Even though the world outside was bright, she stared into complete darkness. Crashing into her like waves, the daily doubt and second thoughts muddled her senses.
Wyra the Kyrii stood ankle-deep in translucent, blue-green water, torch in hand, gazing within the hallowed entrance of the Faerie Caverns. She had been inside the Caverns many times now… but that’s not to say it hadn’t taken quite a bit of confidence building and determination to enter for the first time.
Or each time after that.
Every day Wyra had to will herself to take ten more steps than the previous day; she would tally the steps aloud as she walked, not only to reassure herself of her growing progress, but also because it was encouraging to hear a voice deep within the Caverns; it often offered an illusion that she was not completely alone.
Wyra frequently wondered what her reason was for her daily venture. She wanted to think it was to satiate her curiosity, to pursue adventure. However, there was no denying that a small part of her was intrigued by the stories, stories of lucky Neopians finding treasures – chests containing small sums of Neopoints, mostly.
Wyra had found nothing yet.
Not that she was expecting to – very few had claimed to discover these mythical chests. However, the rarity of these treasures was not the only obstacle; there was another predicament as well: the inherent nature of the Caverns.
Each day the Caverns would change.
The mystery behind this marvel had been looked into ever since of the discovery of the Caverns in 2011. Many curious Neopians – locals and travelers alike – had attempted to unravel the secret behind the nightly metamorphosis. A common method utilized by these Neopians was drinking a very large helping of coffee to stay up all night, in the hope that the changing of the Caverns would occur before their very eyes. But just as mysterious as the transformation itself, all of these Neopians had fallen asleep at some point in the night, only to awaken outside the Caverns entrance and not remember much of anything of the night before.
Because of this strange phenomenon, Wyra’s doubts hammered her brain. Why was she doing this? She wondered, yet again.
But through the hazy thoughts of doubt, today felt different.
Today would mark 800 steps into the Caverns.
With this idea in mind, her curiosity finally outweighed her anxiousness, as it always did – eventually.
Wyra took in a deep breath. Then exhaled slowly.
It was time.
She slipped her hand into a cross-body pack hanging from her shoulder and removed a sack of breadcrumbs. With the sack in one hand and the blazing torch in the other, Wyra waded through the small stream flowing through the Caverns entrance. Just a little ways inside, she was able to step out of the stream onto a hard, rocky floor.
"One. Two. Three. Four. Five…" She began counting her steps, dropping a breadcrumb after the fifth; this was her typical strategy to allow her to find her way out on her return trip. "Six. Seven. Eight…" she continued aloud.
Having entered the Caverns so many times, sometimes parts of it looked recognizable; most of the time, though, it somehow all looked new. This both unnerved and excited her; familiarity was always a comfort, but the mystery was both unsettling and thrilling.
She shined her torch over the dank cavern ceiling; it was damp and dripping, stalactites (???) reaching down toward her. "62, 63, 64…" she recited to herself, continuing into obscurity.
Around 230 steps, Wyra was presented with her first choice: a decision between a left-winding path and another curving to the right. Due to the ever-changing nature of the Caverns, either way was as much of a safe bet as the other.
The Caverns were notorious for their dead-ends, though. Wyra reached dead-ends frequently, and backtracking from a dead-end often took up many of her steps of the day. At first she had had trouble deciding whether or not to include back-tracking from a dead-end into her daily step count; however, she had ultimately decided that reaching a dead-end was a sign, an indication that the the Faerie Caverns did not wish her to find anything that day.
On her day of 800 steps, though, she inwardly hoped she would not meet with a dead-end.
Shining the flashlight left, then right, she decided to walk down the left passage, merely out of randomness.
The deeper Wyra traveled into the Caverns, the colder and damper her environment became.
Shivering slightly, she counted "486" aloud and stopped for a break. Torch still blazing brightly, she moved it around the walls and up to the ceiling, where she glimpsed a giant Spyder. Gasping slightly from shock, she smiled soon after. She briefly recalled the memory of her first Spyder sighting, when she had belted out a scream she was sure that all of Faerieland had heard. Now, though, she thought of the Spyders as friends, scuttling along beside her on her ventures.
Moving the torch back before her, she continued into the blackness.
By the time she reached 540 steps, she had reached another decision – a fork in her path. Left or right.
Wyra flashed her torch down one tunnel, then the other. "Well, I went down the left last time; I’ll go right this time," Wyra concluded aloud. Happy enough with her reasoning, she wandered down the rightward passage.
Near 780 steps, she reached a third fork, yet another choice between left and right. Most of the time her daily step count did not allow her to reach a third fork, so Wyra felt extraordinarily lucky today. This time, she did not take much time to think about the choice before her. "Right feels right," she said simply, and proceeded down the rightward passageway.
Her available steps began to dwindle quickly; she slowed her pace to savor the last few.
"795." She tried to stay calm as she dropped a breadcrumb.
"796." Her nerves threatened to overcome her.
"797." Her immense amount of curiosity washed the nerves away.
"798." She reached her torch out a bit further.
Here Wyra paused. She was about to turn a corner in the passage, and could not see what came next. While all she really expected was more passageways sprawling into even more darkness, she was still excited. She was about to reach a landmark step for herself.
She had thought this day would never come.
Finally, she took a last step around the corner, and inhaled a deep breath.
But that breath caught in her throat. What she saw simply took that breath away.
A rocky pedestal stood just before her. On top of the pedestal sat an elegantly carved wooden chest, so beautiful that it must have been designed by the Faeries themselves. The sight of it all almost made her forget to announce her progress. "800," she grinned.
Tentatively, she reached out and touched the chest. Guiding the fading torchlight along the chest’s intricate woodwork, she spotted the latch keeping it shut. Carefully, she switched the latch upward and lifted the lid.
At first, all Wyra saw was light. Blinding light among the darkness. She was forced to shield her eyes before they adjusted to the sight. The chest itself seemed to be emitting an unyielding brightness, and Wyra soon saw what was inside – Neopoints. More Neopoints than she had seen in her entire life.
Awestruck, she could do nothing more than stare at the interior of the chest for a few moments. Finally, she came to her senses. Should she take the Neopoints? Was that selfish? Wyra pondered.
Then, she figured out a solution. It would not be selfish – not with her plan.
She snagged an extra sack from her shoulder pack and one-handedly began scooping the Neopoints and placing them in the sack. Once she had collected everything, she tied off the sack, turned around, and scurried off toward the outside of the Caverns. Pointing her torch at the ground to follow the breadcrumbs, her joy heightened with every step.
Finally, she was outside once again. The air felt fresh in her lungs. The brightness of the day elated her further.
She took a quick look back at the Faerie Caverns entrance, smiled, and felt no emotion other than euphoria. Then, she ran off to put her plan into immediate action.
"Welcome, guys and girls, to the first official Faerieland Caverns tour!" Wyra exclaimed, grinning at the youngsters before her. Timid faces looked back at her. "I hope no one here is scared; there is no reason to be!" she reassured the group.
"But aren’t there…there…monsters?" a shy Kougra stammered, pawing at the ground nervously. "That’s what my brother said."
"Depends what you consider a monster," Wyra joked; unfortunately, the Kougra looked even more afraid after that comment. "What’s your name?" she asked, indicating to the Kougra.
"LIvia," the Kougra whimpered.
Wyra smiled. "Livia, you can walk with me at the front of the line. You’ll be perfectly safe there." That seemed to calm Livia a bit. "Right, so, we head on!" Wyra handed each of the youngsters a torch. "Follow me, everyone, and keep your torch held high!" she announced, leading the group through the entrance. "Today we will be going 800 steps inside…"