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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 17th day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 38 > Continuing Series > Icequake: Part Four

Icequake: Part Four

by scriptfox

It was the next morning at breakfast that my apprehension turned into a huge set of worries. I had actually begun to feel pleased about the matter. After all, the Snowager was gone now, and that meant that his huge stash of treasure was out there for the taking. Whoever got into it would become rich... and the more I thought about it, why shouldn't it be me? I'd certainly earned it the hard way.

"I wonder how rich a pet would get if they had the Snowager's whole stash, rather than just an item or two," I mused out loud.

"Probably richer than anyone else in Neopia," my owner replied. "Though for how long might be another matter. There's probably several quadrillion points' worth of stuff in there. Having that much just turned loose all at once would be quite a blow to the economy."

"Huh? What does the economy have to do with it?"

"Well, two things basically. One is that if the stuff was being given out for free, the pets making it would maybe go out of business--it certainly wouldn't help them any."

"Hmmm... wonder if that would include the Faerie Queen."

"I dunno. Going out of business might be too strong a term for her, but her very valuable artifacts might lose a lot of value fast. Increase the supply faster than demand, and the price goes down. And, too, the other side of it is that pets and owners might stop trying to earn a living, choosing instead to just live off of their cheap wealth. No production--nothing to buy with it after you've got it."

I squirmed a bit when that one hit. "But that would be true only for those who found it, right?"

"Could be... but how many would find it? If it was just one or a few, that would be one thing--but if there were a lot, who knows."

I was suddenly glad my breakfast had managed to settle safely in my stomach. Blchocobo gazed at me without saying anything. I couldn't tell what his expression was behind his mask, but he was either being very thoughtful or was just waiting for my next move. Our owner, fortunately for me, was treating it as an idle thought experiment rather than taking anything seriously. I made my excuses and left the house hurriedly.

If there were a lot... I shuddered. The Snowager wasn't just asleep now, he was gone. When that news got out, as it would in a day or two at most, there would be the biggest mob of looters in that cavern in the history of Neopia. What would happen amongst a quarreling lot of looters when the loot consisted in part of some of the most powerful battle weapons in existence didn't even bear thinking about. That it would be bloody was a given. That it might prove disastrous in the extreme wasn't at all unlikely. I strode into my office, yanked open desk drawers, dropped things into my pack and grabbed the silver tube containing my petpet baby fireball Sun Pegasus on my way back out. I was so preoccupied that I almost forgot to lock the door behind me.

I realised now that the magical balance of things had been totally upset. A huge part of it was completely gone, and that imbalance would soon show up in riots and worse before too long. Too much wealth all at once meant poverty and disaster, apparently. It was a strange thought, but my gut knew it was true--and that I was almost certainly the cause of it. I might try to excuse myself by saying that the Snowager was breaking out anyway, but I was afraid that didn't wash.

The morning sun hadn't quite warmed things up yet in the deserted valley that was the Snowager's final resting place. I stepped carefully over the clods of disturbed earth. I still didn't have any clear plan in mind, except that I had to know exactly what happened. If there was any hope of salvaging this mess, then the answer had to be here. I set my equipment down and gritted my teeth with frustration as I saw how my hooves were shaking.

I spent the next few minutes sitting in a cross-legged position with my eyes shut and mouth slightly open. Deep breathing exercises combined with isometric muscle exercises to give my body the illusion of calm. The sun on my golden fur, though, did as much to warm me up and relax me as anything else I suspect.

Opening my eyes and getting my stuff out, I still maintained the calm state that I'd pulled myself into. The next bit of magic that I would do demanded a good control of the flows, and one mistake could leave me with more than a bit of a headache. Carefully selecting a set of wands, I began the routine. Letting the magic energy flow through me and into the ground, I crooned to it. You might say I sang to it. There really is no exact word outside of magic to describe what I did, but it basically amounted to calling the earth's attention to me and making a polite request, even a pleading.

I was answered so quickly and easily that it was obvious the earth was glad to do what I had asked for. A large area of ground in front of me flew up and away to the far sides of the valley, leaving a gaping pit that dug itself deeper and deeper, down to the watery remains of the Snowager himself. I stopped as gently as I could, and let things settle back down as I stared down at the melting blocks of ice. Even now, they still had the power to awe me. I gulped, and knew why my request had been granted--the earth itself wanted this no more than I did, and had been glad to get away. It was just as well I had my mind on other things, rather than feeling its hurt and fear as a rebuke to my ill-thought actions.

