Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Four
Avalon and Ash's rooms were comfortably furnished with cheery
yellow furniture, all bolted to the steel ship's bottom. A soft bed, complete
with pillows and a warm blanket, was in the far right corner. There was a small
wooden cabinet near the bed, topped with a lamp. In the other corner was a reclining
chair, complete with armrests and a footstool
But Avalon paid no attention to the fancy chair
and super-soft bed. He was pacing the teetering ship floor, claws tapping on
its surface. Ash had listened to his description of what he had seen, and now
watched lazily but with mounting impatience from the bed as he paced back and
forth, back and forth.
"For Coltzan's sake, Avalon!" the fire Lupe
snarled at last, tossing a pillow at the pacing Kougra. Avalon ignored the pillow
hitting his side, and continued to stride back and forth.
"It was one of his Gelerts, Ash!" Avalon insisted,
stopping suddenly and staring right at his best friend.
"You say it like I don't believe you!" Ash accused,
leaping off the bed and immediately wishing she hadn't. She almost fell over,
and her stomach leapt like a Pawkeet taking flight. "Stupid…ship…floors!" she
growled through clenched, trying to regain her balance. "If you're so worried,
just tell Valor or Caiman!"
Avalon shook his head. "They'd just say it was
my imagination, or that there's nothing that Gelert can do."
Ash studied Avalon a minute, then said, "As
your best friend, Av, it's my job to tell you things you don't notice. You're
the GUARDIAN, for Fyora's sake! Am I the only one who noticed you completed
your training? I mean, we're already going out to find your own apprentice.
Don't you think that's like, I dunno, some sort of omen? You know, something
like, you're so special that you're getting an apprentice at age seventeen?"
Avalon shook his head. "I don't think it matters.
Either way, I'm still a kid, and Valor and Caiman are adults."
Ash stared at her friend. "You're not a kid
anymore! In three years, you'll be twenty. Caiman and Valor can't be much older
than that! And like I said before, you're the Guardian. Everyone respects you!
You're not just some random seventeen-year-old. Let's go."
"Go where?" Avalon asked, taking a step back
and narrowing his eyes.
"To go tell Valor and Caiman what we saw."
"Look, Ash. Don't."
"You expect me to keep this all some big secret?"
"Really, Ash, don't."
Ash threw her paws in the air. "For Fyora's
sake, why, Avalon?"
"They won't believe me. Besides," Avalon's golden
eyes glinted. "I want to see what the spy does first."
Shag crept toward the voice until he could look
through the branches of a thick bush to see who was shouting about the boats.
Sweat trickled down the Gelert's fur. He hated this jungle.
A pudgy yellow Wocky was dragging a large cart
past the small shops and island huts. On the cart was a single boat, made of
fine dark wood, with a pair of supple looking oars. The Wocky kept calling out
"Boats! Boats for sale! I've got a nice sample here, come visit my store for
Shag studied the dirt path carefully. There
were a few other pets around, walking leisurely in and out of shops and homes.
Shag wondered how they could stand the outrageous jungle heat. Flicking his
tail, the Gelert watched the pets carefully, following the Wocky farther down
the jungle path. He noticed that the farther down the path he went, the fewer
buildings and pets there were. At last, he reached a dead end, and began to
turn. Shag knew it was now or never, and he leapt out of the bushes.
He landed in front of the Wocky, who saw him
"I'd like that boat," Shag growled.
"Really? That'll be about ten thousand Neopoints.
Come on, we can settle the deal in my shop."
Shag sighed. It was almost sad that the Wocky
hadn't caught the threat in Shag's demand. He drew a dagger from his belt.
"We won't be handling a deal in your store,
Wocky," he snarled, rearing onto his hind legs. "Give me the boat now,
or I'll have to carve some of the fat off you."
The Wocky blinked rapidly, staring dumbfounded
at the knife. Then his face contorted in anger. "Are you trying to rob me, you
mangy dog?" he demanded.
Shag rolled his eyes. Obviously the Wocky was
slow on the uptake. "Yeah, genius," he snarled. "It's a robbery. I'm in a hurry,
so if I were you, I'd drop the wagon, and get outta here without another word.
