Tropical Tragedy: Search for the Jungly Jem - Part Four
Maps Gone Astray:
"Oh..." Ailis cried, saddened. "I hope he's okay. He's
risking his very life just to save ours. Can't we go back?"
"No," Keahi replied. "We mustn't put our lives
in jeopardy again. And the Mystic isn't just doing this for us; he's doing it
for every islander who can be affected by the Jungly Jem's powers. If we go
back and are captured, then the looters will be able to find the Jem with ease."
Ailis sat down on a nearby rock and cupped her
face inside her hands. She sighed loudly and looked up. She threw her shoulders
back and looked into the clear, blue sky.
We'd been traveling for a few minutes after
the entire scenario had occurred. We had made it through the warehouse where
the Island Mystic was. We gathered the maps and supplies and hurried out of
the factory, nearly escaping the looters that were after the Jungly Jem as well.
At the time, we took a short rest from running away from the factory. Our small
haven was a small, circular clearing in the midst of the forest. To the left,
you could see the shore of the ocean in the distance, and the smell of brine
reached our senses. To the right was just the forest, nothing special about
it, except for the endless amount of coconuts that flourished on top of the
palm trees. Far off in the distance you could see the towering volcano that
was Techo Mountain, the focal point of the island disappearances that occurred
"We need to travel to the mountain," Keahi said,
looking up at the volcano as well. "Geraptiku lies on the opposite side and
it's far too dangerous to try to go around the volcano. We either need to go
through it or over it."
"Through it?" I blurted out. "How do you suppose
we go through tunnels of magma with temperatures of over two thousand degrees?"
"There are empty tunnels, Damian," Keahi said.
"Yet it's like a labyrinth and many have found themselves lost within them.
With that, I suggest we go over the volcano, just in case."
The ground quivered as the volcano off in the
distance began to violently shake. While the brutal quakes continued to last,
I was forced to grab hold of a palm tree in order to stay in place. Ailis clutched
the rock that she was sitting on, but Keahi simply stood still with his arms
crossed. His fingers fiddled around on his arm and he began to sway slightly
back and forth, apparently bored with the situation. Finally he yawned and began
to scramble through his backpack. He pulled out a map and began to look at it,
all the while muttering to himself. "Alright," he stated. "We need to get a
move on. Geraptiku is many miles away and the looters won't be much farther
behind us. It should be about a two day trip. You two jelly-legs ready to go?"
He snickered to himself and began to walk off into the brush of the forest.
Ailis and I quickly followed him, through the
trees and bushes and into the deep and misty forest. A light mist clung to the
jungle floor, but went up to our knees, and therefore making it hard to see
what we were stepping on. The humid air was here as well, and my khaki trousers
didn't cool my body in the slightest way. Ailis, who was wearing her usual puffy
white shirt and black pants, wiped the beads of sweat off of her forehead and
panted. On the other hand, Keahi continued walking happily down the trail, slashing
his large machete through the tangled vines that hung in our way. Occasionally
he would stick one of his fingers in his mouth and raise it high in the air
to tell which direction the wind was blowing in. He logged in most of his findings
along the way, which made it easier for me.
At long last we stopped for a moment in a small
clearing. The clearing was surrounded by all sorts of tropical fruits, ranging
from Zeenanas to Tobbie Fruits. I climbed up a small tree that housed many bunches
of Zeenanas and began to pick them one by one and threw them onto the ground
for Ailis to collect in her basket. Keahi was looking at one of our maps once
again and glancing cautiously around the clearing, apparently looking for something.
"Damian, what can you spot from up there?" he
barked up at me.
"Um…" I muttered while looking around. "I see
the volcano over to the right and the sea is way off in the distance." I turned
my head once again and looked on the opposite side of the tree. "I don't see
I turned my head back around, and suddenly,
right in front of my face, was a large, green Mynci. It screeched and hooted
at me, frightened. And within all the chaos, he threw a Zeenana at me and pegged
me with it right between the eyes. I screamed and fell from the tree, landing
straight on my back. "EEP! EEP!" the Mynci cried at me, and then it scrambled
around the tree's branches and took off jumping from tree to tree, into the
"Made a new friend I see?" Ailis giggled. "At
least he left you a gift." She grabbed the Zeenana and put it into her basket.
