Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Avalon’s Apprentice - Part Nine
The dungeon was silent for a long moment. Then Avalon managed
"You were the Guardian?"
The Darigan Kougra shook her head. "I was assigned
to be the Guardian. I had just figured out what it was and that I was supposed
to protect it, when Scarback and two Gelerts come charging at me."
"Who told you about the Gem?" Avalon asked.
"One of the pets on the Guardian Force. Some
brown Krawk. I think his name started with a C…"
"Caiman?" Ash suggested, trading a slightly puzzled
glance with Avalon.
The Kougra nodded. "Listen, I can explain everything
as soon as we get out of here. Can you help me with these chains?"
Avalon paused a moment, wondering if he should
trust this strange Kougra. After a moment, he stepped closer to the cage and
began to study the lock. "My name's Avalon," he said to the Darigan Kougra.
"Ragnora. And I don't think you can pick that.
You'll need keys."
"And how're we supposed to get the keys?" Ash
"They should be in the front room," Ragnora replied.
"Usually Brutus leaves them there, stupid dog."
Ash's tail flipped in annoyance, but she asked,
"The prison guard," Ragnora answered. "A brick
could outthink him, I swear it."
"The front room, ye said?" Storm's voice echoed
off the stone walls.
"Keep it down!" Avalon hissed.
"Yes," Ragnora replied, looking the pirate Lupe
"Arr, so tha's what I stepped on!" Storm held
up a small silver ring, with a single key on it.
"That's them!" Ragnora confirmed.
Avalon snatched the key away and stuck it in
the lock. When he turned the silver key, the lock made a satisfying click, and
Avalon yanked the door open. He noticed that the chains were attached to a small
steel plate on the wall.
The chains had obviously been locked in place
for a long time, because Avalon had difficulty turning the key. "It-won't-move!"
Avalon snarled, whacking the key with his paw. To his surprise, the Noil Gem
sent a streak of green light up his arm and around the key. The silver key turned
smoothly, and the chains fell away with a loud cha-cha-cha-ching!
"Interesting," Avalon remarked casually, yanking
out the key and passing it to Ragnora. In moment, the Darigan Kougra had unchained
Ragnora flicked her remaining ear and studied
Avalon's friends. "And who're all you?" she demanded.
Ash looked ready to roll her eyes, but she resisted
and said coolly, "My name's Ash. I'm Avalon's best friend."
"Arr, I be Cap'n Storm, most feared pirate in
all o' Neopia!" Storm announced, sweeping off his hat and bowing. His nose stopped
about an inch away from a Spyder. The Lupe yelped and jumped back, quickly jamming
his hat back onto his head.
Ragnora gave Storm a concerned look. "Is he…alright?"
"Trust me," Avalon replied. "He just has an
"And I'm Silverdrop," the silver Kougra said,
stepping forward and dipping her head. "Avalon says I'm his apprentice."
Ragnora's head turned to Avalon. "Your apprentice?
Aren't you a little young?"
Avalon shrugged. "I'm almost eighteen. Quaz
says it's really rare to have an apprentice so early on."
"Quaz? He was the one who was going to mentor
me. Does he still live on the Island with his apprentice?"
Avalon gave her a puzzled look. "I was
his apprentice." He paused consideringly. "But he did say something before about
there being a missing apprentice…"
"Which was why he was the Guardian for so long,"
Ash filled in. "And why he was so eager to pass it to you."
"I thought he'd have just picked another apprentice,"
"The Guardian doesn't decide who the apprentice
is gonna be," Avalon explained. "The Guardian Faerie wrote it down when the
Gem was first created."
"How'd you know that?" Ash asked. "I think Quaz
mentioned it once, but other than that…"
"Storm told me," Avalon replied shortly. "Now
look, we've really got to get out of here, before the Gelerts find us." He turned
to Ragnora. "What's in the other three buildings?"
Ragnora shrugged. "Nothing to worry about. One's
got all of Scarback's swords and helmets and such in it. Another's got food
supplies in it, and the third one's just a storehouse for things like chains
and tools. Oh, and there's a fourth one, kind of squished between the food building
and the Tower. That's where the Gelerts sleep, but they'll all be out on duty
now." She said all of this casually, as if they were discussing Tombola booby
prizes rather than potentially dangerous buildings.
"Alright," Avalon said after a moment of silence.
"Where's the Gelert building at?"
"Between the food shack and the tower. Opposite
from the prison."
Avalon nodded. "Good. And is the entrance on
the side of the Tower facing us?"
"Yes," Ragnora answered. "But there's always
a guard there."
