Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 108,522,844 Issue: 217 | 18th day of Storing, Y7
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A Cobrall Tale: Part Two

by fleecer


"Quiet, or you'll wake her," Ophion whispered.

      Samar glanced around her, eyeing the dark woods on both sides. They had started off at dawn the day after visiting Jhudora, making their way through the Haunted Woods.

      Samar tried to avoid the twigs and leaves that were scattered over the path, listening for any odd noises. The only thing she heard was the rustle of wind through the branches and the occasional crackle or snap of a dead leaf or twig.

      She wished there was a little more light to see by. The full moon overhead was bright enough in the clearings they'd come across but the light was quickly lost in the knot of branches overhead when they reentered the forest.

      A sudden, loud snap made her jump and spin around. Looking closer she saw it was only Lance moving over a fallen branch.

      "Sorry," he whispered.

      Samar turned around and continued her journey, following the glow from Ophion's fire. At least that was helpful. Without his fiery glow they might have had to carry torches into the dark woods.

      Just ahead of her, Ophion slowed and squinted into the darkness. Samar crept up beside him, staring at the bright meadow. It wasn't as large as the others they had crossed but this one was littered with twigs and leaves. Samar studied the far side, about fifty feet away, and saw a dark splotch against the rock wall.

      Ophion looked back at the other Cobralls. "This looks like the place. Anybody have any questions before we enter?"

      Samar watched as they all shook their heads.

      "What if he's not there?" she asked hesitantly.

      Ophion turned to look at her. "He'll be in there. At least until she finds someplace else to stash the things she's stolen. Don't worry."

      Samar nodded, eyeing the cave entrance nervously.

      Ophion turned toward the others. "We have to do this now, and quickly, before she returns. If Jhudora is right, she should be busy stealing from other Neopians now."

      The others nodded and started moving forward.

      "Wait," Samar hissed.

      They stopped and looked at her, puzzled.

      "Look at all those twigs and leaves. What if she hears us coming?"

      "How's she going to hear us if she isn't even here?" Hissy asked.

      "Oh. Okay. I guess it should be fine."

      They continued toward the cave, crunching leaves and branches as they crossed the clearing. The noise sounded thunderous to Samar, but the others didn't seem to notice, so she followed along, wondering if this was the best way to approach.

      Ophion reached the entrance and peered in. He looked back and motioned the other Cobralls to follow him. Samar hesitated and glanced around at the dark woods, a shiver passing down her scales. She turned and followed them inside.

      Ophion's fire lit the narrow passage and made the rock walls flicker and dance with shadows. The air was cold inside the cave but that wasn't what caused her to shiver again. She looked around, sensing eyes watching her from the darkness outside. She shook her head and continued along the narrow passage, trying to keep up with the others.

      Soon, they reached a cavern with tunnels spreading off in different directions. Ophion looked at the tunnels and waited for the others to catch up. Once they were all gathered in the cavern, he looked at the faces gathered around him.

      "We'll have to split up. Lance and Troy, take the middle tunnel. Hissy, you and Zeano try the one to the left. I'll take Snark and look in the tunnel to the far right. Digi, take the others down that path." He nodded toward a small tunnel she had overlooked when first entering the cavern. The Cobralls nodded and started toward their assigned tunnels. Samar made her way to the small path, wondering if they would ever find Tal.

      "One more thing," Ophion called, "don't search too long. Make sure you're all back here in two hours' time. We don't want her sneaking up on us while we're searching. Be quick, but be careful. If you haven't found him by then, we'll have to try again tomorrow. If you run into any trouble, just shout and try to get out as quick as you can. If you don't see anybody here when you return, we'll meet in the Haunted Woods, near the swamp where we rested this afternoon."

      The Cobralls nodded and started off into the tunnels.

      "Except you, Samar. You stay here and wait for the others. If anyone shouts, make sure to call down the other tunnels as well. And keep your eyes open for any signs of trouble, if you hear anything, shout down the tunnels and find a hiding place."

      Samar stood there for a moment, unsure what to do. Finally, she nodded. "Okay. I'll do my best," she muttered.

      She watched them slither down the tunnels and stood there, stunned. She had been hoping to find Tal and now she wouldn't even know if he was in the cave until they came back.

      She sank down on a nearby boulder and waited, straining to hear any sound in the darkness. After a time, her tail became numb and she got up and stretched, wondering how much time had passed. Surely it had been an hour at least. It seems like forever. She sighed to herself and started to slither around, listening to the quiet sounds her scales made on the stone floor.

      A soft patter made her stop and stare into the darkness. She tilted her head and listened, unable to see anything in the cavern. Unsure of where she was, she tried to find a wall to hide against. She started forward, hoping to find the boulder she had been leaning against.

      After a few minutes of crawling through the dark, Samar realized she must be going down a tunnel. The cavern wasn't this big, she thought to herself. That's okay, I'll just turn back.

