Petpet Adventures: Let It Snow - Part Seven
Askar entered the tunnel again. Moments later a loud, triumphant shout told the Gwalla and Raindorf outside that he had found the negg. A few more moments after that, and a triumphant petpet was emerging, fur encrusted with ice and a negg clutched in his paws.
"Don't crowd," Askar objected, as both petpets converged on him. "I haven't had a chance to look at it myself yet. I thought I'd be nice and show you straight away." He poked his tongue out at Tvarla, who smiled and then turned her attention to the negg in his grasp.
It was opaque, and tinted the palest blue. In fact, if she had been standing any distance away, it would have been hard to see at all amongst white snow. It shimmered in the air as the light shone off it. In fact, it seemed to soak up the light. Tvarla reached out a paw to touch it.
And then a loud shout behind them heralded the arrival of the Bori that had been previously lying against the tunnel wall. It staggered towards them, using the same unknown language that Tvarla had heard Kliaod and Vrailli speaking. Tvarla sidestepped out of the way, and its foot caught on the gemstone lying on the ground.
It looked down and its jaw dropped. It seemed thoroughly absorbed by the green stone, and ignored the three petpets, reaching down to pick the gem up. Tvarla inched towards the tunnel.
"I think we should go," she said.
Askar nodded. "Me too."
All three crept towards the doorway with Askar carefully caressing the negg. The Bori had by now picked up the gem and had a stupid looking smile on its face. Tvarla wouldn't have been surprised if it had begun drooling.
Then all three petpets stopped, and the Bori turned, startled.
Standing in the doorway was Vrailli. The snow white Eyrie looked rather worse for wear, but his face was triumphant. Dragged behind him by two Bori was the limp, barely conscious form of Kliaod. Her wounds had reopened, or was it just fresh ones?
She looked at them, eyes glazed, not appearing to take anything in. Vrailli was smiling at the three petpets. Then his eyes narrowed as he saw the negg, and then caught sight of the huge tunnel in the pyramid. Comprehension showed in his eyes, and he stared hard at Askar, recognition slowly appearing on his face. His smile turned into an evil grin, which Tvarla loathed immediately.
Askar's fur was bristling, and he stepped forward, after placing the negg gently on the ground. He took another step, and Vrailli advanced slowly. He lifted a talon, but the Polarchuck hardly flinched.
The scene seemed frozen. The talon hovered in the air, awaiting the moment to be brought down. Askar was standing stock still, fury etched onto his face. Emari gaped in shock and Kliaod's eyes widened as they finally took in the situation. Tvarla was the only one that moved, coming up to shield the negg with her antlers.
What happened after was so quick compared to the stillness that all the figures in the cave jumped violently: The negg cracked.
Tvarla saw it first hand, as she happened to be glancing protectively at it at the time. A thin line, like a thin strand of Spyderweb, appeared on the pale blue surface and a huge rush of icy air escaped, pushing past her with amazing force, flinging her metres away. Askar and Vrailli were buffeted by the strong, cold breeze, and the pets holding Kliaod leapt forward as a succession of stalactites fell from the roof above them in the tunnel.
Kliaod stumbled forwards and crashed against the pyramid. Packed snow slid off the walls and soon Tvarla was half buried. Askar was by her side, having abandoned his standoff with Vrailli. Or maybe he was just postponing it.
"Climb the pyramid," he yelled.
Tvarla hurried towards the structure of ice, careful not to slip. She felt a paw tighten around her waist, and guessed it to be Kliaod, until she realised it was a different Bori. She kicked hard at the paw, and it loosened slightly. But not enough. Then she saw the torch in the Bori's other paw, and it gave her an idea.
Her hooves were still soaked in the oil from the last torch she had touched, and she waved one in the fire. A moment later her hoof was lit up by a halo of fire, which she pressed against the foreleg gripping her.
The Bori let go with a yell, and she raced away. Her hoof was extinguished almost immediately in the snow, and she half ran, half waded up to the pyramid. Emari flew up behind her and pushed her onto the first block, and she managed to climb higher from there.
Looking back, she saw Vrailli making a beeline straight for them, high eyes flashing fury and hatred. He seemed unaware of the turmoil around him and ploughed onward through the snow around him.
Tvarla sped up and soon found herself at the very top with Askar and Kliaod behind her and Emari hovering nearby. But then a new dilemma presented itself: She couldn't reach the roof of the cave.
