Telzleh's Quest: Part Two
Telzleh felt lightheaded for a few seconds. One second she was standing before a mysterious character wearing a hood and cloak, and the next she was standing in front of a large structure that echoed the word "Nightmare". She had never visited this place before, but she had seen enough pictures of it from the Neopian Times and heard of it from the few visits to the locals of the Haunted Woods to know more than she could ever want to about it: Meepit Oaks Sanatorium for the Psychologically Fragile.
Why would the amulet bring her to this place? It wasn't like anyone actually alive worked there anymore that would benefit of emotional release and gather positive energy. Telzleh gulped.
"Maybe... I'm not looking for someone... alive..."
The mutant shook her head a few times. What was she thinking? Somebody alive had to be in there! Her bright future as either her old Acara self or a bleak one as her current form was now depended on her actions. With a steely resolve, she walked right up the path to the front door.
An unnatural moan suddenly was heard whispering on the cold wind permeating around the hospital. Telzleh stopped briefly only to stop her knees from shaking.
"Remember. You want to be an Acara again! An Acara! You must do this!"
Her determination hardened again, she opened the door and went inside.
The admissions lobby was exactly as Gilly the Usul described it in her retelling of the story for the Times, and it was just as creepy. She wondered which of the two doors here to take until her amulet's compass stones started to shine. Holding it in her paw, she brought it forward and the stone on the western end of the circle shone brightest. That meant she had to go left. Taking the rusty knob in her hand, she pushed the door open with a loud creak.
Behind that door was a hallway of more doors on opposite sides. Telzleh didn't even have time to take a step into this new area as her ears picked up eerie moans and groans, followed by forceful pounding coming from behind one of the doors. At first, she thought it best to not enter the door for fear she would be monster chow, but the amulet's compass stone pointed directly at it with great concentration.
"The things I do for my wish..."
Slowly, she opened the door and peeked inside. Her three eyes opened wide in fear as she saw a trio of zombies, a Meerca, Scorchio and Buzz, pounding and clawing at a wardrobe closed firmly shut on the wall nearby. The undead group was far too preoccupied trying to force their way in whatever was inside it to hear Telzleh slowly come in. Not watching where she was going, the distracted mutant Usul accidentally kicked a small bucket and made a loud clatter against the wall. The zombies turned around and found easier prey. Moaning, they shambled over to their new quarry.
Telzleh was scared out of her wits seeing the zombie pets approach her. That fear, however, soon turned to anger. She just got started on this quest and it wasn't going to end this early in the game! Snarling, she assumed a battle pose and held her clawed paws ready.
The zombie Scorchio got a burst of speed as it charged directly at her. Not missing a beat, Telzleh swiped away at his chest with one paw and punched him hard with the other, causing him to fall back. The undead Buzz flew directly at her next. She quickly countered his move by turning around and smacking him with the scaly underside of her tail, causing him to collide against the Aisha. Finally, the Meerca lunged forward and the mutant dodged just before he could bite her. Before he could react, Telzleh grabbed his long tail and swung him around and around in the air until she finally let go, throwing him hard against the other two zombies. Noticing this meal wasn't worth it anymore, the three zombie pets got up and walked away to other parts of Meepit Oaks.
Telzleh took a few deep breaths and paused long enough for her heart to stop beating rapidly. She was never the type to pick fights, even staying clear from the Battledome, but this fight made her good. Perhaps she could try and try her luck there some time. Once she was an Acara again, that is.
Regaining her composure, she walked towards the wardrobe the undead group was targeting. She tried opening the doors, but they held tight as if someone was pulling them from inside. Placing her ear against the door, she could hear a frightened whimper of a child.
Knocking on the doors once, she heard a frantic boy's voice call out, "Away with you! Nothing 'ere but dust motes and spyders, there are!"
Telzleh groaned with annoyance as she rolled her eyes and then called out, "It's safe, kid. The zombies are gone so you can come out now."
A small latch was heard from inside the wardrobe and one of the doors slowly opened. A young red Techo peeked out from behind the door checking to see if all was well. One look at Telzleh, however, caused the boy to scream and quickly shut the door of his hiding place once more.
Telzleh knocked on the door again and the boy replied, "Don't eat me! I'm nothing but scales and bones! You'll get a belly-ache eating something like me, you will!"
The mutant sighed with annoyance as she poked a clawed finger through the wardrobe and moved it around until she unlatched the door from inside. As she opened the door, the Techo boy huddled in the far end of the dusty wardrobe, crouched in a fetal position awaiting what he thought was his end.
She then pouted as she crossed her arms. "Oh please. Kid, I'm not going to hurt you or eat you. I saved you from those living-impaired goons so the least I deserve is a thank-you!"
