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Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Eight

by cpmtiger


The water of the Haunted Woods was mistier than Avalon had thought. A huge, purple cloud seemed to encircle the Haunted Woods. As they approached it, the calm sea began to churn and froth, rocking the Storm Cloud Returns back and forth. Avalon and Storm pushed hard on their paddles, leaning hard in different directions to keep the boat on course.

      "Look out!" Ash shouted, pointing. A huge wave was rearing, about to plummet down on the ship.

     Storm leaned hard on the right paddle, turning the boat to the right. Avalon paddled hard and fast, moving the boat forward. The wave hit the bottom half of the boat, soaking Avalon and Ash. Silverdrop, sitting near Storm, suddenly leaned left. The pirate Lupe followed suit, and Avalon pushed forward again. Ash took the other paddle, and a second wave hit the water right behind them.

     "The mist!" Ash shouted over the roar of the water. "We're about to head in!"

     Avalon dug his paddle into the water, moving the ship left to avoid a wave. "We've got to go in!" he shouted. "The Gelerts aren't far behind!"

     "But these waves- we might not be able to get out!" Ash protested.

     "'E's right, Ash!" Storm shouted, shaking water out of his eyes. "Thar's no way we can go back the way we came, anyway!" The pirate Lupe pointed behind them. Avalon and Ash whirled around, and saw a massive wave pelting toward them. It was too big to sail around, and the only way to avoid it was to go into the mist ahead.

     "PADDLE!" Avalon shouted, and the boat surged forward as the wave began to crash down. Avalon turned once, and thought he saw touches of purple sparks inside the wave. Then, everything around them disappeared as the boat disappeared into the mist. Avalon heard the wave smash onto the water behind them, and then silence.

     Sailing through the mist was like being in a raging, purple aired bubble. There was no sound, even from the waves inside the mist, which were just as fierce and hard to avoid as the waves outside. The only thing Avalon could hear were the frantic shouts of his friends as they battled the onslaught.

     "Avalon!" Ash shouted, leaning to the right and digging her foot claws into the boat's floor. "There's no way we'll be able to cross all the mist!"

     "How else are we going to lose the Gelerts?" Avalon retorted, plunging his paddle into the water.

     Just then, another wave crashed onto the boat, soaking Avalon and Ash. The Kougra and Lupe shook themselves, and tightened their grips on the paddles.

     "Land!" Silverdrop shouted, pointing with one paw. Avalon looked, and sure enough, there was a gray blob to the left of the ship.

     "Head for it!" he shouted to Storm.

     The Lupe frowned uncertainly. "Tha's the Haunted Woods, Avalon!" he called. "We can' go there!"

     "We don't have another choice!" Avalon shouted, leaning to turn the boat left.

     Storm frowned, but he and Silverdrop paddled hard. Several waves crashed around and over them, and every so often, all the pets on the ship were drenched by a heavy wave. Shaking the water from his eyes, Avalon thought he saw the wind swirling into a swirling, purple circle. Before he could shout a warning, the boat had entered the circle.

     A loud crunching noise, like the grinding of rock, reached the group's ears. They dropped their oars to the deck with a thud as they felt themselves sucked into what Avalon realized must be one of Scarback's portals. Avalon had to squint his eyes against the wind, and could only see blurry colors of the others. He thought he saw the gray blob that was Storm clutch his red hat, and Silverdrop clinging to the side of the boat.

     Then, with another grinding rock noise, the boat surged out of the portal and hit water with a splash. Everyone aboard yelped in surprise. The boat thudded along a rocky bottom, and for once there were no huge waves.

     Avalon shook the water from his fur and looked around. They were floating slowly toward an island. The sea may not have been stormy, but the sky looked it. Dark clouds blotted out most of the sun, giving the impression of nighttime. A few small, scraggly trees grew along the island. Most of the island was made of brown, dry rock. There were no plants, besides the dead trees, in sight.

     But what drew Avalon's attention most was the tall gray structure looming over the trees ahead. A massive stone tower, with an outside staircase that swirled around the tower like a tornado, seemed to dominate the island. Around it were four single-story buildings, surrounding it in a diamond shape. The rectangular buildings were made of the same gray brick as the tower, but Avalon couldn't help thinking that the tower seemed darker.

     Storm groaned. "We gotta turn 'round," the pirate said, taking off his hat and wringing it out. "Tha's Scarback's tower."