"What are you waiting for?" Emari asked, shooting through the hole and staring down at her.
"I can't reach it," she answered, straining on her hind legs.
Kliaod reached forwards and lifted her up. "Does that help?" she asked.
Tvarla stretched as far as she could and managed to brush Emari's paws, and then she touched them again, except this time she clung on for dear life. The Gwalla heaved her up beside her, and Tvarla lay still on the ground before a loud grunt heralded Askar's form below.
She stood by Emari's side and helped her lift up the much larger Polarchuck. Now all that was left was Kliaod. But Kliaod was too large for them to lift, and too small to reach the edge of the opening.
Below the white Bori on the pyramid Vrailli was determinedly climbing up, knowing that she had nowhere to go. Tvarla was puzzled at first, wondering why he didn't just fly up to them. At least until she saw that one of his wings was bent at an odd angle. Then she felt a rush of appreciation for Kliaod.
Kliaod saw the Eyrie coming, and her face clouded over. She frowned at the gap in the roof above and then with a huge leap she leaped towards the roof. Her back paws left furrows in the ice, and her kick was so powerful that she knocked numerous blocks of ice onto the unfortunate and somewhat well deserving pet below.
Vrailli was buried by the blocks, as well as parts of the roof that fell as Kliaod clambered away from the small hole. The ice around the opening was now webbed with cracks, while clods of dirt began to break away. The Bori had only just managed the jump, and now she was frantic as the thin rock and ice gave way underneath her. At last she made it to firmer ground, just as the sides of the wall crumbled away and the entire roof caved in.
"Do you think they'll make it out?" Tvarla asked, listening to the rumble of falling ice and dirt. She quickly backed up a few paces from the now much larger hole, just in case.
"I hope so," Emari said, her paws still clenched from the fear of Kliaod falling. "I don't think that would be pleasant for anyone."
"Well, I don't," Askar growled. "I never got to finish with him."
"Wait," Tvarla said. "Where's the negg?"
All of them except for Emari froze. Then the Gwalla spoke.
"I have it, don't worry. I saw Tvarla leave it behind when that Bori picked her up, so I got it myself."
She brought the pale negg out in the light. It was still smooth and flawless except for the thin crack.
"What happened?" Kliaod asked, reaching out a paw to trace along the jagged line.
"I saw the negg crack. I think the power is almost ready to be released. It was so powerful." She lapsed into silence.
Askar nodded. "Well, we have it, and I don't want it to crack all the way. It might cause a landslide. So let's take it back to the Snowager, shall we?"
The others nodded. But Tvarla was a bit uncertain. "Are you sure you can make it?" she asked Kliaod.
The Bori smiled at her. "I'm sure that I can. And it doesn't matter anyway. I'm not keen on meeting the Snowager."
They had started walking by now. Tvarla was thinking. "What do you think the Wurm was talking about when he called the Snowager a 'she'?" she asked.
"A Wurm told you that?" Kliaod asked quickly.
"Yes," Emari told her. "It had been frozen in the pyramid. It said that if the Snowager wanted to tell us then he would tell us. I wonder what he meant."
None of them could think of an answer, so they continued in silence.
It was dusk by the time they were in the vicinity of the Ice Caves. The sun threw autumn colours into the sky as it sank behind the peak of Terror Mountain. All four of them, whether pet or petpet, were bone-weary and they were considerably happier after they spotted the entrance ahead.
Tvarla staggered on, her hooves almost too tired to keep going. She didn't like to think how the others were faring, the soft pads on their paws more sensitive than her glossy hooves. Kliaod was carrying the negg, but her injuries were making her stumble with every second step.
Tvarla was too tired to pay proper attention to where she was heading, so she almost tripped over the deep gully in the ground. It was more than two metre wide, and quite deep. It led into the Ice Caves, but also trailed down the side of the mountain in a sinuous line.
Fearing the worst, she went ahead of the others, moving so fast she was totally unprepared for when the soft snow underhoof turned to hard ice. She skidded some way before stopping.
The Ice Caves looked cleaner than when she had last see it, but for some reason it was completely abandoned. It wasn't probable that the pets had cleared the shattered icicles away and then not inhabited the cave again. So when she finally reached the Snowager's Cavern of useless treasures, she wasn't totally shocked at what she found.
The Snowager was gone.
To be continued...