A blinding flash filled the room as the light shot through
the Kougra's chest, causing her to collapse onto the floor. She gasped for breath
as she lay sprawled out on the cold stone.
"Tell me," Darigan hissed.
The white Kougra shook her head weakly as she
struggled to stand.
"You're not going to tell me?" Darigan whispered,
and his face flushed from anger.
The white Kougra narrowed her fierce violet
eyes and shook her head. "NO!" she shouted angrily.
"Take her away then," Darigan said, slamming
his hand on his throne in a frustrated fashion. "Bring her back tomorrow."
The guards led her down the twisting spiral
staircase to the dungeon. They released her from her chains and pushed her into
her dark cell.
"That one's got spunk," the shadow Aisha said,
receiving murmurs of agreement from the other guards.
"I'VE GOT A NAME!" she shouted as she slammed
herself against the door. "IT"S EXIA!"
"And don't forget it," she mumbled to herself
as she sank heavily onto the floor.
* * *
Fuzz sat miserably in the corner of her cell the next morning. A chilling
mist was present that morning and was blowing into the cells through the barred
window. The sun was a blurred light through the foggy air.
She didn't think she could stand any more boredom.
The days were all the same. Day and night smeared into one, every day seemed
blurred into the next. She lost all sense of time. She wondered how many days
she had been in the dungeons.
Fuzz had been so lost in thought that she hadn't
noticed that a guard had approached her cell door.
He was towing the white Kougra behind him. He
mumbled something about needing to make more room for new prisoners, and pushed
the Kougra into the cell. She stood staring at the floor.
"I'm glad I have some company now," Fuzz said,
watching the Kougra lower herself to the floor.
"I'm Exia," the Kougra said.
"So why are they dragging you around all the
time?" Fuzz asked leaning against the wall.
Exia looked away quickly. She argued with herself.
She wanted to share her troubles, but could she trust her new cell mate? Warily
"Long ago before our time, a valuable treasure
was hidden, hidden from Darigan and his followers. This treasure that was hidden
was…" Exia drew in a slow breath before continuing
"This irreplaceable treasure was a golden book,"
Exia said finally.
"A book?" Fuzz said in disbelief.
"It doesn't sound important, but it is extremely
important. This book holds every bit of information about Neopia. If it went
into the wrong hands, there's no telling what could happen. Darigan could rule
not just Meridell, but every inch of Neopia," Exia said seriously.
"My great-great grandmother's father, Eoin,
was trusted by possibly the greatest pet in all of Neopia to hide the golden
book. He sealed it in a bolted metal box and carried it with him. He took it
to the most hidden place he could think of. Eoin buried twenty feet below the
surface, taking great care to pack the earth firmly over the box. Feeling his
work was done he returned home," Exia said.
"When he returned home, he told his daughter
where the book had been hidden. He told her to tell only his descendants and
no one else. So the hiding place of the book has been passed down from generation
to generation," Exia explained.
"Darigan knows that I know where the golden
book is, and he intends to find out. I need to escape soon, before anyone tricks
me into telling. My sister knows, but Darigan isn't aware of her knowledge,"
she said, glancing at Fuzz. "You want to know where it's hidden, don't you?"
Fuzz shook her head. "No, I'm not your descendant,
you can't tell me anyway."
As the moon rose higher and higher in the dark
sky, Fuzz felt the sudden urge to sleep. She sank slowly onto the cold stone
floor and slipped into a dreamless sleep.
As midnight approached, Exia peered apprehensively
out of their barred door. She had accepted her fate. She was going to be forced
to speak with Darigan… again. She was going to have to speak to him every night
until the word finally slipped; the word that could get the whole world of Neopia
taken over by Darigan.
Why was this burden left on me? Exia
thought angrily, What did I do to deserve this?
Right at midnight a guard clanged noisily down
the hall, jolting Fuzz awake. He let the door close loudly behind him and left,
with Exia dragging behind him. They marched slowly up the twisting staircase
that led up the tower of Darigan castle.
"Exia is here, your highness," the guard said,
"It's about time," Darigan snapped.
"So have you changed your mind?" Darigan asked
slowly, addressing Exia.
"No, I have not, changed my mind, and I never
will," Exia said boldly.
"We'll see about that." Darigan said, stiffly
rising from his throne.
