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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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?"
"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
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
"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
"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
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...