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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 27th day of Awakening, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 122 > Continuing Series > Dark Flame: Part Fourteen

Dark Flame: Part Fourteen

by child_dragon

Remembrance

It was indeed a full week before I was finally released from the hospital. I'm not sure if they were sorry to see me go as Un-eairkagh received quite a few dirty looks as we exited. Sabreur drove us all to my house. No one broached the topic of what we were going to do next. I was grateful, I needed time to rest some more before tackling our next quest.

     The house was just as I'd left it. MoonFall had done extra work keeping it stocked with food and clean for my arrival. Sakuko mentioned that she'd helped with the shopping and Sabreur had managed finances while I was gone.

     "He nicked your ownership papers shortly after," she explained, "so he had all the rights to your stuff and pets. I think he's put them back now so they'll be where you usually keep them."

     "Which is…" I prompted.

     "Beats me. Just because he knows where they are doesn't mean he's not careful with them."

     I nodded. It was good to know I had a brother that was trustworthy with my pets and house.

     The next day, at my pet's insistence, we headed out to the castle where I had fought Aldrai. Our first stop was the lake I had fallen into.

     "One of the nearby pets dove in after you," MoonFall explained, "it was a Peophin. She drug you out onto shore and from there the faeries took over."

     I stared at the lake with a disquieting feeling in my heart. We didn't linger there long.

     Our next stop was the castle itself. The thing was nothing but rubble now. Collapsed entirely to the ground. Much of the rock was scorched, as if a fire had burnt there.

     "It fell shortly after Aldrai's spell was lifted," Un-eairkagh said softly, "Here. There's one more spot you should see."

     Not too far from the lake and castle was a section of ground where no grass grew. It was blackened and blasted for about a ten foot radius. In the center was a scar on the earth's surface.

     "This is where Aldrai fell. The earth just split apart and then sealed itself back up. No grass will grow here."

     I walked forwards and knelt near the scar. There was power soaked into the soil. I could feel it saturating the soil nearby and burrowing deep into the earth.

     "We can find him," I said sharply, "I can feel the trail of power he left. We'll just follow that."

     "It's still there? After all this time?" MoonFall asked in a hushed voice.

     "It's 'cause there's so much power," Terraile said, "Remember, Aldrai lost all control over his magic. He was trying to rework the very fabric of Neopia. The remains of that attempt will probably be etched here forever."

     "Magic is like the landscape," I explained, "when a volcano erupts, it changes the surroundings around it. The same is here. This spot is not only a hot point for light magic now but it's also affecting the nearby currents. I wish I could've seen the currents before this place settled out…"

     "It was wild for a couple days," Terraile said, "some areas have been totally reworked. Sent the faeries into a tizzy."

     "I can imagine." It was then I noticed a couple candles set in the dirt nearby. Some were burning. Flower petals also lay near the candles.

     "What's this?" I asked, walking closer.

     "Remembrance," Terraile said softly. "No one is really sure what happened with the Zafara, but they do know that he regained control of himself and went into this dive before he lost it again. They pity him now and seek to honor the sacrifice he made to save those he had hurt."

     "And what do they say of me?" I asked.

     "You are not even mentioned," Terraile said with a worried expression.

     "For the best, I imagine," I said with a sigh, "Heroes are always better as a memory than as a real person."

     We returned home after that. Sabreur and Sakuko were in my kitchen, drawing up plans of what we'd need for the journey underground.

     "Who all is coming, anyway?" I asked.

     "Everyone," Sabreur replied.

     "Everyone? Then who is going to watch the house when we're gone and all…?"

     "We won't need to. Just lock the doors and ask the neighbors to bring in our mail. Nothing different than a vacation."

     I sighed and joined the two at the table. Sabreur was sitting there with the accumulated info about the underground about him. Sakuko was writing up a list of supplies.

     "What do I need to do?" I asked.

     "Head to Neopia Central with Melody and buy all this junk when we're done," Sakuko replied.

     "And I'll head over to the Virtupets Space Station to buy all the equipment I'll need," Sabreur added, "Got some new inventions I think will help."

     He shoved a pile of papers towards me. I picked one up and started studying the diagram.

     "Capacitors… wiring… resistors… I know that symbol… that's batteries… but I don't recognize that one from my high school physics class. What is this exactly?" I asked.

