The blue outline of a Shoyru hovered just outside the lost city, her eyes darting back and forth between the skulls and dilapidated houses scattered about. The odd Petpet would call out in an eerie shriek, and the Sketch Shoyru shivered a bit.
"Hey, Hana! You sure you want to do this?"
A Kougra appeared behind her, and the Shoyru turned around, tail bouncing ever so slightly. Cracks swirled across the Kougra's rock-like skin, brimming with magma that left a red glow on everything around him. There was a pair of flaming wings on his back, more for show than actual use.
A Blue Hissi slithered up next to him, a brown scarf draped around his neck. "Tsume's right," he hissed. "You should rethink this one more time before you decide. It's not all fun and games."
The Shoyru shook her head stubbornly, turning back to the city and extending an arm. "I want to go with you," she said. "I want to go out there."
Tsume and the Hissi shot each other skeptical glances, and then turned back to Hana the Shoyru with a unison sigh. "If you're sure," said Tsume. "Just because I said it's not as hard as they say doesn't mean it's not dangerous, you know."
"I know," replied Hana, drifting back to the ground.
"Have you got the supplies, Kage?" Tsume flapped his wings slightly, obviously not very excited at the prospect of dragging Hana along.
Kage pulled a bag from behind his blue, serpentine form, smiling a bit. "Everything we'll need," he replied.
Tsume returned the smile, though his was more of a toothy grin. "I guess we're ready, then! Hana, you stay behind me," he added, as the Shoyru braced herself to take off for Geraptiku.
With a sigh, Hana fell back, hovering just a hair behind Tsume. "This is boring," she whined. "I wanna go!"
"We have to be- Wah!" The ground crumpled beneath Tsume's paw, revealing a pitfall that they could have easily fallen in. "See? This place is brimming with traps! We need to take it slow!"
Hana silently mocked him behind his back, met by an eye roll from Kage. Then she began flying in circles around the Kougra, laughing mischievously. "Betcha can't catch me!" she giggled, zooming off.
"Hana, did you hear any of what I just said?" Tsume sounded exasperated, and Kage performed a facewing behind him. "We have to be careful!"
"YOU do," replied Hana, "but I can fly." As if to demonstrate, she flew in a loop, proceeding to circle around one of the houses, which gave a moan as she ran a paw over it. "I don't have to be careful. See ya there!" she teased, completely ignoring his shouts of protest. Any energy she had penned up while she was following Tsume was released, and she zoomed off towards their destination; the stone temple in the center of the city.
Kage narrowed his eyes. "Shall I follow her?" he asked.
"Go ahead." The Hissi took off into the air, flapping his wings vigorously in order to catch up with Hana. Gradually, he came to fly side by side with her.
"You can't stop me!" Hana veered off, followed quickly by Kage, and Hana continued to perform complex maneuvers in order to lose him. It wasn't long before they had reached the tomb, and they came in for a landing, feet and scales slapping on the hard stone.
"Told you that you couldn't stop me," she said, grinning.
"Hana, this is no laughing matter. This place is dangerous, even for those of us who can fly. You're lucky you didn't run into any of the air traps."
Tsume came up behind Hana and tapped her on the shoulder, making a low moan as he did so. The Shoyru jumped practically out of her skin, letting out a cry of terror. "There's something behind me!" she wailed.
Tsume burst out laughing, and even Kage gave a little chuckle. "See what I mean? Anything could happen here."
"Yeah, that could have been a zombie or something!" Tsume laughed, the flames on his body quivering. "Pay attention, silly Shoyru!"
Hana's temple throbbed, and she bared her teeth. "Not funny!" she snapped.
"Pfft. Yes it is," grinned Tsume.
The laughter continued as Hana gave the other Neopets a harsh glare, and finally their laughing fit was over. "Well, are we going in or not?" she demanded.
Kage pulled a metal bar from his bag and wedged it under the stone door. "Come help me!" he cried. The three of them pushed down on the bar, and the stone door to the tomb creaked open slowly. Leaving a pile of rocks on the bar to hold the door open, they inched through.
Tsume's fire gave enough light to see the interior of the tomb, the walls littered with glyphs and paintings. The floor beneath them was covered with a thick layer of moss and dead things, bones and withered leaves alike. Tsume and Kage seemed unshaken; they had been here before. But Hana shivered in her skin, flying rather than walking so she didn't have to stand in the mess that coated the floor.
"Tripwire," announced Tsume, stepping over a nearly invisible string laid across the ground. Kage did the same, while Hana flew over it, wondering what it did.
A screech and a scuttling noise made Hana cry out in fear, leaping towards Kage and hugging him. Ever since Tsume had become Magma, she had resorted to hugging Kage instead of him when she was scared. "Wh-what was that?"