He approached Exia slowly. He placed a clammy
hand on her shoulder. Exia felt his claws grip her tightly.
"Don't touch me!" Exia said angrily.
Darigan's cold eyes were looking into Exia's
fierce violet eyes. She tried to stand straight but the cold stare made her
cringe. She was determined not to look away, not to show weakness, not to give
"No food and no water until I say so," Darigan
ordered, lifting his eyes from Exia. "Bring her back tomorrow."
"Yes, your highness," replied the guard, bowing
She sulked miserably in the corner of her cell.
She wasn't able to sleep, but she wasn't able to think either, so she stared
numbly at the wall. Fuzz awoke from her sleep, and blinked lazily at her.
"What happened?" Fuzz asked, suppressing a yawn.
"No food or water until I tell," Exia said sadly.
"Oh," Fuzz said, groaning.
"Lets get out of here..." Exia said, glancing
at the moon, "tonight."
Exia leaned heavily against the bars of their cell
door, rehearsing her plot to escape in her mind. She could see Fuzz and herself
sprinting into the cover of the forest, breathing a huge sigh of relief and calmly
walking on, free from burdens.
Exia was jolted from her vision when she heard
soft footsteps in the hall. She looked apprehensively through the bars, waiting
for the guard. The guard was a shadow Kougra. Exia caught a glimpse of the shiny
silver keys dangling from his pocket.
She leaned against the bars and began to sob,
forcing tears from her eyes. She covered her face with her paws. The guard stopped
and watched her cry for a moment.
She looked up from her crying, and looked at
the guard, as if she had just noticed him. She gripped the bars with enthusiasm.
"Ohhh, hello," Exia said with a sniff. "Could
you help me?"
"I'm a guard," he said, looking away, "I'm not
"But surely a guard could keep a secret," Exia
said, looking pleadingly at the guard.
"I suppose," the guard said, looking down the
hall in both directions.
"Come closer, so I can whisper, then no one
else will hear my secret," Exia said.
As she had planned, the guard stepped closer.
Fuzz reached both paws through the bars and clasped one around the guard's mouth
and one around his neck. His eyes had a look of terror as he squirmed in Exia's
grasp and tried to pry her paws away.
"I'm going to escape," Exia hissed. "That's
my secret. Don't tell."
The guard desperately grabbed at Exia's paws
as his air ran out. The dungeon around him began to swim before his eyes. The
cells were spinning, twisting, and lurching. Then the world before his eyes
faded as he blacked out.
Exia let go of the guard as he collapsed onto
the floor. The only sign of life was the erratic rise and fall of the guard's
chest. Exia grabbed the keys from the guards pocket and stuffed them into the
lock. She flung the door open and motioned for Fuzz to follow.
Exia pulled three long pieces of cloth from
her pocket and quickly tied the guard's wrists and ankles together. She slipped
one piece of the cloth through the guard's jaws and tied it tightly around the
back of his head. His eyes fluttered open as Exia leaned back to admire her
work. She put her paws to her mouth and let out a long shhhhhhh, before
running to catch up with Fuzz.
The two Kougras sprinted silently down the hall,
listening for footsteps other than their own. Fuzz sharply inhaled the air when
she saw the shadow of an approaching guard creep around a corner. She grabbed
Exia and pulled her into a dark and shadowy corner.
As the guard passed he stopped to look around.
None of the two escaped Kougras dared to breathe. Fortunately the guard passed
and the pair resumed their journey to the nearest escape.
Exia stopped in her tracks when she noticed
a lock situated on the corner of one of the barred windows that lined the dungeon
walls. Eagerly, she stuck the key in the lock and twisted it, causing the window
to open. The two Kougras carefully climbed out of the window and clung desperately
to the stone wall.
* * *
In the dungeon, the tied up guard squirmed desperately. The cloth tasted dusty
in his mouth as he let out a muffled call for help. Exhausted the Kougra let
himself fall against the bars of the cell. He let out another muffled cry as
a fellow guard came around the corner. The approaching guard broke into a run,
stopping in front of the squirming Kougra.
He wrenched the cloth from the Kougra's mouth.
"Who?" the guard asked, glancing down the hall.
The shadow Kougra looked up sorrowfully. His
yellow eyes were full of regret and guilt. "The white one…" he said slowly.
To be continued…