Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 99,729,623 Issue: 198 | 8th day of Swimming, Y7
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Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Five


by cpmtiger

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Meanwhile, in a tall gray tower surrounded by a spiraling staircase that made it look like a tornado, a Kougra sat waiting. He wore a dark black battle helmet, the same color as his fur. The long scar down his back only added to the air of danger about the shadow Kougra. This was Scarback, and today the dangerous air about him was oozing with evil.

     Someone knocked on the door. The Kougra's eyes, bright red, narrowed, and his tail flicked in the customary way of annoyed cats.

     "Enter," he boomed.

     Two Gelerts, both soaking wet, entered the small tower room. Neither looked the Kougra in the eyes. One opened its mouth to say something, but then shut it.

     "What do you fools want?" Scarback roared. "I haven't got time to wait for a report! Did you kill him or not?"

     "Well…" one of the Gelerts said, head bowed. "We tried, but there was a pirate with him…"

     "A pirate?" the Kougra snarled, his eyes widening. "Tell me, did he have a bright red captain's hat with a green feather coming out of it?"

     The Gelerts glanced at each other and nodded. Scarback stood and went to the window, looking out at the gray island. "So Storm's interfering, eh?" he muttered. Scarback had dealt with the pirate Lupe before. He was foolish, and cocky, but when you got into a fight with him, you usually regretted it.

     "Do you know why he was with the Kougra?" he shot at the Gelerts.

     "We're not sure, but our Captain thinks he was taking him to Mystery Island."

     "But why-" It clicked. "Ah… of course. Old Quaz's orders." Scarback's whole scar seemed to throb as he said the name of the old Gem Guardian. Quaz was old, but in his and Scarback's last battle, it had been Quaz who'd had the upper paw.

     But now that the Gem had been passed on, he had a chance to capture the new Guardian and take the Gem. Maybe his Gelerts had been beat by the Kougra before, but they were, after all, dogs. He was a cat, smarter, more agile, and more experienced. The new Guardian, young, and inexperienced, would be easy to take down.

     "Get out of here," Scarback snapped. "Send Brutus back here with Ragnora, maybe she'll talk now. Also, I need to speak with Mange's sister." The two Gelerts fell over themselves leaving the cramped room.

     Moments later, a hefty Gelert had dragged in a Darigan Kougra, badly scarred and missing an ear. A smaller female Gelert, who gave Scarback a puzzled look as she entered, followed him.

     "Ah," Scarback growled, grinning fiercely at the Darigan Kougra. "I see you've been punished. Again. Are you ready to talk, Ragnora?" Ragnora's own red eyes narrowed. "I'm not telling you anything, you flea bitten dog!" And she spat at his paws. The Gelert shook her roughly, but Scarback only shook his head.

      "All right, hold out for now, but as soon as I finish my discussion with Brazen, I'll deal with you."

      The female Gelert stepped forward and lowered her head. "Yes, Scarback?"

      "Your brother was killed during the last pack attack?"

      "Yes, sir, death by fire of the Guardian's Faerie."

      Scarback frowned. The meddling pixie! "Seeing as you are his sister, you now have full leadership of the pack. I expect," and there was a hint of a threat in the voice now, "that you will take this job as seriously as your late brother."

      The Gelert bowed her head again. "Is that all, sir?"

      "No," Scarback growled, "I need you to contact the Island forces. Tell them someone needs to track that Kougra. I'm coming in a few days. Then I'll kill the Kougra and get the Gem, seeing as this pack can't do it. Understood?"

      Back on the Island, the sun was rising, and Avalon realized with horror that he'd strayed from the path. He sat down by a tree with a thump. "This cannot be happening," he growled. He looked up, but couldn't see much through the trees. All the green of the jungle was unnerving. Avalon had spent his whole life in Neopia Central. His parents didn't believe in vacations.

      Once again, Avalon wondered what had happened the night his house burned down. He guessed now that the "devil Kougra" Storm had referred to had done something to them. All the same, he couldn't imagine his parents abandoning work voluntarily, and there was no sign of a struggle.