"Just a Petpet," assured Kage. "There's loads of the little things in here." He slowly removed Hana's paws from his serpentine body, and she whimpered a bit.
"I sure hope so."
The darkness seemed to come to life as they traveled deeper into the tomb, reaching out to grab them with tendrils of fingers. Hana realized that, given her color, if she were lost... Kage and Tsume might not find her. The blue outline of a pet began shaking like a leaf, and then fell to the ground, sobbing. "I want to go home!" she sniffled. "Tsume, can we go home now?"
Tsume shook his head, although concern was apparent in his eyes. "The treasure chamber is just up ahead; I promise I'll protect you. You won't get hurt."
Hana nodded a bit and picked herself up, tears streaming down her face. She trusted Tsume; the two had been best friends, even as close as siblings, for years. He would never let her get hurt.
The darkness gradually began to recede, and traps became more frequent as they approached the central chamber. Tsume kept a keen eye on every corner of every passageway they crept through, keeping his word to protect Hana.
Blinding light flooded them as they emerged into a large room, a hole in the roof projecting sunlight into the middle of the chamber. Coins littered the walls and floor, and there were items scattered about, from the floor-coating bones to ancient dolls and books. A few Petpets were scattered through the loot, seeming not to take notice in the explorers.
Hana let out a laugh, and hugged Tsume, ignoring the burning flames around him. He smiled and tolerated it as she squeezed him as hard as she possibly could. "Tsume! Tsume, we did it!"
Kage was being more productive, scouting the piles of riches for any valuable items that would fit in their bag. Smiling the tiniest bit, he picked up one of the ancient books, deciding to take it. Hana loved to read, and she deserved it for coming this far.
"Hey, Kage, find anything?" Tsume leapt up beside the Hissi, sending an avalanche of coins to crash to the floor below.
"Yes, a few," he replied. "As much as I could fit in the bag, anyways."
"Are we ready to go, then?" Tsume took the bag and slipped it around his own neck.
A scream cut off their conversation, and Tsume was by Hana's side before Kage could even turn around. A ghostly, serpentine form reared from the shadows, red eyes glowing. It roared in anger, sending a shower of poison into the air. "Me hungry!" it screeched, darting towards Hana at full speed.
Kage darted in front of the massive ghost, winding up in the other Hissi's jaws. The monster hissed in frustration, throwing Kage to the ground and pinning him down. "Go!" cried Kage. "Don't worry about me! Save yourselves, and don't stop running!"
Tsume and Hana stood silent for a moment, and time seemed to slow as the two Hissis fought. Finally, Tsume turned to run. "Hana, let's go!"
Hana sobbed constantly on the return trip, blaming herself for attracting the serpent in the first place. Tsume assured her that it wasn't, and that the ghost would have attacked them regardless, but she didn't buy it.
Traps were triggered, and arrows would hit their sides from time to time, but neither cared; what mattered now was getting out alive. Roars would shake the temple from time to time, which only kept them going, driven by fear. The darkness throbbed in their heads, circling around them like the Hissi, closing in for the final strike. In a mad frenzy of terror, they found themselves gasping for breath outside the temple, the bar they had used to crack open the door still in place.
"We're safe," whispered Tsume, "we're safe."
Neither dared mention Kage, for they knew what had likely happened to him. Kage was gone now, and there was nothing they could do. "I'm sorry, Hana," Tsume said in a hushed voice.
Hana only answered with a sob, remembering the Blue Hissi she had come to know and love. He was almost as close to her as Tsume, if not the same. The three of them were like siblings, but now, it was reduced to two.
A shadow fell over the pair, and Hana let out another scream, but was shushed by another voice. "I thought I told you to not to stop," it teased.
Hana stared wide-eyed as a familiar blue outline helped her up, and she tackled it with a hug. "Kage! We thought you were gone!"
Kage smiled a bit. "Not in a million years," he said.
Tsume picked himself up and grinned at the Hissi, tears welling up in his eyes that he tried to conceal. "Kage! Welcome back to the world of the living!" he joked.
Kage and Tsume laughed, followed by a silence. Undisturbed, peaceful silence, shattered only by a quiet voice from Hana.
"Promise me you'll never go back in there. I don't want to lose either of you. If I did, I don't know what I'd do..."
Kage laid a wing on Hana's shoulder. "Of course not," he said. "Right?"
Tsume simply nodded, his tail laid passively on the ground. "We should be heading back home," he said. "The sun's almost down, and our owner will be getting worried."
The three of them set off wordlessly, taking in the simple relish of having escaped. They had a day of excitement, that was certain.
Tomorrow would be just another day in their beautiful planet, the world of Neopia.