As for myself, I got off of the ground and dusted myself off and then I resumed
climbing up the trees once again. By the end of the hour we had collected many
fruits that would last us for days, and thankfully I didn't have any more run-ins
with Myncies. Over that period of time, Keahi had managed to draw out a plan
of what we were going to do and what stops we needed to make before reaching
"Alright," Keahi stated. "After we cross through
or over the volcano, there will be a small oasis with fresh water. From there,
we need to collect quite a few bottles full of water and possibly a brisk swim."
He smiled at Ailis's gleaming face and continued with his briefing. "Afterwards
we can have a few more moments of travel before it becomes dark. We'll camp
out near the city and then resume our mission in the morrow. Sounds like a plan?"
Ailis and I both agreed happily. I believe all
three of us were looking forward to the swim, as we needed to have some relaxation
and fun. Sadly the oasis was far away and we needed to wait a few more hours
before we would be able to enjoy ourselves. Nevertheless it encouraged us to
walk faster and make better time.
We began to walk once more, this time at a faster
pace. Keahi merrily swung is blade from side to side, slashing the brush in
front of us. As a path began to form, Keahi began to sing a hearty song that
seemed vaguely familiar.
"Dazzling waters, sparkling seas, all of which
are home to thee. A thousand sights and homes alight, all of which are home
to thee. Oh Maraqua, the homely land. Oh Maraqua, with pure white sand. My love
gleams for the deep blue seas, of Maraqua: the place for thee."
As his song finished, Ailis clapped vigorously
and let out a howl of appreciation. "Wow! Is that Maraqua's anthem? I wish I
knew Mystery Island's. It must be great being from another land. Especially
one that was to have disappeared years ago."
"Yeah," Keahi smiled. "It's not the anthem for
Maraqua, but the area I lived in always had a vast history of music. That was
one of the folk songs that the grand elder in our area used to sing frequently.
But I miss my home deeply… I can't wait to go back home and tell them what I
helped do! They'll be so proud."
"So why exactly did you leave Maraqua?" I asked,
"Well, I heard that all the mystics were in
trouble here, and I needed to help out as much as I could," he replied.
"But why would the fate of the mystics affect
you?" Ailis questioned. "I mean, you are two lands apart."
Keahi sighed and looked towards the mountain
and turned back around to look at Ailis and me. He began to speak, but snapped
his mouth shut, and then opened it once again. "I've never told someone this
before, but I am a mystic as well. When Maraqua was destroyed, many people were
in trouble and my parents, who were on Mystery Island, desperately tried to
help the others. That's why I'm a mystic, while only mystics originate from
Mystery Island: I was born there, even though our home was in Maraqua."
Ailis stared at him, wide-eyed but lowered her
head and turned back around. There was a long silence before we reached the
volcano. Nobody truly spoke to each other; except for the occasional, "are we
there yet?" But eventually a strong smell of sulfur reached our senses and sent
a shocking impulse through our body, stinging our nostrils. Ailis coughed violently
and sniffed while Keahi looked at his map and then back at the land. We were
finally at Techo Mountain.
I looked up at the majestic mountain that towered
over us. Apparently someone had tried to climb it before, but was unsuccessful.
Picks were lodged inside the mountain's walls and, horrifically, a pile of bones
lay at the base. I looked through the yellow-white bones that lay scattered
on the ground, all the while searching for some sort of supplies left behind
by the Neopets that reached their early demise. Nothing was there, except for
a slingshot and a silver ball, possibly a bullet.
"Well, as you can see, we won't be going over
the mountain. Looks like we're going through the tunnels," Keahi said reluctantly.