      She started to turn around but a soft pattering stopped her once again. She held her breath and listened, afraid to move, as the sounds came closer.

      She shuddered, listening to the strange sound. Suddenly, the pattering noise stopped. She heard breathing from somewhere nearby. Samar's eyes darted around, searching the darkness in front of her.

      Something struck her and clattered to the floor. Samar gasped and rocked backwards, hitting her head on the rock wall behind her.

      "What are you doing in here?" hissed an icy voice out of the darkness.

      "W-who are you?" Samar stammered.

      "Who do you think? You're trespassing in my caves."

      Samar gulped. "I didn't know these were your caves," she started.

      "I remember you! You're that Cobrall from the other night, aren't you? Come for your friend? He's mine now."

      Just the sound of her voice made Samar shiver. A picture of icicles forming in the air flashed across her mind, quickly erased when she heard a rustling sound.

      "Do you know who I am now?" the shadow asked.

      Samar saw a blur of movement and two yellow eyes appeared in the darkness, glowing with their own fire. Samar could see vague shapes in the darkness, becoming clearer as her own eyes adjusted to the sudden light.

      "Shadow Usul," she gasped.

      The Shadow Usul nodded and reached into the bag she was carrying, removing a stone from inside.

      "You'll make a nice addition to my collection," she hissed and lunged.

      Samar rolled sideways and scurried up, barely avoiding the codestone clutched in the Shadow Usul's paw.

      The Shadow Usul stumbled and whipped her head around to glare at Samar.

      Samar turned and fled down the tunnel, dodging the codestones that flew at her, almost tripped when she came across them farther down the tunnel. Something whistled past her head, splattering the floor in front of her and exploding with a loud BOOM!

      Samar was flung backwards and crashed to the floor, blinking to clear her vision. The ringing in her head drowned out the noises from the approaching Shadow Usul.

      "My, my, looks like you're mine now," came an icy whisper from the darkness.

      Samar looked up to see two glowing eyes hovering over her head. A soft pattering sound was coming closer.

      The Shadow Usul jerked her head around and stared down the dark tunnel.

      Samar realized she wasn't moving and wondered where the pattering noise was coming from.

      The Shadow Usul pulled a Radioactive Muffin from her bag and hurled it down the tunnel. As it streaked through the air, Samar was able to see the walls, ceiling, and floor of the tunnel, and the small creature that was hurrying toward them, carrying a stick in its mouth.

      As it approached, Samar realized it was a Snowickle she was seeing.

      "What are you doing here? Hey! Give me that," the Shadow Usul hissed.

      She reached for the stick in the Snowickle's mouth. The Snowickle raised it and swung it at her, releasing a blinding light.

      The Shadow Usul shrieked and threw her hands up to shield her eyes. The Snowickle started throwing large stars at the Usul.

      With a startled cry, the Shadow Usul turned and fled down the tunnel.

      Samar gazed at the Snowickle as it dropped the stick and went to examine her abandoned bag.

      The stick on the ground continued to glow brightly. After a moment, Samar staggered up, nervously eyeing the Snowickle.

      "Who are you?" she finally asked quietly.

      The Snowickle, finished searching the bag, looked up at her. "My name is Vasuki," he replied, returning to the stick on the ground.

      "What is that?" she whispered.

      Vasuki turned to look at her. "This?" he asked, giving the stick a small shove.

      Samar nodded.

      "A Rod of Supernova," he said simply.


      Samar turned and looked down the tunnel. Ophion and Snark were rushing toward her with Tal close behind.

      "Tal!" she exclaimed.

      "What was that explosion?" Ophion asked as he neared her.

      He slowed and looked down at the Snowickle with the Rod of Supernova in its mouth. A puzzled look crossed his face.

      "This is Vasuki," Samar explained quickly. "He saved me. The Shadow Usul showed up and chased me down the tunnel. She threw something at me and it exploded and knocked me down. She almost had me when Vasuki showed up with his... ray of superstars."

      "Rod of Supernova," he corrected, dropping the Rod of Supernova.

      "Oh, right. Rod of Supernova. It scared the Shadow Usul away."

      Ophion looked from Samar to Vasuki and nodded.

      "My thanks for your help," Ophion told the Snowickle.

      "Where did you come from?" Samar asked Vasuki.

      "I was hunting for more treasure and heard the explosion. I figured the Shadow Usul had returned and grabbed the first thing I found and ran."

      Vasuki blinked and turned toward the entrance. "I guess it's time to leave," he said softly.

      He picked up the Rod of Supernova and made his way up the tunnel.

      Samar waited for Ophion and Snark to pass, then slithered up next to Tal. "I was worried we'd never find you," she said quietly.

      Tal looked at her. "I'm fine," he whispered back.

      "What did she do to you?"