The Techo looked up at her, scared at first but eventually climbed out. As he did, she finally got a good look at him. He most definitely was from Neovia, by his dusty shirt, trousers and paperboy-like cap he wore. But why was a kid doing here of all places? Didn't his family warn him about the dangers of coming here?
"Apologies, Ma'am. I don't want to be 'ere! But if I don't return with that, I shudder to even think what punishment awaits me, I do!"
Telzleh placed her paw in front of the boy to shush him. "Whoa. Hold up, little guy. First off, tell me your name and why you are here, ok?"
The Techo nodded and explained. "My name is Thackery, ma'am. I'm from the town, I am. Well, the problem was that me and my chums were talking about the 'eroes who saved us and soon the story led to Miss Gilly's journey 'ere and 'ow she 'ad survived all she said in the Press. The talk turned to ways of earning lots of Neopoints and they concluded that to get rich they need valuable stuff that came from this place. 'Owever, they knew it was dangerous to enter, they did."
"And let me guess: They forced you to come here to get something, right?" Telzleh interrupted.
Thackery nodded. "I 'ave to bring back the cap that belonged to Miss Lucy the Nurse whose flower Miss Gilly found helped save us. My friends said that if I do not return with that cap, they'll get mad at me and will punish me in such a way that my 'umiliation will be known through Neovian lore for generations, it will! That is why I am 'ere. I managed to find the area where the cell that Miss Lucy was kept in is, but there’s a Zomutt blocking the way that was quite vicious, it is. I left to find some way to get rid of it. Then those ghouls arrived and I 'ad to run, I did. I managed to reach this place and 'id inside this wardrobe. And now you're 'ere..."
Telzleh rubbed her chin for a few seconds. Could helping this Techo kid really help her get the positive energy for the wish? The kid lacked the will to do anything on his own and needed someone brave to take care of him. The amulet did lead her to him after all.
"Now, if it isn't much to ask, ma'am, could you please tell your friends not to eat me and allow me to get the cap?" Thackery asked as he rubbed his foot against the wooden floor in innocent demeanor.
Telzleh had to do a double take, stunned at hearing that. Did he really think she was part of this hospital because of the way she looked? If she didn't need the kid to receive his positive energy, she would have alternatively forced him to fend for himself. Instead, she bit back her anger and smiled.
"Who me? Oh, you're mistaken, little boy," Telzleh said sweetly despite her raspy tone of voice, "My name is Telzleh and I'm here for positive..."
She gulped as Thackery cocked his head sideways in confusion.
"Positive... positive... positively honing my skills in this sanatorium I heard so much about! Yes, just here trying to match my strength against the zombies and other creatures in this place! Heh heh heh..." she quickly recovered as she scratched the back of her head with a goofy smile that made her front teeth stick out.
"Wow! Are you one of those fighters that I read about in the Battledome Digest? Blimey, Miss Telzleh, sorry I thought you were part of this place, I am." The Techo looked down at his feet again. "I was wondering. If you are really practicing your skills 'ere, could you help me find that cap? Pretty please?"
Telzleh smiled. It was far easier to help the boy if he asked for it than do so straight out and have him curious as to why she doing this. Taking him by the hand, the two went on their way.
Leading her back to the admission lobby, Thackery pointed to the door to the right. "I must warn you, Miss Telzleh. I haven’t the foggiest if those monsters still lurk about in there. I hope you’re ready to 'elp us out of a sticky wicket, I do," the red Techo said with caution.
Telzleh scoffed. “Just relax, kid. With Telzleh by your side, all will be safe. Now come on, let's go get that cap you want!"
As they walked through the different hallways beyond the other door, the Usul couldn't help but feel worry as she and the Neovian child headed towards their destination. Ever since she fought the trio earlier, they haven't seen nor heard any zombies at all. Where were they anyway?
The duo eventually reached the lonely courtyard of the hospital. Luckily, there was not a single zombie or creature around. At that moment, Thackery ran ahead towards the opposite end of the area. Witnessing his bravado, Telzleh quickly followed him. The boy opened a door ahead and she followed suit until they found themselves in another corridor with doors. Thackery stopped in front of one particular door as she finally caught up.
"Behind this door is that fearsome beast. You will get rid of it, yes?" asked the Techo.
"Me? Actually harm a Zomutt?!" she responded with scrunching up her nose in disgust. "The PPL will be all over me if I do it. There must be a safer way to get rid of it..."
"Miss Gilly said she used a bone to distract it..." Thackery proposed.
She shook her head and answered, "Uh-uh. None around and I'm NOT removing the bones of those poor skeleton remains of the staff! Wait... I got an idea... I hate to do this but there is no other way." She then looked at him. “Whatever you do, do NOT open this door until I tell you to! Trust me.”