I groaned and looked at Ailis who was complaining
as well. It was much quicker to go over the mountain, but the bones showed that
not all who attempted this feat were successful. I'd rather play it safe than
take a risk that resolved in life or death. Keahi beckoned us to follow him
into a small opening to the right of the mountain. Ailis and I followed him
in warily, unsure what would be on the other side of the opening.
Keahi flicked on his flashlight, illuminating
the low chamber that we entered. Stalagmites and stalactites clasped to the
roof and floor of the cavern, and a steady dripping sound echoed throughout
the chamber. Suddenly, a swarm of Korbats flew from the darkness and out into
the jungle, frightening Ailis and making her shriek.
"This is the shortest route to the other side,"
Keahi's voice echoed. "It shouldn't be too long of a trip through here, but
it may get a bit hot in a few moments. I hope you heavy sweaters put on some
sort of deodorant or perfume!"
Ailis giggled and flicked on her flashlight
as well, revealing another large portion of the room. Following the trend, I
turned mine on and followed Keahi down a narrow tunnel, deeper and deeper into
the volcano's depths. As we sustained down the long, slender passageway, the
heat grew more and more intense and the amount of natural light from outside
decreased slowly. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and swiped it casually
onto my knickers.
The tunnel forked, but we took a left and followed
the small stream of water that lay in the center of the tunnel's floor. It became
hotter with each gentle step we took, and after a while it was far too much
to bear. My face felt as if it were going to explode with the tremendous amount
of invisible fire that licked past my cheeks. Ailis took her hand and waved
it in front of her face and panted with her tongue hanging out of her parched
mouth. I gasped for cool air, but none entered my straining lungs.
At long, long last, the heat begun to wear off
and cool air took over. Light glimmered from a minute point in the distance.
We were almost free from the torturous labyrinth that entombed us from the fresh,
cold air that we needed. I pushed myself onward, towards the simple light that
seemed miles away.
I saw Keahi and Ailis disappear behind a wall
of brightness that stood in front of me. I took one step forward and a river
of fresh air flowed into my lungs like a gigantic waterfall. When I entered
the jungle once more, I spotted Ailis on the ground, laying sprawled-eagle on
the earth. Keahi was resting on a tree and inhaled deeply and took short exhales,
wanting to keep the air inside of him as long as possible.
"The… waterfall…" Keahi panted, "is… over… there."
He lifted a finger and pointed in the direction of a heavenly oasis with large
palm trees surrounding a flowing waterfall and a dazzling pool of crystal clear
water. I regained my strength and pushed myself towards the sanctuary. I ended
up running quickly alongside Ailis, but either way, we made it to the oasis
and jumped into the water with our clothes still on.
A refreshing sense filled my body as I engulfed
myself in the brisk water. I splashed Ailis with a huge wave of water and ducked
as she returned the challenge. In a few moments, we were both having a fight
with waves of water that flew everywhere. This was possibly the most fun I had
ever had in the longest time; just Ailis and myself laughing joyfully and not
caring about the worries in our lives.
"Hey! Save some for me!" a voice shouted behind
We turned around just in time to see Keahi in
the air, spinning like a top and then coming down in a tremendous cannonball
that sent a surge of water barreling towards us. Ailis shrieked giddily and
dove underwater while I stood still, laughing, and took on the wave that Keahi
As the day continued on, we began to experiment
with different types of enjoyment ranging from Marco Polo to Jailbreak, but
after a while we weren't sure what to do. An epiphany suddenly struck Ailis
as she remembered what we did on our last trip to the Maraquan ruins: diving
and collecting shells. Keahi seemed excited about this game and I was just as
eager. We first checked the water to see if there were any shells at all, but
of course, there were. Though happy, I was still a bit sad that I couldn't cheat
"Okay, ready?" Ailis shouted. "Catch as many
as you can without going back up to the surface. One… two… three!"
