Tribulations of a Quest Sceptic: Part Three
Locked in the Game Graveyard. Saba felt that perhaps Edna at midnight would have been a better bet than walking through a spooky row of graves, dedicated to games long forgotten and un-loved. She squared her shoulders, determined to be brave. They were just rocks, in the end. It was babyish to be frightened. One look at Vodi’s trembling lower lip, however, convinced her that she might not be the only one trying urgently to keep her nerves from fleeing her body.
“I guess we go forward.”
Vodi nodded softly. “I guess.” He echoed, his tone tremulous.
Slowly, they started forward, but it was a path they were destined to not cross. As Saba’s foot trod adjacent to the Kiko Match grave, a rustling sound whispered from the ground at her feet. It seemed as if the very dirt parted, falling away into a gaping, endless chasm near them, forcing them to scramble back in shock as glowing orbs whipped from the onyx split in the earth. The spun and twisted into the air, at least fifty of them, twirling around and dancing on the chilling breeze, each slightly translucent and tinted with the faint suggestion of colour; crimson, cobalt, emerald, yellow. They swirled around the friends, giggling with laughter that seemed to reverberate from one figure to another.
Not orbs… Kikos. Kiko Match… Ghosts?
“Someone to play with! We never have someone to play with!”
“Match and Pair, Match and Pair, Match and Pair.” The chant started by a green Kiko spirit, who spun around in wild circles on the spot, his eyes unfocused, seeming to roll around in lunatic circles as he moved. One by one, the other creatures took up the call, until it became a deafening demand.
“MATCH AND PAIR. MATCH AND PAIR. MATCH AND PAIR.”
Saba gasped, trying to back further away, but the steel bars of the graveyard fence were like ice against her back. By her side, Vodi was trembling in fear, trying hopelessly to blend back into the fence itself. One by one, the sickly glow of a Kiko Match spirit danced around them, screeching the mantra that the others echoed. Without warning, a blue one flew at Saba’s face, laughing in a manic fashion and examining her, then staring at Vodi with a frown.
“Jubjub and Draik. No match! No good!”
The others joined the raucous, screeching the words uttered by the blue Kiko until the cry became a hypnotic, hysterical call, causing the other graves within the yard to vibrate violently.
“NO MATCH. NO GOOD. RUNNING OUT OF TIME.”
Running out of time?
Saba winced, gasping desperately. What would happen if time ran out? Did they have any time? Could Kiko Match ghosts even TELL time?
Vodi was in tears now, his only contribution to make whimpering, sobbing sounds as he trembled in sync with the vibrations of the Kiko’s call. Without warning, one of the ghosts somehow slipped behind him, and Vodi was propelled forward.
“NO MATCH. DOESN’T FIT.”
It took Saba a second to focus. A mere split second to understand that they planned to throw her friend into the chasm that had erupted nearby. A few more moments and it would no doubt be her turn. Frantic, she reached out, extending her arm as far as she could and grabbing Vodi, dragging him back from the grasp of the hissing, laughing Kikos. The creatures raged, spinning around them in a dizzying array of sickly colour, spinning closer and closer, the chill that emitted from their ghostly forms making the Draik’s scales stand on end until she could take no more.
“TIME IS UP!”
The scream echoed through the graveyard, shrill enough to drown the screaming laughter of the Kiko mass.
And then, there was silence. Faster than they had appeared, the Kikos melted into the shadow of night, the gaping hole in the earth slamming shut with a resounding, muffled sound. And the two friends were breathless, trembling and alone.
“Saba… You…” Vodi’s voice was trembling with gratitude, but Saba shook her head.
“It’s nothing. Vodi… We need to get out.” Her heart was pounding out a rhythmic song of sheer panic. She didn’t know how they had lucked their way out of what had almost been their inevitable doom, but now that they had, it was time to get out of there.
“Walk around the graves. We can’t get too close.”
Gingerly, the friends began to weave their way through the eerie graveyard. The grass that sprouted in haphazard tufts between the cracked and leaning stones was a sickly, dead brown hue, only slightly shifted by the evening wind. Each grave was inscribed, rough, rude warnings etched into the stone.
A lab where Korbats are all useless,
And few heed the warning we send.
But you don’t want to know,
If you lose, where you’ll go,
For all things will break, in the end.
Saba shivered. Who would etch such chilling messages?
Caves of Ice, there’s no escape,
From cold, there’s no reprieve.
Find your way from maze, my friend,
Or trapped, you’ll never leave.