      Tal shook his head. "Nothing much. She grabbed me in the middle of the night and before I knew what was happening, I was stuffed into a large bag." He glanced back, looking at the bag the Shadow Usul had dropped. "After a short trip, I was dumped into a cage and locked inside."

      Samar shuddered. "How awful."

      Tal shrugged. "It wasn't too bad."

      Samar looked at him and they continued their journey in silence.

      Upon reaching the cavern she noticed none of the other Cobralls were present. She glanced warily at the shadows in the corners and behind the large boulder.

      They made their way outside, hurrying across the meadow and into the dark woods.


      "What's wrong?" Tal asked from behind her.

      "Nothing," Samar replied staring at the distant clouds.

      "You seem upset. Is there something I should know about?"

      "I'm not upset," she sighed, turning to face him. "I'm glad everyone made it out of those caves. I just need some time alone."

      Samar turned and slithered away, head down. She stopped by a small stream and gazed down at her reflection.

      "What's wrong?"

      "I told you nothing was wrong," she snapped, turning to glare at Tal.

      "Oh, it's you. Sorry about that," she said, lowering her gaze to the stream.

      Vasuki crept up to the water and peered down. After an uncomfortable silence he turned to her. "Maybe I can help."

      "You can't help me," she whispered, "nobody can."

      "Don't be so sure. I might be able to help, but I can't do anything if you won't tell me what's wrong."

      Samar looked up at him sadly. "All right," she sighed. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you. I can't go back to Faerieland."

      Vasuki looked at her, puzzled. "What do you mean, you can't go back to Faerieland?"

      "I can't go back there! I stole from Fyora, the Faerie Queen herself!" Samar cried.

      "You stole something from Fyora?"

      Samar nodded. "We had to get Jhudora's help to find the Shadow Usul. She said she'd only help us if we brought her an Amulet of Thilg. We couldn't afford one, so we stole one from the Hidden Tower."

      "To get Tal back?" Vasuki asked carefully.

      Samar nodded, distraught.

      Vasuki was silent for a moment, thinking. "I think I have an idea..."


      Fyora glared at Samar and Vasuki, looking from one to the other.

      "You're telling me that you stole my Amulet of Thilg to rescue your friend?" she asked coldly.

      Samar trembled and nodded. "It was the only way. We didn't think you'd help us. We're really sorry, we'll never steal anything again."

      Fyora turned and looked at Hissy. Samar glared at him. "Yes, we're really sorry," he murmured.

      "We'd give you the Amulet of Thilg back if we could," Vasuki told her, "but they gave it to Jhudora. We can only offer you this as compensation." He nodded toward the Ghostkersword on the floor.

      Fyora picked it up and examined it. "It's been a long time since I've seen one of these," she said softly. "I ran out of stock quite a while ago." She turned it over in her hands then set it on the counter. "Don't think you can buy your way into my good graces," she warned.

      Samar shook her head. "We aren't trying to do that. We just wanted to come back and apologize. And offer you that," she said, nodding toward the Ghostkersword.

      "We'll never come back to Faerieland again," she mumbled, turning toward the stairs.

      "Not so fast," Fyora said. "I understand why you stole the amulet. Your actions, however, were reckless and irresponsible," she scolded. "However, I won't ban you from Faerieland. I'm willing to give you another chance. Next time you have a problem, though, you should come to me first. Jhudora isn't the only one who knows the location of the Shadow Usul. She's been hiding in that cave for weeks."

      Samar's head snapped up. "You mean we can visit Faerieland?" she asked excitedly.

      Fyora nodded.

      Samar gasped. "Thank you so much!" she exclaimed.

      "Although," Fyora said thoughtfully, "the Shadow Usul doesn't usually return to her cave until dawn. I wonder what brought her back that night? Oh well, it doesn't really matter, does it? Now you'd better hurry back to your camp before dark."


      "We're grateful for your help," Ophion told Vasuki. "If it weren't for you, we might all be in cages by now. Is there anything we can do to return the favor?"

      Vasuki thought a moment before answering, "In fact, there is. I've needed someone to guard my treasures for me while I'm away. Would you be willing to do that?"

      Ophion looked around at the other Cobralls. He turned back to Vasuki and grinned. "We'd be honored."


      "How could I have known there'd be a Snowickle in your caves?" Jhudora growled at the Shadow Usul. "I gave you enough warning. I let you know the Cobralls would be coming, didn't I? It's not my fault if you lost your Rod of Supernova to them."

      The Shadow Usul glared at Jhudora. "You're the one that sent them to my cave," she hissed.

      Jhudora waved her away. "I have important business to attend to. That Amulet of Thilg has a special place in my plans."

      The Shadow Usul glared at her and sulked away.

      Jhudora watched her go then turned to the box containing the amulet.

      "Now where's my pretty..." she muttered.

      She opened it slowly, reaching in to pull it out.

      "What?" she exclaimed, alarmed.

      She gazed down at the empty box for a moment before slamming the lid shut.

The End

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