The next step was to unscrew Sun Pegasus' tube and let him out. He popped out and hovered above the ground, not going anywhere, just waiting to see what was about to happen to him. He didn't seem all that enthusiastic to move at all, and I suspected he shared my own apprehensions about what was going to happen next. Well, tough. I had to put up with it, and he wasn't going to get out of it either. Selecting a rod of metal that had poor conductivity, I gingerly prodded him into the air and balanced him on the end of it. He stared at me, and I let out a slow moaning breath as I engaged his little mind in my own. It took a minute or so to establish rapport, but as he slowly flew into the air and bobbed down into the pit, he was in effect an extension of my own senses for the first time in his existence.

Using Sun as my magical pawn, I carefully searched the blocks below for any signs of life. There weren't any, not even any possible ones that could be revived--not that I knew how to do that anyway. (It was possible, I'd found, but the exact details were both beyond my experience and were not divulged readily to anyone.) It wasn't until Sun reached the far side of the pit that things changed.

I felt a sharp pain in my mind, and I heard Sun's hissing and snarling as he backed away from something moving towards him. Looking closer, I suddenly had my hopes revived--along with an explanation of what had been happening all along. The Snowager wasn't a he--it had been a she! She had been about to give birth, and I had interrupted her trek to her usual birthing grounds. Now, we had a baby Snowager feasting on the remains of its mother.

"Yesss!!" My exultant cry was heartfelt, although poor Sun didn't share my joy. He was teasing the thing as he bounced away from it and it began to chase him. He came back for me at close to top speed, with a swiftly flowing ice worm following him.

I had only seconds to prepare for it, but they were enough. I just turned my backpack up and let all the wands and stuff fall out, then cast a quick cold-lock spell on it. Sun popped over the brink of the pit, and as the ice worm blinked at the sudden increase in light, I whipped a magical coil of rope around it (a Battledome item, actually) and yanked it into its prepared spot. Before it could even began to hiss, it was safely tied up and stowed for travel.

It took longer to get Sun calmed down than it did to gather up my belongings and tie them into a bundle of their own. I finally got him under control and in his own tube before heading north back to the Snowager's den.

It was hard to act normal as I caught the ferry north and then headed into the hills, but I didn't dare let anyone know what I was doing. I reached the den and carefully slipped inside, doing everything I could to make sure I wasn't noticed. I skirted the vast pile of treasure and was about ready to let the worm out when I heard some noises. Peeking around the corner, I saw that my fears were being realised already. There was a large red Shoyru rummaging through the items and cackling to himself.

I eased back and wondered frantically what to do about this. A sudden movement on my back told me the ice worm was awake again. It hadn't moved during the journey up, which had been a relief, but now it wanted out. I wanted the same thing, actually, but wasn't sure what would happen.

I shrugged. It wasn't like I had a choice. Caught between fire and ice, I chose the only possible solution there was. I opened the top of my pack and stepped around the pile of items that I'd been hiding behind.

"Hey you!" I called in an authoritative tone. The Shoyru spun around, saw me, and snarled angrily.

"Get outta here before I...."

I didn't let him finish his threat. "Not so fast!" I barked at him, and threw the ice worm into his face.

He shrieked and fell back, his head covered with angry biting ice. There was plenty of hissing from the worm as well, and it was all over in a matter of seconds. The Shoyru lay stretched out, motionless and quiet. The new Snowager and I stared at each other for a few seconds before it crawled away into the pile of treasure. I calmed my shuddering breath and noted that it was already a lot larger than it had been before.

Who knows? Maybe it fed on the Shoyru's blood. Maybe it was just being in the cavern. Maybe it was the treasure, or the fight. Whatever it was, I knew the Snowager's hoard was now safe under the care of its new owner. My worries about that were over, and now that the danger was past I could almost even like the... formerly little... critter.

I was feeling so generous that I even did it another favour. I dragged its victim out of the cave and left him stretched out in front of it as a warning to any other would-be looters.

I headed towards home feeling much better, with the satisfaction of knowing that things had truly been taken care of and that it was all over. Wrong. The End, as I thought of it, had a postscript the next day when I found out what sort of big trouble I was really in.

It seems that those in the know had been watching the whole thing, and to say that they were displeased was an understatement....

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Icequake: Part One

Icequake: Part Two

Icequake: Part Three

Icequake: Part Five

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