"That's the way we'll go in," Avalon decided.
"Av, if Scarback's only got one guard at the
door to his super-secret tower, what're the chances it's going to be easy to
beat?" Ash asked skeptically.
The starry Kougra shrugged. "There's five of
us. If you're coming, Ragnora," he added quickly.
Ragnora flicked her remaining ear. "Of course
Suddenly, a loud creak echoed through the dungeon.
Heavy paws hit the floor, and a moment later they heard a voice grumble, "Dangit,
where're the keys?"
"Brutus," Ragnora hissed. "Come on, there's
a back way."
Avalon, Ash, Silverdrop, and Cap'n Storm followed
Ragnora down the dark hallways. The dungeon was a maze of corridors, but Ragnora
seemed to know her way around perfectly.
"How d'you know the way so well?" Avalon whispered,
falling into stride with Ragnora.
"I've been hauled in and out of this dungeon
for the past twenty years," she said grimly.
"Is that how you lost…" Avalon paused, unsure
whether the Kougra would mind him asking about her ear.
"My ear? No, that was Scarback. He was sure
I knew about the Gem before Caiman told me about it."
"Why would he think that?" Avalon asked, intrigued.
Ragnora smiled grimly. "I lived on Mystery Island
my whole life. He thinks I ran into Quaz once. That, and I constantly wore a
Noil Gem. Not an emerald one, but I guess that was close enough for him."
"So why'd he get rid of your ear?"
"He wasn't intending to do it," Ragnora said
bitterly. "But when you're attacking someone with a chain, the person you're
attacking is bound to lose something."
"So he tortured you to get information about
"That and hiding places on Mystery Island."
"Did you tell?"
Ragnora snorted. "What do I look like, an idiot?
No, I didn't tell him a word. I called him plenty of names, but I never gave
him information." They rounded a corner, and she pointed to a door silhouetted
by outside grayness. "That's the exit," she whispered. She uncoiled her tail
and dropped the silver key into her paw.
Moments later, the group was outside, sneaking
toward the tower entrance. As Ragnora had said, there was a guard. Hiding in
the shadow of the prison building, everyone turned to Avalon.
The Kougra groaned. "Come on, somebody else
can come up with the plan!" He looked around desperately. Nobody seemed willing
to do it.
"Fine," Avalon sighed. He studied the area around
them for a moment. "All right," he said at last. "We need somebody who'll let
the guard get a quick glimpse of them. That pet's going to have to disappear
probably about here. Somebody'll need to help them onto the roof. The guard'll
follow them up, and if we time it right, we can all get him before he can shout
Avalon looked around at the silent group. "Any
volunteers for the person who leads the guard to the roof?"
After a long moment, Silverdrop took a step forward.
"I'll do it," she said. Avalon nodded and gave his apprentice a smile.
"Who's going to pull Silverdrop up onto the roof?"
"I will," Ragnora said gruffly. "It's best I
stay out of the guard's sight, or he'll make sure the whole pack knows I've
"Alright," Avalon said. "Here's where we all
need to start."
The guard Gelert was having a very bad day. First,
he'd missed the report from Brazen's forces in the desert. So he was late getting
the news to Scarback. Scarback was angry enough that the letter had been left
so late, but when Scarback read it, he exploded. Apparently the Guardian, his
apprentice, and the jungle stray had escaped with some pirate Lupe, and
in his anger Scarback found a way to make it the poor guard's fault.
He was now stuck on guard duty for an unannounced
period of time. Guard duty was tremendously boring work. It was a job that required
twenty-three full hours of work. Scarback allowed his guards an hour of rest.
This meant that the guard now couldn't go hang out with the pack whenever he
wanted. He'd probably lose all credit with Brazen. All because of the stupid
Guardian, his stupid apprentice, the stupid stray, and the stupid pirate. And
the guard decided, just for good measure, that the boat they'd escaped in was
The guard stiffened. He thought he saw a quick
flash of silver. He stood, cautious. There it was again! A silver tail, it looked
like. He considered sounding the alarm, but decided that if he caught an intruder,
Scarback might let him off of guard duty.
The Gelert charged toward the tail, whose owner
quickened their speed and disappeared into the shadows of the prison. Resisting
the urge to growl, the guard trotted into the darkness. He turned just in time
to see the silver tail disappear onto the roof. Teeth bared, the Gelert leapt
up, clutching the stone wall and pulling himself onto the roof.
