A Quest For Art: Part Three
Arca stared at Lynsk’s unmoving black body, eyes frozen open. She fell to her knees, amazed that her friend, the one she had watched walk in the door moments ago, could be gone. Why hadn’t she come first? Why didn’t she stop him?
She looked at him, how his hands were thrown out, trying to block an unseen foe. His face was the epitome of fear. His deep, black eyes gazed into the dis--
Wait, black eyes?
“It isn’t him!” Arca shouted happily. Then, she realized what this meant. “Is this how you test us?” she yelled angrily to the cave walls. “With our friends? Our fears? What is this place?”
Arca stood up, shaking in anger. She couldn’t believe anything would be so evil. “This place is probably one of Dr. Sloth’s dreams,” she thought aloud. “A place as horrible as this could only be imagined by the most twisted Neopian.”
“Arca?” shouted a familiar voice in the distance. “Arca, where are you? What happened?” Arca looked around, and saw Lynsk approaching from the other side of the cavern. She jumped up and started running, but then slowed. Was this another trick of the cavern?
Lynsk saw her slow, and then looked at the body behind her. He grimaced, and his shoulders sank. He knew that the cave would try to make them mistrust each other. After all, that’s what happened last time. But this was an extreme he had never seen the cave go to.
“Arca, it’s me. Trust me, please. The cave can’t make Neopets move. I don’t even think Neopets were alive when it was created.” He approached Arca carefully, trying not to startle her.
Arca stared at the other Poogle warily. It looked like Lynsk, but she couldn’t, she wouldn’t, trust this cave again.
But there was something about him that felt like Lynsk. His eyes were the same, and he had that kind look on his face. She relaxed, and walked to him.
Lynsk breathed a sigh of relief, but then was caught with a slap in the face.
“Why’d you betray me? What was that all about?” Arca asked.
“You said you forgave me,” Lynsk complained, rubbing his face.
“Doesn’t mean I’m not still angry. Now, answer me!”
Lynsk dropped his head. He should have seen this coming. Arca stared at him expectantly, not moving her intense gaze from his face.
“All right,” Lynsk started. “Targ and Flyra are treasure hunters. They want the art for themselves, but according to legend, only a Poogle can retrieve it.”
“So they’ve been kidnapping Poogles?” Arca cut in.
“Yeah. They told me there weren’t others before me, but I don’t believe them. I think they’ve been trying their whole lives, but they haven’t found anything yet. They’re getting angry.”
Lynsk stopped, anticipating Arca’s next question.
“But what happened to the other Poogles? And how’d you get out if they didn’t?”
Lynsk smiled sadly. “I was young when I came in. Really young. I didn’t know what I was doing. Lucky for me, I stumbled across someone. I don’t know where she came from, but she let off a feeling of kindness that I trusted. So I let her help me.”
“She led me back to the cave entrance, and told me to go out and say that I couldn’t make it. I never saw the other Poogles, but the Neopet who helped me looked at me like I wasn’t the first. Like there were others before me.”
Arca watched Lynsk’s face as he spoke of the one who helped him, and she knew he remembered the stranger somewhat fondly. She decided to leave it at that.
“So let’s go,” she said. “We might as well get this over with.”
Lynsk nodded firmly, and the two Poogles walked off into the cave. They didn’t hesitate, even when it got so dark they had to keep one paw on the wall. And they never once let go of each other. They didn’t want another body showing up and scaring them.
Then, multiple shrieks emitted from the passageway. Arca recoiled, but Lynsk held his ground. “I heard it before,” he said softly. “But it was only one voice last time.”
Arca and Lynsk proceeded, slower this time. They walked along, the rough surface of the rock walls underneath their paws. Suddenly, Lynsk stopped.
“This is where she came,” he said nostalgically. “The one who helped me.”
Arca pulled him along. She just wanted to get out of this place.
But it seemed as if things were getting easier. They had only come across one or two surprises. A path lined with thorns, and another motionless Poogle, this one a purple form that had the appearance of Arca’s father. The shriek was the latest of these, and Arca thought that the cave had finally given up on scaring them.
She was wrong.
Suddenly, the ground in front of her opened up. She dropped, and on reflex held tighter to Lynsk. He fell to the ground, sliding towards the hole. Digging his feet in, he managed to slow them to a stop, but Arca was all the way in. He tried to pull her up, but every time he did, the hole closed further.
Finally, the hole had almost shut completely, and Lynsk could just barely hold on to Arca. The floor inched closer, forcing him to loosen his grip.
And Arca let go. Lynsk gazed into the darkness, trying to figure out where it went, but he couldn’t see anything. He knelt there, just praying the floor would open again, but it didn’t. Arca was gone, and he couldn’t save her. He got up, and continued walking, not sure if he went forwards or backwards in the cave.
Arca fell, feeling the air rush around her. She could touch the walls on all sides, and she knew they were leveling out, slowly but surely. Finally, her feet were touching the ground, and the fall became little more than a steep hill. She was slowing, and could control her speed. She pulled herself to a stop, and gazed about.
Light came from above, a hole in the roof. In front of her lay something she never expected to find. It was a house! A bubbling brook ran nearby, from an unseen source. Trees and bushes with all sorts of fruit on them grew around it, like a fence. The last thing she noticed were large grassy areas provided perfect places for running. It was a Poogle’s paradise.
Arca walked up to the front door, and knocked three times. Another Poogle, with camouflage colored fur, answered.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed. “Brynt, we have another one!” she shouted back into the house.
Another Poogle quickly came. This one was just a solid brown color, though.
“So, how’d you come?” he asked casually. “Through the floor, down the wrong passage, or a rock wall slid shut behind you?”
Arca stared, mouth agape. These were all the other Poogles that had been sent?
“Yes, we were all sent by the two treasure hunters,” he said as if reading her mind. “Hyra, you can leave if you want to.” This was directed at the Poogle who had answered the door, and she disappeared further into the house.
“So, what is this place?” asked Arca cautiously.
“It’s a beautiful prison, but a prison nonetheless,” said Brynt. “All the Poogles eventually wind up here, if they try to find the treasure. All passages lead in here, and none lead out.”
“So is this the treasure?” blurted out Arca.
Brynt laughed. “It very well might be. It does seem like an amazing discovery. But we don’t know. This is the farthest any of us have ever gotten. Most of us are content here, though, since we can’t get out.”
“At all? Have you tried?” Arca looked around. If it weren’t for her dad, she would never want to leave here.
“We’ve searched high and low for something other than The Door, but there isn’t anything.”
Arca stared at him as if he were speaking a foreign language.
“Oh, you don’t know about The Door. We know it’s there, but it swings inward, and there isn’t a door handle, so we’ve stopped trying.”
Arca’s shoulders sank sadly. There wasn’t any chance of escape.
“You might as well enjoy this place. You can’t escape,” Brynt added.
Arca stared ahead, her face downcast. “I have to at least try,” she said.
“All right, fine. I’ll let you get it out of your system, as long as you promise to forget about it after you’ve tried.” Brynt sounded as if he’d said this a thousand times.
‘Which he probably had,’ Arca reminded herself. “So where’s the door?” she asked, and the brown Poogle accompanying her pointed to the cavern wall across the brook. Arca ran over to it, clearing the brook in one leap, and stopped.
“Maybe I can get some leverage on the other side of the door,” she said to herself, and grabbed a branch from a nearby tree.
She quickly came to the door, and found it outlined by a faint crevice in the wall. Shoving the branch into the line to the left of the door, she threw herself against it with all her might--
And it moved...
To be continued...