No One Will Believe Them: Part Three
It took less than five seconds for the Symol king’s guards to react. They were after him in a mad dash of waved swords and screaming insults. Cove had to think quickly on his feet, putting obstacles between himself and the guards as he sought out something to steal for his owner, something to make this whole thing worth the effort.
He eyed several expensive looking items, and smiled in triumph when he heard the king shout in outrage that all of their prisoners were escaping. Get out, he pleaded silently in his mind.
And then he spotted it. It was the perfect gift. It lay cushioned on a pillow on top of a stand, showcasing its beauty. His owner would love the Ruby Heart Pendant, and the way it flashed red fire as the light caught it. Cove veered toward it so abruptly that the guards directly behind him tripped over their own feet and went sprawling as they tried to change directions too.
Cove reached out a paw and snatched it from its pedestal, and the king howled in rage. On his shoulder, Ronan squeaked for him to go faster.
“He has my pendant! Get him! Seize that criminal!”
Criminal? Cove thought, sneering. He was the criminal in this scenario?
“Cove! Over here! Come on!”
His head snapped up as he heard Gio’s voice. He was standing at the entrance of the exit tunnel motioning for him. The others had picked up jewel encrusted weapons and were holding the guards off. Cove ran for them, as hard and fast as he ever had in his life.
“Now!” Gio commanded, as Cove bulleted through the entrance to the tunnel.
The others ran into the tunnel as Oscar cut a rope. A rope that Cove hadn’t noticed there or realized was attached to a door that slid firmly closed, cutting them off from the assault of the guards. They were free. A cheer went up, even as they heard the vicious poundings by the guards on the door. There was no way to lift the door again without the rope that Oscar had severed.
Cove hugged the pendant to him and slapped Oscar, who had slid quickly under the door as it had closed, on the back with triumph. Oscar slung an arm around him companionably.
“I guess I underestimated you, kid,” Oscar admitted.
Cove grinned and didn’t reply. He hadn’t been so sure of himself actually.
“Enough cheering!” Gio shouted. “There’s other ways into these tunnels. We have to get out of here now!”
“He’s right!” Cove exclaimed as they all began a mad scramble down the tunnel toward true freedom, toward the light and air of Meridell.
On the other side of the door, the Symol king seethed. He had just been informed only seconds ago that all of the petpets had made it back out of the hole and were no longer in their reach. There was no way to bring them back and make them pay for humiliating him and belittling him in front of his minions that had formerly feared and obeyed him.
“They escaped! How did they escape, Donnovan?” he demanded, turning on the Symol he had trusted to give the most powers, the one he had relied on to make sure everything happened the way he wanted it to happen.
Donnovan shrugged, letting the problem roll off of his shoulders. “It’s nothing. There will be others, my king.”
The king picked himself up to full height and glared down at Donnovan with so much heat that any other Symol he governed would have quaked in fear. Donnovan merely smiled.
“I don’t care about other prisoners! No one ever escapes my dungeons!”
“Well, it appears we have an exception,” Donnovan informed him.
The king growled. “I don’t like your arrogant attitude, Donnovan. I am the ruler here! Have you forgotten?”
Behind Donnovan’s ice cold eyes, his calculating mind laughed mockingly. Yes, you’re king now, he thought, but one day, that throne will belong to me, and you’ll be reduced to the mere status of digger again.
“Of course not, my king.”
“He has my pendant!” the king exploded, suddenly diving down a new route.
“I’m aware of that.” Donnovan nodded. “But what is one mere bauble to a rich and powerful king? You can get more.”
That was true enough. It was easy to rob Neopia blind when they were the last to be expected for such crimes, but that pendant had been one of his favorites.
Then another, more outrageous thought occurred to him.
“He’s going to tell everyone!” the king snapped, waving his scepter angrily. “He’ll expose us to all of Neopia!”
“Maybe he will,” Donnovan agreed easily.
