Desert Journey: Part Nine
The sun began to set upon the horizon, framing the sharp edges of the mountainside. By then, Noel and Aria had once again reached the ancient city of Qasala. Wanting to avoid their earlier mishap in the underground tunnels, the Neopets made sure to watch their steps.
"Let's try to make it to the mountain base before it gets too dark," said Aria. "Then we can camp there for the night."
Noel replied, "Good idea. I'm sure we could both use the rest!"
The Neopets continued through the city, passing familiar buildings and structures until they found themselves standing in front of a colossal temple. Ten golden columns nearly one hundred feet tall covered the facade of the building. Even more brilliant carvings and frescos decorated the temple. There was a multiple story tall octagonal tower protruding from the roof. The tower almost appeared wedged between some rocky cliffs of the mountain base. Noel knew this temple would be their entrance to the mountain.
Once inside, the duo searched for a suitable resting room. They found a small area off the main hall and decided to stop. The rest of the temple could wait until morning. Noel smiled as he lay down and closed his eyes.
We will reach that mountain.
Morning soon came, filling the temple with golden light. Noel and Aria hungrily ate some puntec fruit before heading back towards the main hall. In the direction of the mountain lay a grand staircase followed by an archway to another room.
"I think we should try to make our way to the temple's tower. Do you think these stairs will get us there?" Noel asked.
"Perhaps, but there is only one way to find out!"
The stairs led them to a small hallway until they reached another archway. As the continued through the latest entrance, the Neopets found themselves in the large octagonal tower. The vast room stretched many stories into the sky. A broad octagonal pillar rest in the center of the tower as it reached towards the ceiling. The pillar was adorned with many symbols and carvings. A small set of stairs wrapped around the pillar.
Hundreds of frescos detailing the history of Qasala covered the walls of the room. Noel slowly spun around in amazement as he tried to absorb all the beauty around him.
"Your ancestors were quite the civilization. This place is amazing!" he squealed.
Aria smiled. "Yes, they certainly built a city unlike any other in Neopia."
They made their way over to the stairs. The ascent was slow as Noel continued to pause and stare at the various images. Slightly annoyed, Aria took the lead and scurried up to the top. Not wanting to fall too far behind, Noel quickened his pace. As he ascended the last few steps, Noel came upon a platform on top of the pillar. He didn't even notice Aria waiting as he gasped at the new surroundings. The top of the tower formed a cupola painted to look like the night sky. Hundreds of stars and symbols scattered across the spherical ceiling. Beneath his feet, Noel could make out a circular set of hieroglyphs within the center of the platform.
I wonder what that phrase means.
Noel continued to gaze. Opposite the platform was a walkway leading to a small doorway. A lone symbol framed the exit as light burst through in every direction. He was unable to see much else beyond the light.
Aria finally spoke. "Noel... are you ready? This mountain is not going to be like the sand dunes of the desert."
Noel nodded. "I can do this. We can do this. We have come too far to give up now that our destination is near!"
Aria smiled. His confidence was reassuring. Still, nothing could prepare them for the path that lay ahead.
The Neopets began to cross the walkway. As they drew near, cold air leapt through the exit. Occasional snow flurries would drift into the room. Noel hoped their cloaks would provide enough protection against the harsh snow elements.
They stepped out into the cold air. Harsh winds whipped around their cloaks as the arctic blast nipped at their faces. Noel turned back towards Qasala. The city was far below as the buildings appeared like tiny specs on the ground. There was no turning back now.
Just ahead, Noel could see a faint path leading up through the mountainside. Small stone carvings occasionally lined the path for guidance. The duo started walking towards the path.
The bitter cold was unbearable. Noel felt like icicles were forming on his fur. Aria equally struggled through the wintry elements as she fiercely clung to her tan cloak.
At times, the path was slippery and one wrong step could send them tumbling down the mountainside.
Noel grabbed his rope and hook.
"Maybe I could use this hook to give us a better footing up the mountain."
"Good idea. It will be a lot easier scaling this path with something to hold onto," Aria replied.
