Seashells: Part Five
As the door shut behind Ulalume and Calixta, the two faeries grasped for each other’s hands in the darkness. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust, and once they had, the sisters began to swim along the hall, opening the food slots on each cell to peer inside. It was hard to see what, if anything, was in each cell, however, and soon they resolved themselves to calling out the Ixi’s name instead.
“Samara,” Ulalume called as they swam, echoing her sister. They tried to be quiet, and hoped that none of the other prisoners would make any noise. “Samara,” she called again, and faintly, they heard a noise.
“It’s coming from over there,” Calixta said, quickening her swim. They continued down the hall until they could make the noise out to be a voice.
“I’m in here,” Samara called, and they stopped outside of a door and opened the food slot.
“Come to the window,” Ulalume urged, and Samara did, her big eyes appearing before them.
“What are you two doing here?” the Ixi asked, an eyebrow quirked.
“We’re here to help you,” Calixta said, pushing her sister aside and staring pointedly through the slot. “Just as we were when you ran away from us.”
“I thought you were trying to get me in trouble,” Samara confessed, moving away from the door a little. “You took my necklace.”
“So you wouldn’t get caught!”
“Shhh,” Ulalume warned, as her sister was starting to raise her voice.
“I’m not caught,” Samara said stubbornly. “I’m in here by choice. I have to find my mother before I leave.”
“Well, then first we need to get you out of that cell,” Ulalume said absently as she tried another key in the door, hoping to find the right one sooner rather than later.
“He used a circular key,” Samara said after a moment, coming back to the slot. “It had a hole on the base of it and was a goldish-green colour.”
“Got it.” Ulalume smiled, looking up at the Ixi. “Thanks.”
“No problem, but hurry, please. It is rather unsettling in here.” Ulalume put the key in the lock and, with her sister's help, managed to unlock the rusting door. They pulled it open and Samara swam out just as Hareth and Darren entered the hall. Samara smiled at them, but they didn’t look happy in the slightest.
“We’ve got some bad news,” Hareth said with a sigh as he approached the three girls.
“What?” Calixta asked.
“We thought we would be able to find Samara’s mother in here, but it looks like it won’t be that easy.”
“How do you know?”
“I asked Jonas before he left if he knew where Samara might end up. This wing here is just holding cells; no one stays here for long. He said that the rest of the opposing neopets from years ago were sent directly to Rantu’s personal wing; he figured that is where Samara would end up, too, but we can’t risk that happening. We have to you out of here, and fast.” He looked at the Ixi, who huffed.
“I don’t care what it takes,” she said in a determined voice, “but I am not leaving here without my mother.”
“Then we’d better get moving.” Darren sighed, and Hareth nodded.
“Rantu’s wing is this way.”
It was a long and tedious journey through the prison, hiding behind corners and being as inconspicuous as possible, but at great length they made it to the door that led to Rantu’s wing. The five of them floated outside of the door, key in hand, not saying anything, for a long while until Samara took a deep breath and spoke.
“Alright, so what’s the plan then?” She looked at her four companions, and the four of them looked back at her.
“Well,” Hareth said, letting out a long breath. “Basically, we go in there, find your mother, get her out, and then get out of here as fast as possible. Which should be easy enough, providing Rantu isn’t about.” Samara sighed, but nodded.
“You don’t have to go in there with me if you don’t want to,” she told them, a slightly sad smile on her face. “You’ve done a lot to help me, and I appreciate it. But if something goes wrong, which it very well could, then you four shouldn’t have to be in jeopardy of getting in trouble, too. This is something that I have to do, but you don’t have to.”
“We’ve come all this way, haven’t we?” Ulalume said, putting her hands on her hips. “Why on earth would we leave you now?”
“She’s right,” Darren agreed, “we’re coming with you, whether you like it or not.” Samara looked at Calixta and Hareth, who were nodding with determined faces, and she smiled, taking another deep breath before turning to face the door.
“Alright then, let’s go.”
The room was much brighter than Samara had thought it would be. She didn’t really know what it was she was expecting, but the view she received most certainly was not it. The place was actually quite nice, an underwater garden situated with beautiful, colorful plants and trees, stone paths, and various species of neopets doing various jobs around the room. Samara was quite taken aback, for, all in all, she thought it was a lovely place.
“How bizarre,” Ulalume said to the side of her, looking around in awe. “I was rather expecting dark cellars with body guards all around.”
“Me too,” Samara laughed, and she swam forward, hitting her tail on a nearby plant. She bit her lip to stop from crying out at the encounter, and she spun around to face the plant, which looked harmless.
“What’s wrong,” Hareth asked, and Samara tapped her front paw on the plant, and frowned.
“It’s made of stone,” she said, and Calixta shook her head.
“Stone? It doesn’t look like stone.”
“I knew it couldn’t have been that simple,” Darren said with a sigh. He went to a few other plants and tapped each of them. The small plants and flowers did not budge under the weight of his hoof, and the Uni soon nodded. “They are all made of stone. He must have used some form of magic to make them appear real, but they are definitely not.”
“Then I wonder what all these neopets are doing here,” Samara questioned, and Calixta let out a little gasp.
“Look over there.” She pointed to a couple of Shoyrus that were carrying what looked to be a small tree on their backs, and Samara noticed for the first time how tired they looked. She also soon realized what it was Calixta was pointing to. They had shackles around their back fins, which made it impossible to move more than a few feet.
“They are prisoners,” she breathed, noticing too that the other neopets all had shackles on them as well.
“What are they doing?” Darren asked, and the group watched from their hiding place as the Shoyrus put down the tree and then picked up another one, carrying it back to the spot they had just been. However, after doing this, they re-loaded the tree on their backs and carried it back once again, going in what seemed to be an endless circle.
“Useless pain,” Hareth said, sounding almost dazed. “Rantu must make them do this as punishment. And that must be where they stay at night.” He pointed upwards, to what everyone first assumed was just the ceiling of the building. They quickly saw, however, that the building dome-shaped, and that all along the top of it were cells. It was horrid, yet fascinating at the same time.
“I wonder where Rantu is,” Samara asked as she gazed upwards.
“Over there.” She turned her head to look at Hareth, and then followed his gaze to see another door. “Those must be his headquarters.”
“Then we’d better move quick, while he’s in there and not out here,” Samara stated, and the others nodded. They swam quietly, almost slithering along the stone paths, until they were out into the main garden. The neopets began to watch them, but no one said anything, and so they kept on moving.
“Will you recognize your mother, Samara?” Ulalume whispered as they swam, and Samara sighed.
“I’m not sure,” she said truthfully, sighing a bit. She hoped that she would recognize her mother as soon as she saw her, but she couldn’t be positive that she would. She hadn’t seen her mother for a long time, and even then, her mother had been an island Ixi rather than a maraquan one. She did, however, have hope that she would recognize one thing about her mother; her voice. When she was a very young Ixi, Samara’s mother had sung to her many times, and Samara still dreamed of that voice on stormy nights. It was something that she always longed to hear again someday, and now, if she did, she truly hoped she would recognize it the second the first note hit her ears.
She turned back to Ulalume and gave her a slightly pained smile.
“Let’s find out.”
To be continued...