The king’s eyes flamed again. “This doesn’t disturb you?”
“Can you see their faces when he exposes us, your highness? ‘The Symols?’ they’ll ask. ‘Impossible,’ they’ll say, ‘the Symols are harmless.’ Don’t worry, your highness,” Donnovan assured him with an evil sneer, “no one will ever believe them.”
It was the truth. No one believed them, or at least not the one person that Cove had expected would believe them.
After a firm scolding and lecture from his owner about how she had been worried sick about him, Cove had tried to explain what had taken him so long. He was immediately aware that his story sounded unbelievable. If he himself hadn’t experienced it, he probably would have laughed the idea off too.
“Symols?” she scoffed. “They’re harmless. They’re some of the shyest petpets around. Come on, Cove, don’t make up stories to get out of trouble. Especially ones so completely unbelievable.”
Gio had pulled him aside when he’d started babbling about how it was the truth, how he didn’t lie, and she could go see for herself. But the truth was, she couldn’t see for herself because petpets were the only ones who could fit down that hole. Already knowing it was a lost cause, the rest of Cove’s former cell mates began to scatter, all going to homes they hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Don’t worry about it, kid. Look at it this way, at least we’re free. It’s over, and we can go... home.”
Home. Yes, Cove realized, that was what was most important.
“Where are you going to?” Cove asked him, noting the pause.
“Me?” Oscar butted in as he started to follow the line of petpets that were leaving the hole, that planned to never look back. “I’m going to Mystery Island. I’m not interested in being someone’s pet anymore. I’m too old for that business. I’m thinking about climbing into one of those fancy trees over there and relaxing my days away.”
Cove grinned at him. “That sounds perfect for you. But what about you, Gio?”
The Gruslen looked away, looked down, looked anywhere but Cove’s face. “Ah... I’ve got plans.”
“Like what?” Cove prodded.
Gio frowned. “Just plans, okay?”
“But where are you going? We’re friends now. I don’t want to lose touch.”
Gio sighed. “Look, kid, not all of us have a home to run to at the end of the day.”
“What do you mean?” Cove asked, confused. “You don’t have owners?”
“Yeah, I do, or did,” Gio corrected. “You don’t know how long I’ve been down there, kid. It’s been years. I-I don’t remember where I lived.”
Cove blinked, startled. “You don’t remember where you lived?”
Gio shrugged. “Everything has changed since then.”
A sadness weighed heavy in Cove’s heart at the thought of his friend homeless, but then, a thought occurred to him.
“Here,” he whispered and shoved the Ruby Heart Pendant into his paws before he could object just as his owner turned toward them.
“Come on, Cove. Let’s go home. I guess I should just be glad I got you back instead of expecting something from the hole.”
“But, you did get something,” Cove told her.
“I did?” she asked, uncertainly, studying him as if he was hiding something in his open paws.
“Yeah, Gio grabbed something for you. He doesn’t have an owner anymore, so he appreciates them more than I do, I guess. He wanted to get you something.”
Cove nudged Gio forward. In reaction, Gio held out his paws with the pendant winking up. Cove’s owner’s heart fluttered.
“Oh!” she cried, scooping up the necklace.
She didn’t waste any time clasping it around her neck. “It’s beautiful! It’s just what I would have wanted. Oh, thank you!”
She picked up Gio and cuddled him in her arms. Gio instantly melted in them. It had been so long since he’d had an owner hold him.
“Cove said you didn’t have an owner. You don’t?” she asked him.
The Gruslen shook his head, mildly embarrassed.
“That’s perfect!” she exclaimed, startling him. “You can live with us! I have just the pet who would love to have you around.”
Gio’s heart swelled. “Really?”
“Of course.” She smiled. “Come on, Cove, let’s get home and introduce Gio to the family.”
Cove turned to Ronan who was hovering near him. “Let’s go, Ronan. Looks like we did a pretty good job after all.”