrusted sword, reflecting the candlelight.

     “Of course, how convenient, at the very top of this heap,” Jake snarled sarcastically. But he kept climbing, the Beast gaining on him. “Do something, Clara!” he yelled desperately.

     “Oh sorry... I’m over here, you overgrown Hissi, right behind you.” The Beast did not turn.

     “Clara!” Jake shouted. She started throwing jewelry, amulets and whatever else she could lay her hands on. The Beast still did not turn.

     “It’s not working, Jake!” she screamed.

     “Keep trying!” he bellowed back at her. The Beast had almost caught up to Jake. Clara frantically looked around, and spotted an ancient stone hammer that looked as if it had come from Tyrannia. She flung it with all her strength at the Beast. It soared through the air, heading for the Beast. Clunk! It had flown over the headdress of the Beast, and hit the sword instead. The Beast caught up to Jake and prepared to strike, when suddenly the sword, dislodged from the gold heap by the hammer, fell at Jake’s feet.

     “Umm... yeah, I meant to do that,” Clara called.

     With one fluid movement, Jake snatched the sword up and plunged it into the Beast, just as it sprang at him, fangs inches from his head. The Beast screeched and hissed shrilly, writhing its muscular body, and then as Jake advanced with the sword, cowered and slithered off, away from its beloved treasure, into the darkness of the Deserted Tomb.

***

     A few days later, Jake and Clara were sitting on the beach. The brilliant orange sun was setting over the dark blue ocean, the first stars just peeking out as the sky darkened. They would be leaving the next day, back to Neopia Central.

     “And I thought a trip to Mystery Island would be peaceful,” Clara said to Jake, laughing.

     “Neopia Central is going to seem like a bore after all the fun we had here,” Jake replied, snickering.

      “Fun? I’ve been stuck with you this whole trip,” she teased.

     “They’ll never believe us, you know, about the Beast and the treasure,” Jake complained.

     “Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask you, why didn’t you take any of the treasure, you know, after we defeated the Beast? I thought that was what you wanted?” Clara asked curiously.

     “Huh, I’ve seen enough treasure to last a lifetime. I never thought I’d say this, but, there is something like too much gold,” Jake answered with a wise nod.

     “Too much of a good thing and all that...” Clara mused.

     “Yeah, something like that,” Jake said, smiling. Clara smiled back. And the last rays of the setting sun fell over a newborn friendship.

The End

 
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