     "A really big flashlight," Sakuko said.

     Sabreur gave her a put-out look.

     "No, it's a lamp. One powerful enough to suffice for all twelve of us. I call it the Halogen 3000."

     "It's a really big flashlight," I said and handed the design sheets back.

     "It's not a really big flashlight! It's going to be the size of a wristwatch."

     "So it'll be a really powerful flashlight."

     "Yes!"

     "Big, powerful, what's the difference?"

     "Big refers to size. Power refers to voltage. There IS a difference."

     Sakuko snorted in laughter and I rolled my eyes. Sabreur looked mildly annoyed and returned to his planning.

     Melody and I took an entire day to shop. We brought along all our pets to help. Sakuko and Netsuko went with Sabreur and Infernus to the space station. We were planning to leave in two days time. Sabreur affirmed that that would be long enough to allow him to build what he needed built.

     "Okay, so we've got the backpacks for everyone, the food supplies, and the canteens for water," I said, "Weaponry is already taken care of so we need healing potions now."

     "Are we going to be able to carry all this?" Melody asked.

     "Certainly. Just think of it as a camping trip. Without tents. We won't need those underground."

     "I don't camp much."

     "That's okay. You'll be fine."

     "Isn't there a book along the lines of what we're doing?" Terraile asked.

     "Yes. My dad read it to Sabreur and me when we were in kindergarten," I replied, "Journey to the Center of the Earth. I didn't like it much."

     "Kindergarten…" Lady MoonFall spluttered.

     "I was an odd kid growing up…" I replied softly.

     "We've always known that," Un-eairkagh chimed in.

     I tactfully ignored him and moved on to the next item on our list.

***

We were ready to go. The supplies were packed. One backpack per person. I was dressed in a good pair of hiking jeans and a long-sleeved shirt borrowed from Sabreur's closet. Mine were all too girly for a trip underground. It was one Sabreur wasn't too fond of, as I had to cut slits in the back to allow for my wings. My backpack rested in between the two which made folding the snowy white wings a bit difficult. I managed, though.

     Terraile carried a pack with her quiver of arrows slung down to her side. Her bow was in her hand. Un-eairkagh had also moved his Sinsis Sword from his back to the side of his backpack. His dark battle duck hung from a belt alongside his green scorchstone. His gait had changed a bit, he now kind of swayed from side to side from the weight on his back. MoonFall was the last to show of my crew. She had braided her mane and tail into countless smaller braids. Her mane was tied close to her neck to keep it out of the way and her tail had been folded to shorten it considerably. Her backpack was actually just saddlebags. I helped adjust them as her request, refraining from commenting about her hair.

     "I wanted it out of the way," she said softly at Un-eairkagh's inquiring look.

     "No, that's understandable," Un-eairkagh replied, "But why are you wearing that?"

     I looked at my Uni again. Resting on her brow was something I'd never seen her wear before. A slim gold coronet with a diamond set in the middle.

     "It's the Fallen Crown," my Uni said with her head down, "passed from queen to queen in my family for ages. The diamond is said to have fallen from the sky. It will light up with a word from someone of royal blood. I thought it might come in handy underground."

     "You're probably right," I replied, casting Un-eairkagh a glance meant to keep him from asking MoonFall anymore questions.

     I knew she disliked her ancestry.

     Sabreur and Infernus were the next to arrive. My brother was dressed in a long sleeved shirt and hiking boots. His rapier was on his belt along with a couple of his improved firebombs. A harness across his chest held more weapons, throwing stars mostly and a couple more improved firebombs.

     "The stars burst into light when you throw them," Sabreur explained, "They're kind of like a flare. I've got a couple of those too, on the side of my pack."

     A single orb was hanging off the back of his backpack and I assumed that to be the Halogen 3000. Infernus stood nearby, his sword also on his waist. He was armed the same as Sabreur and the two looked strangely like twins.

     Sakuko and Netsuko were next, Sakuko carrying just her backpack and Netsuko a backpack and bow. Melody and her three pets arrived shortly after. Melody carried a walking stick that would easily double as a staff and Padiglione wore dual daggers strapped to her front legs. Her three pets, not being hampered by wings, were able to wear a special kind of backpack, one designed for four legged creatures. It was two packs that strapped around the pet's middle and rested on the sides instead of the back. It provided for balance unlike Un-eairkagh's pack which was firmly between his wings.