At first, he saw nothing of interest. Then, there
were several somethings. A pirate Lupe with a bright red captain's hat leapt
at him from the left, and a fire Lupe surged toward him from the right, carrying
a clanking chain. Two Kougras, a starry one with a green Noil Gem on a saphirre
chain, and a Darigan with only one ear, pulled themselves onto the roof from
the other side and plowed into the him. The guard fell back, feeling the cold
gray roof against his spine. The fire Lupe - the stupid jungle stray, he realized,
tied his legs together with a piece of chain from the prison. The stupid pirate
ripped the white lining from his hat and tied it around the guard's muzzle.
The three Kougras, the starry Guardian, his silver
apprentice, and the Darigan escapee smiled triumphantly at him.
"Okay, he's all tied up," Ash said, stepping
back to admire her work.
"Arr, tha's what ye get fer servin tha' scalawag
Scarback!" Storm shouted, waving his sword ridiculously in the air.
"What're we gonna do with him?" Silverdrop asked.
"Leave him by the side of the building," Avalon
said. "Somebody'll eventually find him, but not until we get off this island."
Ragnora dragged the Gelert halfway down the wall,
then dropped him unceremoniously on his back. The others follwed her down, not
giving the Gelert a second glance.
This, the Gelert decided, just wasn't his day.
The inside of the Tower was just as dark as the
prison had been. Smooth black furniture and tables were scattered in every room
they passed. There were a few torches along the walls, but they light they gave
off was dim. Most of the floor was made of uneven stone, and in the semi-darkness,
everyone but Ragnora kept stumbling on the raised bricks. The walls appeared
smooth however, made of concrete painted black rather than dark stone.
But there were no Gelerts inside, however, which
was definitely a plus.
"Why couldn't we have used the stairs outside?"
Silverdrop asked Avalon.
"Too noticeable," the starry Kougra replied.
"Besides, there's no way in from there."
"Well, you'll get plenty of stairs inside, too,"
Ragnora whispered from up ahead. A huge, stone staircase loomed ahead of them.
Like the stairs outside the building, these stairs spiraled like the outline
of a tornado. Avalon felt dizzy just looking at it.
"There are very few things down the hallways
these stairs lead onto until we get to the top two hallways," Ragnora explained.
"One floor has Scarback's meeting room and the pack leader's personal quarters.
Scarback's quarters span the entire top floor."
Avalon nodded. "What happens if a Gelert comes
down the stairs?"
"Just duck into an empty hallway and head toward
the back. Nobody else uses them, so we should be okay."
The group began climbing up the stairs. The stairs
were smoother than the floors were, but every time the group turned, Avalon
felt his stomach lurch as if he was falling. The tornado shape of the stairs
resulted in sharp, narrow turns Ragnora said had caused the deaths of careless
"How long's this gonna take?" Silverdrop panted.
The group had been climbing for twenty minutes straight. Avalon sighed and looked
down. They were a long, long way up. He shuddered and looked back at the stairs
"Well, Silverdrop," Ragnora said. "The second
floors about five stairs away."
"Thank goodness," Avalon muttered.
"Aye," Storm said from the rear. "An I though'
sailin' a ship in the middle o' the worst storms Neopia's e'er seen was stomach
"All right," Ragnora whispered, pausing. "The
meeting room's that way. Scarback's probably in there with some Gelerts, otherwise
I think we would've seen him."
"Then let's go up to his quarters," Avalon whispered.
Ragnora silently began moving forward again, this time stealthily. The hallway
slowly disappeared behind them, and a single door emerged on a landing ahead
This was obviously Scarback's door. There was
a huge slash running down the center of the door, and Avalon guessed it was
there on purpose. The handle was a shining, ruby red. Like the Kougra's eyes.
Ragnora turned the doorknob, her tail flicking with suppressed anxiety.
"It's weird to be coming in here without Brutus
dragging me along," she whispered, pushing the door open and stepping inside.
Scarback's room was the only room Avalon had
seen in the Tower that had a window. It was simply a half oval shaped hole cut
in the brink, and surrounded by dark, water stained wood. Obviously Scarback
had no concerns about rainstorms. The only other things in the room were a large
black rock in the center, and a dark wooden desk with gleaming red handles.
On top of the desk were several books, and a
jar of bright red ink atop a pile of parchment. Several black quills lay in
a haphazard pile next to it. There were two doors in the left front leg of the
Ash went over to one of the drawers and studied
the lock. "I don't think we can pick this," she said. "Ragnora, can I have that
Ragnora unfurled her tail and let the key drop
into her paw again. She passed it to Ash.
"I can keep this in my storage bag," Ash offered.
Ragnora nodded, and Ash turned back to the drawer. She attempted to slide the
key in, but it was too big.