     "Scarback's tower?" Avalon repeated, turning toward Storm.

     "Aye, an' it's a place ye should stay away from."

     Avalon looked around. He noticed a large, black brick wall boxing them in. Storm looked around too, his eyes widening.

     "Arr, this don' look good," he groaned.

     "We need to go to the tower," Avalon said firmly.

     "Are you nuts?" Ash hissed. "He was creepy enough on Mystery Island! Can you imagine how he'll be on his own turf?"

     "But think, Ash!" Avalon said, waving his paw in a dramatic gesture. "All his stuff is probably sitting somewhere in his tower! His attack plans, his spy records!"

     Ash rolled her eyes. "You think Scarback's gonna just leave that sitting around where anyone can get to it?"

     "No," Avalon replied stubbornly. "But I think if we look around a bit, and use this," he held up the Noil Gem briefly, "we could find it.

     "Besides," he added quickly, as Ash opened her mouth to retort, "For all we know, Brazen and the others could show up any minute.

      Silverdrop suddenly spoke. "He's right," she said, standing up slowly. "At least on the island, we can find a place to hide, if we have to. We stick out like a glowing paintbrush in a dark room out on the water."

     Avalon gave her a nod. "Thanks," he said

     Ash looked disgruntled, but she nodded. Storm sighed, and they got out of the boat. The rocks were sharp, but the pets ignored them and guided the boat onto the shore.

     "Should we leave it?" Silverdrop asked uncertainly.

     Avalon shook his head. "No. If the Gelerts see it, they'll know someone's here."

     "Well, Avalon, maybe you'd like to tell us how we're gonna hide the boat. It's not like there're any trees or even rocks to hide it behind."

     "Aye," Storm said, looking around. "There be no place ter hide such a large boat."

     "We just need to get it out of the water," Avalon said.

     "I still don't see how we're going to hide it," Ash said, pushing against the back of the boat.

     "Arr, nobody'll try an' steal from Cap'n Storm!"

     Ash called up, "Brazen didn't seem too afraid of you in person."

     "Tha's 'cause she's a new pack leader. She don' know what she's up against. 'Er brother, Mange, 'e knew me well. Beat him every time we fought."

     "You fought the Gelert pack?" Ash asked, surprise evident in her voice.

     "O' course I did! Quaz told me ter leave it, but Cap'n Storm never backs down from a fight!" He attempted a heroic pose, but slipped on a mossy rock and had to stabilize himself.

     Ash gave Avalon a puzzled but amused look, then turned back to pushing the boat.

     It took only a few minutes for the boat to get hauled onto the shore. But by that time, everyone was soaking wet from slipping into the water on the mossy rocks, cut from sharp stones, and exhausted from shoving the heavy Storm Cloud Returns.

     "So, Mr. Magic," Ash said, shaking water from her fur. "How're we planning to hide the boat?"

     Avalon stepped forward, dripping wet. He glared at Ash, whose shaking had gotten even more water in his fur. Putting a paw to the Noil Gem, he discovered that it was still dry. He wasn't surprised.

     Avalon turned back toward the boat, and focused his energy on making the boat invisible. The boat glowed a dark green for a moment, then seemed to vanish.

     Storm jumped and shouted, "Hey! What'd ye do to me ship?"

     Avalon replied calmly, "I turned it invisible. As long as nothing touches it, no-one'll know it's there."

     Storm moved slowly toward the spot where the ship used to be. He reached out, and his paw landed on something solid. He breathed a sigh of relief. Then he suddenly turned back to Avalon. "Ye can make it visible again, aye?"

     Avalon nodded. "But for now, I say we take a look inside Scarback's tower."

     "I think we should start with the buildings outside," Ash said. "If those are Gelert pens, I think we should know in advance, in case we need to escape later."

     Avalon nodded. "Alright. Let's start in that one." He pointed to the nearest gray building.

     Silverdrop flicked her tail. "What if we walk in one and it's a Gelert pen?"

     Ash sighed. "Slam the door and run back to the boat."

     "There are walls all around," Silverdrop reminded her.

     "We'll pretend we're spies," Avalon said. "It's probably dark in there, so if we just kind of lower our voices and don't all show up in the doorway, we can probably fool them."

     "Probably," Ash repeated skeptically.

     Avalon looked at her, stunned. "Are you saying that you're just gonna pass up an opportunity to learn about what Scarback might be planning?"