Telzleh opened the door and closed it behind her. Turning around, she found herself face to face with a Zomutt which growled angrily at her despite being restrained next to an opened cell door. Telzleh approached it from a safe enough distance just enough for it to not nip at her. It was now or never. The mutant Usul closed her eyes and channeled and her strength into this one action.
Before the Zomutt could realize what she was up to, she opened her eyes as wide as they could, followed by extending her arms as far as she managed, and opened her mouth wide open to expose her misshapen teeth as she let out a terrifying scream of sheer terror. The Zomutt immediately whimpered in fear at the scene it witnessed and quickly huddled into a corner of the room, scared stiff and shaking like jelly.
Dusting her hands, Telzleh grinned, realizing this form wasn't so bad after all. She then stopped.
"Wait. What am I thinking?! I don't want to stay like this!! I want to be normal, for Fyora's sake! Must keep focused!"
After getting her train of thought back, she called out to the door, "Ok, Thack. You can come in now. That Zomutt won't be bothering us for a while."
Thackery entered and was surprised to see the Zomutt huddled against the corner, looking as though it saw a ghost. "Amazing, Miss Telzleh! I do not know what you did, but you managed to pacify that monster in no time to spare! But what was that scream I heard? I thought it 'armed you, I did!"
The Usul chuckled to herself, "Well, I guess I have a way to deal with petpets, that's all. And the scream, just don't ask about it, ok?"
She then noticed the scared Zomutt peek out from the corner and she responded with a toothy grin which caused it to yelp and duck back down. With that problem solved, the duo went through the opened cell to the corridors beyond.
A few moments later, they finally reached the cell they were looking for. Thackery immediately hugged Telzleh as she herself gulped and tried to keep her nerves under control as they entered. There before them was Lucy the Nurse, or rather her skeletal remains. Who knows what kinds of feelings Gilly must have had going through her head as she stood before her. Then again, she had her share of supernatural phenomena before so she may have been used to all this.
Telzleh peeled Thackery off and placed him before the skeleton. "Ok, kiddo. Here she is. Go for what you came for."
The Techo nodded as he slowly tiptoed to the skeleton. His entire body trembled as he stared right into the empty eye sockets of the Nurse. Suddenly, he began to shake his head and ran out of the cell, knocking Telzleh aside. The mutant was surprised by this action and quickly ran after him. She went past the Zomutt still scared witless and through the hallways until she reached the courtyard. Sitting below one of the dead trees with his knees tucked in while rocking back and forth in fear was Thackery.
“I can't do it, Miss Telzleh! I can't bring myself to steal the cap of the one whom if it wasn’t for 'er flower, we'd all still be cursed, we would! But, if I don't return with it, my chums will do something embarrassing to me, they will!” Thackery cried as he rocked.
Telzleh sighed and sat down beside him. “Listen, kid. I too wouldn’t feel okay about stealing a personal heirloom of someone, especially if they’ve passed on. Look, I’ve been noticing you. You have fire within you. I saw that when you ran on ahead when we first came to this courtyard. You got spunk. Bravery is in you, I can tell!”
Thackery just shook his head. “But my chums will do something to me if I don't do it!”
Telzleh responded, “How many times have they asked you to do something that they could do themselves?”
The Neovian boy looked down at his feet. “Well, the time I brought scones my mum baked for me, they ate them and left not a crumb for me, they did... Then there was this time Mr. Swolthy asked Jeddie to 'elp deliver some new suits to some folk and 'e instead gave them to me to deliver while 'e and the rest of my friends went to play... Right before that happened, we were reading the Battledome Digest at the Press and I was asked to distract the clerks so they could read. Of course, I didn't get a chance to read later...”
“See, kid? You’ve always been complacent. You must show more spirit! That way your friends will respect you and know they won’t mess with you! You are braver that you can imagine. Stand up and you will show everyone you are truly brave!” Telzleh pep-talked him. Maybe helping him be braver would bring more positive energy than getting the cap. Either way, she herself wouldn’t even dare steal something valuable to the memory of the departed.
Thackery nodded sadly. “I'll be brave if you are next to me, Miss Telzleh. Maybe you can spook them into respecting me, right?”
She smirked back. “Perhaps. Let’s take you home, shall we?”
As they got up and approached another dead tree in the middle, a powerful force burst out of the ground knocking the two back. To their horror, a zombie Flotsam emerged from the soil, moaning. Before they could process this sudden turn, more zombie pets began to emerge from the ground all around them. A trap!