      Avalon stood again and looked around. The calls of tropical birds were driving him nuts. He needed to find the path again. Not that the path was any use, he realized. Heartfelt wouldn't be lead to on a path. His best bet was actually roaming the forest until he met someone who could help him. But who'd be out wandering in the middle of the jungle?

      The Kougra shook the Noil Gem, muttering, "C'mon, c'mon…show me where to go!" But the Gem remained as it was. With a snarl, Avalon got up and started pacing. If the Gem wouldn't help him, how was he supposed to get to Heartfelt?

      "Why won't you show me?" Avalon roared. The birds became quiet. Avalon listened to see if anybody had heard him. When he looked back at the Gem, he saw its eyes glowing.

     At first, Avalon was relieved. But then, his smile turned into a frown as he realized that the Gem only glowed red when danger was approaching. Something in the undergrowth cracked, and Avalon whirled around. Instantly, it was silent, but Avalon was done waiting for danger to show itself.

     He ran, not knowing where he was going or what was following him. He thought he saw something black out of the corner of his eye once, which made him run even faster. The Gem burned every now and then, pumping new adrenaline into Avalon's blood.

     He only stopped when the Gem had stopped burning. Panting, he collapsed onto the forest floor and rolled onto his side. Every bone and muscle in his body ached. The gash on his paw had reopened, and Avalon let it bleed. Still breathing heavily, he looked around.

     Strange trees were everywhere. A small, snake like creature slithered up a tree. Something bright red flew overhead. Warm gusts of air swept through the forest. There was a small puddle nearby.

     Avalon dragged himself to the puddle and put his paw in it. The cold water stung, but Avalon didn't withdraw his cut. He looked down at the Noil Gem. It had remained immaculate, even though Avalon was covered with dirt, mud, and bits of leaves from running.

     His stomach growled. With a sigh, Avalon looked around at the trees. The trees were fruitless, but a nearby shrub had some bright yellow berries on it. Avalon pulled his paw from the water and almost ran to the bush. He ate as many of the sweet, seedless berries he could find, and washed them down with some water from the puddle.

     Now confident he wouldn't starve, Avalon tried to decide what to do. Sitting in the clearing wasn't going to help, but wandering the jungle wasn't the best idea either. "I'll stay," Avalon decided. "Not for too long, but for a while."

     Avalon spent the next two-and-a-half days in the clearing. He found more of the yellow berry bushes, and also found apples and bananas growing deep inside the trees' branches. Being full had never felt so good.

     At about noon on the third day, Avalon began to feel strange. The Gem began to burn again, and Avalon kept his eyes and ears strained. It wasn't long before he realized that he should leave the clearing. He hadn't thought about the Gelert tracking him. It had seemed to disappear for a while, but now Avalon had the feeling he was being watched.

     Avalon left the clearing. He intended to head north, the way he'd been going, when he saw a path of crushed plants to his left. Avalon paused, wondering whether he should continue forward, or follow the path. In the end, curiosity won out.

     At the end of the path Avalon took was a dark, foreboding marsh. Avalon paused again, feeling uneasy, but unbearably curious. The Gem burned again, but this time Avalon ignored it and entered the swamp.

     It was like diving into a dark ocean. Mud sloshed all the way up to Avalon's chest in some places. The trees hung low and were sticky with spider webs. Tiny bugs hovered in little clouds ever where you turned, and the wind rattled the trees so that it sounded like whispers.

     Then Avalon heard it quite clearly. A cracking of a twig. He stopped dead, still up to the top of his legs in foul smelling green goop. The Gem burned hotter than ever, and even glowed red. Shapes emerged in the fog ahead. No, on all sides! As they got closer, Avalon saw that they were all black Gelerts with gleaming red eyes.

     All but one figure, that is. Directly in front of Avalon was a grinning, red-eyed shadow Kougra, just like the one Avalon had seen in the dying embers of his home.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part One
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Two
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Three
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Four
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem



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