He took another step closer, so that the blade
of the dagger glimmered in the sun's light. With a last frightened look at the
knife, the pudgy Wocky ran off, leaving the wagon and the dark wood boat behind
him. With a sigh of relief and exasperation, Shag stepped forward. He picked
up the wagon's handle, and pushed through the thick trees to the right of the
Dragging the boat through the jungle turned out
to be a very bad idea. There was almost no room between the thick tree trunks,
and the cart kept snagging on branches and rocks, and falling in holes. The
oars kept slipping out of the boat, and twice Shag had to go back to find them.
He reached the docks much later than he'd intended,
dirt covered and looking harassed and feeling wrathful. The sun was long gone
from the sky. The boat was stained as well, and had a few scratches on it. Shag
had the sense to stay away from the main docks, where several late ships were
unloading their cargo. Shag didn't want to have to deal with the police, not
when he had tracking to do, and had lost a lot of time already.
In the end, Shag decided to launch the boat from
a secluded spot on the beach. Using his dagger, the Gelert sliced the ropes
securing the boat to the wagon. With a shove, he pushed the boat of the wagon
and halfway into the lapping water. Grabbing the oars from where they had fallen
to the ground, Shag shoved the rest of the boat into the water, leapt in, and
began rowing hard and fast.
"Look out, Guardian," Shag whispered as the dark
shore disappeared behind him, "'Cause here I come!"
Ash peered out of her dark window in the ship's
quarters. The dark water lurched slorgishly beneath its cover of silver moonlight.
Ash listened for sounds from the room next door. Either the wall between the
two rooms was extra thick, or Avalon was asleep. Ash hoped it was the second
Since nightfall, Ash had been in her quarters,
trying to decide whether she should tell Caiman and Valor about the spy. Avalon
was her best friend, and he'd asked her to keep it secret. Then again,
if Avalon couldn't listen to reason, Ash had to do something. So in the end,
she decided to sneak up to the deck, and find Caiman or Valor. Then she would
tell them about Scarback's spy, and see what they did then.
Ash turned the doorknob slowly. The door opened
almost silently, and cool air rushed into the small room. Stealthily, Ash edged
out of the room and slipped down the hallway, claws retracted so she wouldn't
make noise. She passed Avalon's room slowly, trying her best to breathe slowly
and silently. And before she knew it, she was climbing the stairs, and slipping
onto the polished wood of the ship deck.
She breathed a sigh of relief, and turned to
the side of the boat. What the Lupe saw made her jump, claws extending and eyes
widening. "Avalon!" she hissed. "What're you doing up here?"
The starry Kougra turned around and spotted Ash.
He beckoned her over. The Noil Gem's bright jade surface glinted in the bright
"Planning to tell Caiman and Valor, eh?" Avalon
whispered, peering over the side of the ship. "Well, don't worry about it."
Ash growled. "What do you mean, don't worry about
it?" she demanded. "We've got one of Scarback's spies following us!"
Avalon looked his friend right in the eyes. "Turns
out," he whispered, "they knew all along."
"I came up earlier to tell them. I decided you
were right. But anyways, I told them about it, and Valor says, 'Oh, we knew
"Apparently, Caiman spotted him earlier this
Ash frowned, her ears drooping slightly. "Why
didn't he say anything?"
"Caiman said he didn't think the Gelert would
follow us." Avalon gave his friend a bewildered look. "Probably hasn't been
working with Quaz too long, huh?"
Ash shook his head. "And Valor?"
"Well, I think Caiman's pretty much in charge
of things on the ship. Valor's more of a land crew pet. I think Caiman ordered
Valor not to tell us."
"But why would Caiman want to hide that from
Avalon snorted angrily. "Probably because we're
kids, and he thinks we'll get scared." The Kougra pounded the rail with his
"That's not the issue," Ash said slowly. "If
Caiman won't tell us about a spy, what else is he not telling us?"
"More importantly," Avalon muttered, "what does
Valor know that he can't tell us."
Ash's face broke into a fierce grin. "And how
can we get him to tell anyway?"
To be continued...