     Ash retorted, "I'll pass up an opportunity if there's a high risk of getting eaten!"

     "Well, what else are we supposed to do? Wait for them to find us here on the beach?"

     "Which they'll do quickly if you two don't stop shouting!" Silverdrop hissed, stepping in between the two friends.

     Avalon looked surprised, but quickly regained his composure. "I'm going inside," Avalon said, narrowing his eyes at Ash. "Anyone who wants to come, they're welcome to."

     Ash rolled her eyes. "Oh, alright!" she growled, falling into step beside Avalon.

     "You don't have to come," Avalon said.

     Ash snorted. "Someone's gotta think about all the stuff you just leap into."

     Avalon smiled. "Thanks," he muttered. "Well, sort of, anyway. What about you two?" he asked, turning back to Storm and Silverdrop.

     "I'm in!" Silverdrop said, her eyes sparkling in anticipation. Avalon liked that anticipation. It seemed to him that the best Guardians would be the ones who craved adventure.

     "She might be easy to train," he thought. "Easier than I was, that's for sure."

      "Arr, I'll accompany ye land dwellers ter the tower! Ye may be in need of me fighting skills!"

      Ash gave Avalon a sideways look. "Is he always like this?" she muttered as they headed slowly towards the nearest gray building.

      "You get to like it," Avalon replied, baring his sharp teeth in a grin.

      Avalon paused at the door. He had no idea what could be in there, although knowing Scarback, it was probably something dark and unpleasant. The starry Kougra pressed his ear against the door and listened for a moment. He pulled his head back and shrugged.

      "Sounds like something heavy moving," he said. "And it's kind of…I dunno, clanky."

      "Clanky?" Ash raised what passed for a Lupe eyebrow.

      Avalon shrugged again. "That's what I heard." He reached his paw out, and gently wrapped it around the door's black knob. He turned it slowly, hoping that the door wouldn't make a noise. He pushed it open a few inches and peered inside.

      The room was dark. A small torch flickered on the wall nearby, revealing that the room was empty and made of thick gray bricks. Avalon opened the door just enough for him and his three companions to enter the room.

      "Should we close the door?" Silverdrop whispered.

      Avalon nodded. "If the Gelerts see it open, they'll know somebody's in here. And if they come in, we'll have a bit of warning.

      "Aye, I'll close it!" Storm whispered, turning to shut the door.

      "Storm, do it-" It was too late. Storm had already grabbed the door and pulled it too hard. The wooden door closed with a loud SLAM that made dust fall from the ceiling.

      "Softly," Avalon finished, closing his eyes in exasperation.

      "Well. Ye need ter tell me this 'afore I close the door!" Storm hissed.

      Avalon didn't bother telling the pirate Lupe that he should have let Avalon finish first, and instead perked his ears and listened. The whole place had gone silent. He relaxed slightly. If there had been any Gelerts, they would have come running.

      To their right was a long, dark corridor, lit by the occasional tiny torch. Avalon nodded toward the hall, and led the way down it.

      "A dungeon," Ash muttered as they passed an empty, iron bar cage.

      "So maybe the clinking Avalon heard was chains," Silverdrop suggested.

      Up ahead, Avalon nodded. "Probably," he whispered.

      "What's weird though," Ash commented a few minutes later, "is that there's nobody here!" They had just passed yet another empty cage.

      "That's 'cause Scarback prefers killing to keeping prisoners," said a scratchy female voice from the darkness.

      Silverdrop jumped. Avalon took a step forward. "Who are you?" he asked the voice.

      "Who are you?" the voice replied, sounding annoyed.

      Rolling his eyes, Avalon summoned a will for light. The Noil Gem shot out a large beam of white light, which lit up the corridor remarkably well.

      In the cell ahead of them was a dark purple figure. Avalon stepped closer, and saw that it was a Darigan Kougra, black chains attached to her paws, neck, and tiny wings. She was missing her right ear, and was scared in several places. The Kougra's deep red eyes brightened with interest when Avalon came into view.

      "The Emerald Noil Gem!" she whispered. She looked back at Avalon. "And you're the Guardian?"

      "Uh…yeah," Avalon answered, surprised. "Why?"

      "Because," the Darigan Kougra said, flicking her barbed tail. "Over twenty years ago, I was assigned to be the next Guardian."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part One
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Two
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Three
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Four
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Five
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Six
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Seven

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