"Scarback's not completely stupid," Ragnora said.
"He gave all the prison chains and doors and such the same keyhole so Brutus
wouldn't have to work with more that one key."
"And knowing Scarback," Ash muttered, "Each keyhole
probably has a different key."
Ragnora nodded. "I've never seen him with a ring
of keys, but I'm sure he's got multiple ones."
"Nothing the Noil gem can't solve," Avalon said
at last, trotting to Ash's side. He lined the Noil Gem's eyes up with the keyhole
and focused on unlocking it. A second later, a beam of yellow light shot out
of one of the Noil Gem's eye. It wiggled inside the keyhole a bit, and, a moment
later, unlocked with a soft click.
Satisfied, Avalon pulled open the drawer. Ragnora,
Ash, Silverdrop, who'd joined them from the door, peered over Avalon's shoulder.
"It's a bunch of notes," the Kougra said. "Copies
of things he's sent and things he's gotten back." He prepared to set them
back in the drawer.
"Wait," Ash said. "Look at that…" She pointed
to one of the notes near the top. Avalon pulled it out.
"It can't be!" he hissed, rereading the letter
"Oh, I think it is," Ragnora said, reading the
letter of Avalon's shoulder. "That would explain a lot," she added under her
"So he was really working for Scarback?" Avalon
"Who?" Silverdrop asked. "Brazen? Everyone knows
"It's not her," Ash said. "It's the person next
Silverdrop read the name. "So?"
"That's the one who drove our boat. The one who
told Ragnora about the Noil Gem," Avalon explained.
"And set me up in the process," Ragnora muttered.
"Caiman's been helping Scarback the whole time!"
"How?" Storm asked, joining the group. "I though'
'e was out a' sea with you mosta the time!"
"He had a Pirakeet," Avalon said softly. "I thought
I saw the Pirakeet take off after he and Valor left."
"That's how Caiman knew about the spy!" Ash hissed
urgently. "And why he didn't want to tell us or Valor!"
"Well, well, so you do have some intelligence
after all," purred a deep, silky voice behind them.
Avalon's head snapped around, and he saw Scarback
standing regally in the doorway, a broad grin on his feline face. Three Gelerts
were standing behind him, snarling angrily.
"Scarback," Avalon growled, turning all the way
around, leaving the papers in a heap behind him.
Scarback sighed. "Must we go through the clichéd
roles of hero and villain, Avalon?"
Avalon narrowed his golden eyes and didn't answer.
"Yes, I sent Caiman out as a spy. He's been working
for me since he un-changed."
"He was a Changed Gelert?" Avalon asked.
Scarback nodded. "By choice. Unfortunately, the
effects don't last on those who've done it willingly. So I had to find another
way for him to be of use to me."
Ash growled angrily. "So you sent him on the
boat to do what?"
"Get you to the Lost Desert," Scarback said coolly.
"Brazen was there, and I assumed she'd be able to kill you for me. But my other
spy, Shag, had to ruin the whole thing."
Avalon retorted, "We're the ones who ran your
spy down. We got past the Gelerts on the beach."
"With my help, you might add!" Storm added. Avalon
recognized Storm's temporary lack of accent as a sign of the Lupe's anger.
"You again, Storm?" Scarback said, scanning the
group over. "Yes, it's Avalon, his apprentice Silverdrop, Ash the jungle stray,
'Captain' Storm the worthless pirate, and Ragnora." Scarback eyed the Darigan
Kougra coolly. "They helped you escape, I see."
Ragnora hissed at Scarback. "And I'd like to
see you try and recapture me."
"That can be arranged," Scarback said, flicking
his tail. The three Gelerts came forward. The biggest one fixed its eyes on
Ragnora and growled loudly.
"Brutus," Ragnora snarled.
The Gelert snarled, "Just wait until you're
back in that cage."
"As you can see, Avalon," Scarback continued,
his eyes narrowing as his confident smile widened. He took a step forward, and
Avalon saw that the leg he'd broken three years ago gave Scarback a limp. "I've
brought enough Gelerts to take on your friends. One for everyone except you,
and your apprentice."
"And why's that?" Avalon snapped. "Were your
Gelerts to afraid to take on a Guardian?"
Scarback laughed. "No. It's just that I'd prefer
to kill you and your apprentice myself." Scarback's smile vanished, and he lowered
into a crouch. The Gelerts beside him also prepared to pounce.
The five pets backed up until their tails touched
the smooth walls. Avalon unsheathed his claws.
This wasn't his day, either.
To be continued...