     "We ready?" I asked softly, tightening the straps on my own backpack.

     Everyone nodded. I smiled grimly and led the way out to the buggys.

     There were many entrances to the Neopian underground. One of the closest was the Catacombs in Neopia Central, but that one wouldn't take us to the tunnels we needed. Instead, we took a cave system near Kiko lake. The entrance was amidst a cliff bluff near the lake. I took my vehicle off-road to get as close as possible before we left it behind. I found a secluded area partly obscured by trees and underbrush and parked there.

     "Will it be okay while we're gone?" I asked my brother.

     "We will if you put it on auto-protect."

     He flipped a switch and all but two computers shut down. The hum of the engine faded to just a slight buzz.

     "There. Nobody will dare touch your buggy now."

     "I pity the first person who tries," Melody murmured.

     I walked towards the cliff bluff, leaving the buggy behind. Everyone followed. We found the cave entrance with little difficulty. It was a narrow opening behind an outcropping rock. I managed to squeeze through with little trouble. Un-eairkagh had some trouble and Padiglione made smart remarks about him gaining weight.

     "Watch it or I'll buy you a bib and bottle," the Eyrie retorted sharply.

     The baby Kougra merely sniggered and showed all her pointy teeth.

     It was only a few feet before the light from outside faded. Sabreur activated his Halogen 3000. The surrounding area was quickly illuminated by soft white light. Our shadows were cast in vivid relief against the gray walls. Lady MoonFall spoke a single word of power and her coronet flared up with a gentle yellow light, providing more light and eliminating some of the shadows we cast. I led the way, my Elemental Spear in hand. The going was hard as I had to take it slow. My spear cast it's own light and I traveled with the point low and close to the ground. The floor changed levels suddenly and at times the walls and ceiling took sharp twists.

     "Would not be a bad time to mention I have a touch of claustrophobia?" Un-eairkagh said in a tiny voice.

     "Yes," Melody, Sabreur, and I said in unison.

     Time lost all meaning in the darkness. The tunnels would widen and narrow, at times being wide and tall enough for us to walk four abreast, at other times so small we had to go single file on our hands and knees. Sabreur had mapped out a route to take us close to the area where Aldrai had dove into the earth. From there, I would lead.

     After what was probably several hours Sakuko called for a rest in a large cavern. I found a spot where the rock sloped and dropped my backpack, laying out on the gently inclined surface. Others found similar resting places and collapsed. Sabreur placed his pack in the middle of the cavern and turned the power on the lamp up some. The walls were illuminated and the shadows banished. All around us were stalagmites and stalactites. The wall themselves were inlaid with crystal at several portions which glittered with black and purple in the light.

     "I wonder if anyone has ever seen this place before," Terraile said in a hushed whisper.

     "I imagine so. It is on the maps after all," Sabreur replied, "But we will be hitting areas that no one has ever seen in a couple days."

     "It kinda makes you feel small, doesn't it," Un-eairkagh said in a strained whisper, "Like you're invading this place. And the silence… it feels like it's just watching you."

     "Don't think about it," Netsuko said sharply, "you'll go mad if you do. Just don't think about it."

     No one really talked much after that and I eventually decided it was time to move on. We had at least one more day of travel before we reached the place where Aldrai fell.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Dark Flame: Part One

Dark Flame: Part Two

Dark Flame: Part Three

Dark Flame: Part Four

Dark Flame: Part Five

Dark Flame: Part Six

Dark Flame: Part Seven

Dark Flame: Part Eight

Dark Flame: Part Nine

Dark Flame: Part Ten

Dark Flame: Part Eleven

Dark Flame: Part Twelve

Dark Flame: Part Thirteen

Dark Flame: Part Fifiteen

Dark Flame: Part Sixteen

Dark Flame: Part Seventeen

Dark Flame: Part Eighteen

Dark Flame: Part Nineteen

Dark Flame: Part Twenty

Dark Flame: Part Twenty One

Week 122 Related Links

The Zafara Assassin 4: Darkness and Light -- Part Six
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by meratocat



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