The Magic in Being Lost: Part Two
Perhaps she should retreat…quickly.
She eyed the golden coins as they glimmered in the flickering candle light. To come so close—
An unearthly wind howled, buffeting her skin, throwing back her ears. The candles winked out and she was plunged into darkness.
The cave shrieked as she whipped around and bolted, crashing into the unforgiving cave wall. She dove sideways and kicked herself into a frantic crawl, scrambling as she kept back the hisses of pain spilling from her lips as her knees and hands rubbed against hard rock. She forced her sights forward, as if it meant something, as if it was any different from setting her sights back.
If there was an iota of light to be found, she would find it. If there was a shred of hope to be seen, she would claim it.
That was all easier said than done.
She just had to lose the creature. Finding her way out was the end goal obviously, but it was pointless if she brought some monstrosity into Faerieland with her.
She crashed and slammed into walls as she tried to find her way back, relying on intuition alone. She had nothing else. The finest academy in Brightvale couldn’t have prepared her for this, nor the days soaking up every precious scrap of information she could find on the Faerie Caverns. Why had none of them mentioned a monster? She would have thought Queen Fyora might have blocked off the passage if she’d known rather than allow hapless explorers meet their end in a dark gloomy cave.
Each step brought a fresh stab of pain. Her lush brown coat was coated with grime and silt, and she had more than a few stinging scrapes that brought tears to her eyes when they brushed against the unforgiving stone. She wanted so badly to lie down and lick her wounds but the creature behind her would not stop. Her worst nightmare incarnate, no matter how hard she pushed her limbs to their limits, the beast was at her tail and she could not bear to turn around to see it. A monster with needle teeth, or a thousand eyes! With claws sharper than daggers, and a size to have the greatest Grarrl cowering in fear. She could not bear to know the truth of it. It would likely be worse than anything her imagination could conjure up.
Her torch knocked against her flank and one side of her head, a continuous rhythm that was likely to beat her unconscious. She couldn’t afford any limb to reach up and throw it off, but luckily Aisha ears were like another set of limbs. One of her long ears wrapped around the torch and tossed it behind her, trying to aim it at the monstrosity chasing her.
The torch clattered to the floor, echoing in the terrible silence. Her breath caught. No. No it couldn’t—
She was alone. But the wind, the sound—
Her breath rasped loud, louder than it should. Her limbs trembled, and she only had the time to close her eyes before her legs gave out and the dark flooded her thoughts.
A cool drip of water roused her. A chill to soothe the aching heat of her limbs, to wash away the dirt that marred her fur.
She could not name all her pains. One eye felt swollen shut from where she fell, one ear was nicked—the blood had long dried to her temple. She felt like one big bruise.
She pulled herself up—against what she did not know. The cave was as dark as dark could be. She put one foot forward, then another. Then another. And another.
She did not think of the creature of the cave. In fact she did not give much thought to anything really. Her thoughts were as blank as the darkness around her. There was a tightness in her stomach that she didn’t recognize, and a throb in her temple. They were the constant—the constant alongside the scrape of her feet against the ground and the ache in her muscles.
The cave rumbled, and she stumbled as the floor shook. Her paw caught on stone and the pain was sharp, fresh. She muffled a sob and sucked on the wound, tears prickling at the corner of her eyes. This wasn’t supposed to happen. None of this was supposed to happen. She was supposed to storm in, find the treasure, and storm out. She prepared so well for this expedition. It was supposed to go off without a hitch. It wasn’t supposed to go like this—ending with her crawling pathetically in the dark, wounded and afraid.
And she was afraid. It numbed everything else—an icy dread that settled in her bones, washing away all the pains but the throb at her temple and the tightness in her stomach, and the cut on her paw.
She rolled back onto her feet. The cut on her paw dug in sharp into a rock and she nearly screeched in pain. She held the paw to her chest and limped forward, ever forward. The only way was forward.
The tightness in her stomach was like a vacuum, pulling her in. Her skin clung tight, as if suctioned to her body, a taut pain. Her cut paw was pulled tight to her chest. It no longer stung, but she could not move it away. She limped forward, ever forward.
The throb at her temple, ever present, a worry nagging. Skin tight, but the pain was no more. She was three legged, she knew not what happened to her fourth leg. But she was strong, and her senses were better, though her eyes were not. Ears picked up the slightest noise, nose picked up the faintest scent. She crawled forward, ever forward.
Louie the Lutari was not afraid. His big brother Eric, a big bad Grarrl, was with him. They were going to face down the Faerie Caverns together and get loads of super awesome treasure for themselves.
They weren’t supposed to, not after Queen Fyora decreed the Faerie Caverns ‘dangerous’—whatever that meant!—and full of evil. But Eric was strong, super strong, and Louie was really good with directions. Nothing could stop them.
Eric tasked Louie with holding the flashlight while he held the string leading back to the entrance. Eric told him that he got the lighter load so that he could focus on going the right way and not leading them to a dead end.
They came across two tunnels, both of equal size but one had moss growing off it.
Louie picked the tunnel that didn’t have moss growing on it, if only because it cast funny shadows. Not that he was scared, because if anything happened Eric was here.
They followed the curve of the tunnel, and Louie skipped ahead, humming a happy tune. He heard a funny growl, but it was probably Eric and his big grumbly tummy. Eric’s tummy was always growling and hungering one way or another.
But he didn’t think it could hiss, not like a Meowclops. He didn’t think it could make a funny looking Neopet drop from the cave’s ceiling, one with no eyes and three legs, so thin and scrawny that it looked brittle. It looked a bit like an Ai—
Eric grabbed his arm and pulled him back, and snarled at the creature. It hissed and snarled right back at him, but Eric—his super strong awesome brother—wasn’t to be deterred. He charged the creature and swung at it, catching it at the jaw. He followed up with a nasty knee to its stomach, slamming it into the ceiling.
It scampered away, climbing on the walls of the cave like a Korbat, before lunging at Eric, aiming for his snout. Eric growled as its talons clawed at his scales, shoving its foot into his mouth, dislodging a tooth.
Louie aimed the flashlight at both of them. Eric winced at the sudden light, but creature recoiled as if burned. Eric grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and whipped it at a wall. He charged it again, but it only scurried away, and didn’t come back.
Eric was tangled up in their string, and his snout was bloody and missing a scale or two. He grunted, shaking his head, and began to untangle himself. They hadn’t bought any first aid items either. Mama would probably throw a fit when she saw both of them, and she’d ground them, and then she’d probably get Queen Fyora to ground them, and then the nice earth faerie in Faerie Foods wouldn’t give him a cupcake anymore.
Louie frowned at that. He always looked forward to that cupcake. It always had the right amount of icing and had looked like that creature that had attacked them, though not as scary—not that Louie had been afraid! Eric was with him after all. The cave creature—well now that he realized it kind of looked like his daily cupcake, it wasn’t that scary. It had looked scared itself—like what Mama said. Spyders were always more scared of you than you are of them.
“Lou!” Eric called over his shoulder. “We’re outta here. We’ll try again tomorrow.”