Getting back to her feet, she grabbed Thackery with her paws and made a mad dash for the door leading to the lobby. Before she could do so, a zombie Scorchio, the same one from before since it had a scratched shirt from her claw swipe earlier, erupted out of the soil, causing her to get launched back. Maintaining her balance, she quickly turned around in mid-air and landed on her feet close to one of the dead trees, catching Thackery soon after.
Telzleh placed the scared Techo boy behind her as she assumed another battle stance as the zombie horde approached them. Deep inside her mind, she knew she was greatly outnumbered, but she would do anything in her power to make it out alive. Just before she could realize what happened, a pair of arms appeared out of the ground and grabbed her legs. Trying to free herself, the hands threw her directly into the dead tree, knocking her out.
Thackery was horrified seeing what happened and did his best to wake up Telzleh, but it was no use. He looked up at the incoming zombie mob ready to tear them apart. It was the end.
“You have fire within you!”
“Stand up and you will show everyone you are brave!”
Telzleh’s words resounded in Thackery’s mind as he finally realized what she meant by all she said. He then felt a surge of energy he never felt before. His eyes, filled with terror, changed to anger. His teeth gritted in a menacing scowl and he placed his fists up in the air ready to fight. He was confused at first why he felt this now, but he realized this was pent-up in his subconscious for a long time until it finally broke free. Coming face to face with his demise was the key that unlocked the mental shackles.
"I'm not scared of you! I'm not scared of you anymore! I'm through running, I am!" he yelled at the zombies. "I always let my chums push me around! Not anymore! If this is to be my end, let it be known I will go down like a brawler, I will! Come at me, foul fiends!"
The zombies didn't even care about the declaration as all in their heads was seeing a delicious meal. They shambled ever closer to them but Thackery stood his ground.
Suddenly from out of nowhere, a lightning bolt streaked across the sky and struck one of the branches of the dead tree above them. The branch caught fire from the blast, landing on the ground between Thackery and the zombie mob. All the ghouls recoiled in horror as they saw the fire and Thackery got his chance. Grabbing a piece of the branch to create a makeshift torch, he waved it towards the undead horde and they started to retreat. Some dove back into the dead soil and others shambled away through the doors to parts unknown. Soon, the courtyard was once again empty and quiet.
Moments later, Telzleh finally woke up as she rubbed the back of her head. Her eyes slowly started to focus and saw Thackery stand there triumphantly, holding a piece of burning branch in one hand. As he stood there, Telzleh could notice something in his demeanor she hadn't seen from him. He looked sure of himself. A glint of bravery twinkled against his eye and Telzleh smiled.
The boy looked at her and smiled. "Are you finally awake, Miss Telzleh? Everything is all right now, it is. The monsters have retreated like the cowards I once was, they did."
"Wow. You scared them off. I'm impressed. Bet you found your courage with that little torch you got there," Telzleh answered smugly as she sat up against the tree.
He shook his head. "No, Miss Telzleh. Bravery found me as I was ready to face my maker, it did. Your talk earlier 'elped me out quite a lot. I realized at that moment that I have been forever a stepping stone for everyone. It was seeing you earlier, saving my life and taming that wild Zomutt, when I finally realized you had the fire you said I had as well. I know now. I am a brave after all, I am. My chums will think twice about making me their errand boy, they will. It is all because of you. Thank you, Miss Telzleh."
She smiled and was ready to hug the brave youth when she then noticed Thackery start to glow with a powerful aura as something started to materialize in front of his body much to his awe. Finally, a small bundle of white energy appeared floating in mid-air before them. The positive energy! The small mass stood there for a few seconds before it magically shot itself right at Telzleh.
Gasping, she threw her hands up until she realized the energy was headed straight for the amulet. With a blinding flash, the positive energy was consumed by the medallion and disappeared into it. Before she could process this turn of events, she vanished just like that.
Thackery stood there, unmoving as he wondered where she vanished. Just as he was ready to walk and leave the sanatorium, he suddenly felt his feet didn’t budge. He then tried to move his arms and hands and realized they wouldn’t move either! As fear began to register, he realized he couldn’t move his body at all!
He then felt the parts of his body he could see start to lose color turning a dull gray until the hard flesh was replaced by stone. The sensation spread over his entire form, from his clothes to the torch he held, now snuffed out. Within seconds it was over. Where Thackery once stood, there now was the statue of a brave-looking Techo boy holding a snuffed tree branch like a torch. A monument to his former life.
A shadow observed the boy’s statue. It immediately looked down at its hand as a small crackle of electricity remained there after the bolt of lightning that shot out a while ago. The carrier had succeeded in the first retrieval, but it was only the beginning. It was only a matter of time. As the sparks dissipated, the shadow immediately disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.
To be continued...