Geraptiku - Lost and Found
The young Quiggle shuffled his feet nervously and looked around the deserted dock.
Any second now, he told himself fiercely, he would be caught and his owner would find that he had really left an oversized Rainbow Quiggle Plushie in his own place in his Neohome.
The waves crackled against the empty shore and the Quiggle nearly jumped out of his skin.
“You the one I’ve been waiting all this time for?”
He looked up heavily at the old Kyrii, crusted in salt water and grime, and shook himself mentally.
He could do this.
He was a brave Quiggle!
His voice had come out a mere thread, not the strong confident voice he had wanted to project.
“Then what are you waiting for?! I don’t have all day!” the Kyrii grumbled angrily, fiddling with the motor on the boat as a sign of impatience.
The Quiggle sighed and stepped into the tiny, rickety boat. This is what he wanted; he had been waiting for this chance. No need to be a Nervous Nimmo!
“The lure of the treasure too much for you, boy?” the Old Captain asked, squinting his eye in the setting sun and expertly maneuvering the steering handle.
The newly unearthed deserted tomb had been all the talk of Neopia for some time now and many, many Neopians had tried their luck getting to the fabled treasure within, and some ended up lost for days... if not longer.
His owner had strictly forbidden him to get near the docks off Mystery Island, knowing he would normally be too afraid to disobey. But the lore of treasure, unknown riches, possibly even... fame, had overcome the Quiggle one night as he lay waiting for sleep.
He could remember the dream that night; it had been his most vivid ever. He had finally made it to his destination, had trekked through the tomb, and unearthed not only some treasure, but courage within himself. The latter had been much more valuable than the treasure itself, and had sparked something unspoken deep within himself; Something he had not known was there.
He had told himself when he awoke in a sweat that no matter what, he would make it to that creepy little island.
“I’m talking to you, boy!”
His head shot up as he realized he had been ignoring the knobby old man for too long, lost in his own stupor.
“Yes, sir. Sorry.”
The Captain gave him a long, hard look and made a tsking sound between his teeth.
“I don’t think you’ve the stomach for this job, kid, I’ll be honest. Many a sailor has wandered into that place and never come back. Good, strong Neopians at that. What makes you think you can do it?”
The Quiggle could detect the honest undertones, the sincerity and concern, in the Kyrii’s voice, drawn out between the spray of the ocean hitting them at all directions.
He sighed for what seemed like the fiftieth time that evening and steeled his nerves. He was going to do this, and he wasn’t going to be a Worried Wocky. No sir, not him.
“I wouldn’t have gone through the trouble if I wasn’t serious. Some things are worth more than riches and fame.”
The Kyrii looked startled by the response, his one eye swerving to give him a level gaze, his lip unfurling from the (what he assumed, anyway) trademark scowl.
“Aye, boy, there you be right.”
The boat was slowing up now as they reached the lone dock that looked as if it couldn’t stand a Moach, let alone a full sized Quiggle possibly with treasure.
“Prepare yourself, boy. Show that shrine some power and respect. I’ll be waiting here. I leave at first light.” The Kyrii gave him a very severe look, straight in his eye. “With or without you.”
The Quiggle gulped noisily and clambered out of the boat. He wanted to get away from that Captain as fast as possible. The look he had been given unnerved him, something he hadn’t been anticipating.
He took a deep breath in and walked the dock to the beginning of the settlement.
“GERAPTIKU,” the sign read in bold letters as he glanced up at the posts and jumped back, startled.
They seemed to be petpet skulls, but of which type he did not know.
‘Well, this was off to a great start!’ he told himself wearily.
He stepped inside the ancient ruins, taking in the thick tropical foliage and the dim gray-lit sky of twilight. It seemed the perfect setting for his mission.
There was a deep well in the earth, closed off by a criss-cross of reeds. He chanced a look inside and instantly stepped back.
It was full of menacing looking petpets, all of them gnashing their teeth at him in a threatening way.
“You’re awful cute to be so nasty,” he said to no one in particular, proud of his courage.
The island seemed absolutely deserted, much to his distress. He felt the presence of someone else might have helped to calm his ragged nerves. Then he thought of the lone Captain Kyrii waiting him at the seemingly ancient dock, and that helped.
Looming, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the dilapidated stairs leading into the place he both respected and feared.
The steps impended up into the night sky, covered in thick brambles and possibly poisonous plants. The old earthen material was crumbling in some places and that did not help his sense of urgency to get in and be done with it.
What had happened here so long ago?
Had they been... savages? Like so many other ancient people? Had they believed in sacrifice?
Certainly not, he thought, that couldn’t be the case.