Once Ailis said "three" we all inhaled a vast
amount of air and held it in our cheeks. Ailis was already underwater and Keahi
and I dove downward at about the same time. Through the clear water, I could
see the sandy bottom with the shells scattered across the floor. I took a big
kick and thrust myself to the bottom. In this case, Keahi had a bit of an advantage
because of his large tail and his experience in the water, but knowing Keahi,
I assumed he would let off a bit. I collected one shell… then another… and then
another. After a while, my arms were full with shells of all shapes, sizes,
and colors. I gulped the air that was in my cheeks, but it wasn't enough to
satisfy my straining lungs. I turned back around to face the bottom and collected
two more shells, but I couldn't carry anymore and my lungs wouldn't allow me
to stay underwater any further. I faced the shimmering surface of the water
and kicked off from the sandy bottom. My lungs quivered and I felt my face straining
from the immense pressure that I was feeling. My ears popped and I inhaled a
large gulp of water. Almost to the surface. Almost to the surface. I gasped
for air, but sadly, none reached my poor lungs. I coughed up some bubbles that
rose quickly to the surface and popped; almost there. Ultimately I reached the
surface and inhaled loudly and quickly and let the air rush back through my
body. I threw my shells onto the surrounding land and waited for the others
to come back up.
Suddenly, I heard a loud splash and looked over
to the center of the lake. There, I saw Ailis flying up out of the water and
inhaling deeply; surely she had about as much shells as I did.
"How--how many d-did you get?" she gasped.
"I don't know quite yet. I just reached the
She swallowed deeply and then giggled. "You
know what we both missed? Keahi is an animal from Maraqua… he doesn't need air."
She began to laugh insanely and then she choked and gasped for more air.
I chuckled as well; how could we have missed
Keahi arose from the water about ten minutes
later. When he came up, he showed no sign of breathlessness and it seemed as
if he only came up because he ran out of room to hold the shells he collected.
Ailis splashed him when he came up and laughed.
"You little cheater," she giggled.
"Hey!" Keahi shouted back with a chuckle. "I'm
surprised you two didn't catch that earlier on. But I guess I win!"
Either way, we had fun with that game, despite
that we were oblivious to Keahi's scheme. We didn't bother counting the shells
since we knew that Keahi had won, but instead we swam over to the waterfall
and crawled into the small cove that was secluded behind the wall of falling
water. We flopped like fish onto the cave floor and lay there for a while, not
daring to speak.
"Um… did you get the maps?" Keahi asked me.
"I thought you got them? Didn't you place them
by that big palm tree on the edge of the water?"
"Err… yeah, you're right. Let's go check to
see if they're there."
We rushed out of the cove and headed towards
the palm tree that stood by the gigantic lake, but nothing was there anymore.
We looked around frantically to try and see where the maps could be, but when
we looked beyond the cove, all we saw was a chubby Bruce waddling through the
woods and a tall Kyrii alongside him, both of them holding our maps.
"Oh my gosh, no!" Ailis screamed at the running
But it was too late… they were gone and we were
stuck without our maps or the riddle that would help us find the Jungly Jem.
The looters would most likely find the Jem and be able to control the mystics
and all of their powers… there was nothing we could do.
"Keahi?" Ailis asked, soothingly. "Are you okay?"
He sighed and shook his head shamefully from
side to side. "We need to rest… the trip will be even longer without the maps.
Let's pitch our tents and go to sleep before we pass out from exhaustion."
Later on that evening we set up our own separate
tents that were evenly spaced from each other. Keahi's tent was next to mine
and Ailis's was next to Keahi's. We bid our goodnights and crept back into our
tents, not wanting to face the following day.
I crawled into my sleeping bag and began to
drift off into my deep slumber, but right when I was closing my eyes, I heard
a loud ruffling sound and some muffled noises and then a twig snapping, but
then it was all over and everything was silent. I shook off the ruckus and closed
my eyes and drifted off into a numinous dream.
To be continued...
Author's Note: Tune in next week for a bit of a surprise!! Quite shocking,
actually. Oh Maraqua... (And, no, that's not a clue as to what the surprise