Noel swung the rope and the hook easily latched onto the thick ice ahead. Gradually the Neopets pulled their way up the path, repeating the process as they climbed higher and higher. Soon the steep path began to gradually level. By then, the duo had reached a high altitude. Clouds began to roll in, obscuring their sight. Only able to see a few feet in front of them, Noel and Aria cautiously followed the small stone carvings that continued to guide them.
A short distance ahead, the Neopets spotted the shadow of frozen temple carved in the mountainside. This temple was relatively simple compared to the previous structures they encountered. Only a few columns lined the facade. No frescos or carvings covered the walls. Instead, the smooth rock walls revealed infrequent symbols and hieroglyphs obscured by layers of frozen ice and snow. Long narrow openings were carved towards top of the walls in order to provide light into the temple. The entrance, located far left, was small to prevent the raging winds from carrying snow inside.
Could the lost treasure be hidden in here?
Noel walked towards the temple with Aria close behind. As they stepped into the main hallway filled with more columns, the Neopets stopped to rest. The climb had taken a toll on their energy and they needed to recuperate.
"This temple is much different from the architecture of Qasala. Do you think it was still built by your ancestors?" asked Noel.
"Yes the architecture does seem rather archaic compared to the rest of Qasala. Then again that could be due to the harsh wintry elements up here. However, the symbols and hieroglyphs carved in this temple are Qasalan. My guess is that this place might have been built hundreds of years before Qasala grew to become the thriving city it once was," replied Aria.
"Maybe your ancestors built this place to hide the lost treasure. After all, very few would be willing to venture up the mountain!" said Noel.
Aria chuckled. "Alright, if you say so. Lets work our way through the temple and see if we can find this so called lost treasure!"
Unlike the first temple, this one contained narrow hallways that snaked up the mountainside to connect the small rooms. Each new room they found came up empty. The uneven stairs of the halls were demanding on their joints.
Noel whined, "Do you think your ancestors could maybe make straighter stairs next time?!"
"Maybe they built these stairs to deter treasure seekers like you!" laughed Aria.
When they finally reached the end of the last hallway, they came upon a slightly larger room than the rest. This room was decorated with many symbols on each wall. The ceiling was comprised of another cupola. Elaborate carvings of Xweetok surrounded a vast mountain to the west. An illustration of the desert covered the ceiling to the east. A large sun was depicted at the very top as if to shine down on the room below. But there was no treasure.
Instead, another small doorway led back out to the mountainside. They would have to once more venture into the snow. Disappointed, the duo left the frozen temple and began to climb another path.
An even narrower path than the first, Noel and Aria had to grip the mountainside for fear of falling off the cliffs. Fortunately the rocks provided enough support. They slowly followed the path as it wrapped around the mountain.
Then the path suddenly ended in a sheer drop. The low-lying clouds made it difficult to see ahead. Noel frowned.
Was this the end of the road?
Aria continued to gaze further on. Eventually she managed to see through the thick covering.
"Noel look! See how the path continues past this gap? I bet some avalanche or rock slide knocked off a chuck of the path some time ago. We just need to figure out a way across!" she exclaimed.
"You're right!" Noel looked around, "What if we swing my hook across and use the other end of the rope and tie it to this nearby rock carving for support?"
"It could work but it will be dangerous. Then again we don't really have any other options," Aria nervously replied.
Noel swung the hook across, firmly latching onto the thick ice across the gap. He carefully tied rope around the rock carving. After he was satisfied with the tautness of the rope, Nope spoke.
"We'll wrap our legs around the rope and crawl across. You can go first and I'll follow."
Aria did as she was told and slowly edged along the rope. Eventually she made it to the other side.
"Whatever you do, don't look down!" she yelled.
Noel then climbed onto the rope. By then, the sun was once again beginning to set. With nightfall fast approaching, Noel knew he needed to get to the other side fast.
Suddenly, he heard the low roars of the mutant Skeiths being carried through the wind.
They were being followed! With nowhere to go, Noel and Aria were trapped with the monsters not far behind...
To be continued...