Slowly, the pair moved around the graves. One by one, without incident. The graveyard remained silent, but the unnerving feeling of being watched sent shivers right down Saba’s spine and made her stomach conduct impressive acrobatic feats. It seemed they might make serious progress until, not for the first time, Vodi’s clumsy feet betrayed him. The Jubjub stumbled. Only a little, enough to lean him to the right for a mere second, but it was more than enough. As he tried to straighten up, a series of tall figures materialized from the darkness, each a pale, translucent hue of azure, shimmering in and out of view. Stifling a scream, Vodi attempted to run through, but each time the figures seemed to find a solid form, blocking him long enough to force him into a change of direction, then repeating the process. Frenzied, the Jubjub ran in circles as Saba watched helplessly.
“Let him go!”
At least fifty pairs of eyes shimmered as they shifted, reptilian-like, in her direction. One of the figures hissed, smiling slowly. There was no friendliness within that grin. It was cold, malicious and taunting.
“Techo says… Be gone.”
She winced, staring at him blankly, as the figure to the left spoke up. The same dry, slithering hiss.
“Techo says… Run while you can.”
Horrified, the Draik’s gaze fell on the crooked stone that Vodi had stepped close to.
Run if you can, do what we say,
Walk, now stop, now go.
No escape, you’re in our grasp,
To run? Techo says “NO”
Saba choked back a sob, staring hopelessly at the creatures that had her friend so cornered. These weren’t floating Kikos. Each Techo ghost seemed more powerful, more vengeful.
“Please… I’ll do what you want… Just let him go.”
Sniggering laughter filtered in her direction, as low and dry as the hissing voices.
“Techo says… He’s our playmate now. We’ve not a friend in ever so long. By midnight’s chime, our playmate forever.”
Saba shook her head in desperation. “Please. Anything.”
Vodi’s eyes widened in terror. “Saba! We need a Vanquishing Potion! Edna makes-“ His cry was cut off by a Techo who slithered to his side, hissing wickedly.
“Techo says SILENCE.”
With that, Vodi’s mouth snapped shut and his eyes widened in horror. With utter fear, Saba realized it wasn’t that he didn’t wish to complete his distressed cry… He simply could not. Something in her brain clicked into gear and she instantly shoved her fingers into her ears. The Techo collective looked enraged. While she couldn’t hear them, she couldn’t obey. Their lips moved, clearly issuing commands, but Saba began to hum. She looked at her sobbing, distressed friend in pity and determination.
“I’ll be back! I’ll get the potion!” She knew she was probably shouting. What had they said? By midnight’s chime?
Taking a deep breath and leaving her hands over her ears, she cast one final, horrified look at the sobbing Jubjub and fled, tripping over tufts of dry grass and the remains of fallen stones. She ran as fast as she could, her claws sinking into the dirt, gripping the soil in a desperate attempt to escape. Here and there, shimmering spirits threatened to erupt, but she dodged with a speed she hadn’t known was within her grasp. Ahead, open gates loomed, each hanging at a crooked angle from the hinges. With a final gasp, she dove through the opening, rolling on the grass outside until she came to a stop, sobbing and trembling with fear.
It took time for Saba to come to her senses. Too much time, when she had so little. Why hadn’t she told Vodi this was a foolish idea? All this, just to stop the laughter of two bullies in a schoolyard. Who cared? None of this was worth it.
Through the web of gnarled branches, a faint light filtered onto the cobbled path, the same winding road they had started their journey upon. Slowly, the Draik made her way through the undergrowth, wrapping her arms around herself in a futile effort to stave of the chills that wracked her form. Would she ever feel warm or safe again? What was happening to Vodi.
Oh Fyora… Poor Vodi…
Images crowded her mind. The whirling mass of hysterical Kikos, the hissing smirks of the tall, gaunt Techo collective. Laughter, loud and mocking, and most of all, Vodi’s tearful, terrified face as she fled into the darkness. Resolve settled over her like a cloak. She broke into a slow jog, heading to the path and examining a rotting wooden signpost that hung, swinging in an ominous manner from an overhanging branch.
GYPSY CAMP. FIRST RIGHT.
EDNA’S TOWER. SECOND LEFT.
YOUR DOOM. THIRD RIGHT.
With a shudder, Saba headed down the path as quickly as she could. A glance at the moon in the sky led her to estimate it had to be around nine at night. Had they really been trapped in that graveyard for hours?
She didn’t have long. With a deep breath, the Draik broke into a run, speeding forward towards the grey, sentient, tower in the distance, the noxious emerald glow that leaked from the stone windows glowing like a wicked beacon.
To be continued…