He inhaled deeply and put his webbed foot onto the first step, exhaling in relief when the place didn’t consume him.
Slowly, yet surely, he made his way up the stairway, seething in fear and pride in himself.
He finally reached the ancient doorway.
Why, it could swallow three of him!
The walls in here too, were thick with brambles and vines and seemed to speak of times far gone, simpler times.
There were so many rooms!
A long hallway stretched before him, seeming endless in his plight.
Rooms racked both sides, each one looking identical and equally terrifying, he thought.
How to know which ones he had checked?
As he started down the hallway, he found a knapsack just before the first door and his stomach tightened. Was this from a lost traveler? Someone who had never returned?
He gulped in air as he picked it up and opened it to find a shiny, silver dagger, encrusted with jewels and primordial runes.
Well at least he had the means to mark rooms now, he thought, trying to feel positive in the gloom of dark.
The night sky had finally reached full dark, and to his amazement, brackets all along the walls magically burst into flame, providing dim cover.
“How odd,” he said to no one (or so he hoped).
He could feel eyes on him at the end of the hallway, glowing eyes. He had to fight every instinct in his body not run away screaming like a Scared Scorchio.
He gingerly picked up a flaming torch and tried to see at the end of the hallway, moving ever closer.
He nearly laughed with relief when the Chuchuana skittered away at the first sign of light. It ran down another hallway, to the left. This one had far fewer rooms to search. A Morkou stood up to stare him in the eyes. He was afraid of these odd pets, from the violent scene he had seen earlier inside of the pit.
Life seemed to be all around him now, as he inched into a crumbling doorway torch first, dagger extended. Insects skittered around the arches of the room, curving into the walls and blending seamlessly with the thick ivy that grew there.
There was a pedestal in the center of the room.
His heart rate quickened and his breath came in gasps.
He could not have found it this easily, surely?
As he scooted closer to the looming presence in the room, his mind was dizzy with anticipation. No one had been so lucky in such a place, he was sure.
He took a final deep breath at the precipice and looked in, eyes wide.
There were more stairs.
This couldn’t be right, could it?
There were many pairs of eyes watching him with great interest, he realized and had to get away from them at once.
Without one thought, he plunged into the darkness of the steps and regretted it immediately as he fell hard to the ground.
His eyes dazed from the darkness (and the impact) he righted himself and brushed off his pants seeing a room made of solid earth, packed tightly and solidly. There was another basin in here, this one larger and deeper, and made of stone, as far as he could tell.
This must be it.
It had to be!
Excitement rushed through his veins as he stepped closer, all fear forgotten.
Suddenly, a gigantic ghostly looking Hissi stopped him, swaying with all the power of a guardian of greatness.
“What do you seek here, Morelli?”
Its voice was deep and thickly accented, but surprisingly civil. But how had he known his name? He hadn’t even told the Old Sea Captain waiting for him.
“Treasure, good guardian,” he said cautiously, not wanting to anger the huge beast.
His gall shocked him, and made his heart pound through his tiny ears.
“You have come to the wrong place. Leave here at once.”
Morelli looked up in astonishment at the glowing creature and chastened himself at once.
“No.” His voice came in a whisper.
The Hissi gave him a startled look, his eyes full of questions, and... respect?
Morelli didn’t mind; he was just as startled at his own response. It had been as though someone had spoken through his lips to vex him, someone who wanted him to never return.
“So valiant, so foolish.”
Morelli stood firm, feet apart, and looked the Hissi in the eye.
“I have come to seek my treasure, and I shan’t leave without it!” he said more firmly, defiance flashing in his eyes.
By now, a friendly Quetzal was wrapping itself around his legs. He stooped down to let it smell him, never breaking eye contact with the Great Guardian, and picked the creature up.
It chirped at him, seeming to smile.
“Good day, Morelli the Brave. You have sought your fortune and reaped what you wished. You may take Tykaii.”
The Hissi vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving Morelli coughing and waving his hand in his face to fan some of it away.
He started to make his way out of the tomb then, twisting through the leaves and dead matter almost expertly, with Tykaii wrapped around his arm, lost very deeply in thought.
How silly he had been, thinking there was something as a great treasure to be found inside this savage land.
The fire in his heart slowly burned out as he stepped out into the cold light of very early morning and made his way down the steps.
To his surprise, the captain was waiting for him at the base, all smiles.
“I see you’ve made a friend there,” he remarked happily.
Morelli frowned down at the animal and looked back at the captain, suddenly so tired he could barely stand.
“I reckon I have. Not quite a treasure, though...”
The Kyrii grinned even wider now at him as they made their way together to the docks.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure.”