Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Seven
The tan Kougra's smile widened at the look on Avalon's and
Ash's faces. He seemed slightly amused that they had just realized who he was.
"I'm Quaz. The former Guardian on the Noil Gem."
He extended a paw to the starry Kougra who shook it warily. "I'm surprised,"
Quaz added, with a look of concern, "at what took you so long. Storm was supposed
to escort you to Heartfelt."
Avalon sighed. "On the way, we were attacked
by some shadow Gelerts."
"Scarback's Gelerts?" the old Kougra had gotten
to his feet, looking more foreboding.
Avalon nodded. "And they were coming to Mystery
Island. So Storm dropped me off, and said he was going to draw them away."
Quaz bit his lip. "Come with me," he said abruptly,
turning and heading toward a small hill. "I know Storm wasn't allowed to tell
you anything, and I will explain it to you, but this isn't the place to talk."
Ash and Avalon followed Quaz, who had broken into a trot.
They stopped at the hill's base. Quaz looked
at the Gem with curiosity. "I wonder," he muttered. He looked at Avalon. "What
would happen if you felt a strong sense of worry about being followed?"
Bewildered, Avalon shrugged. "I dunno. I'll
try." And Avalon summoned his fear of being followed to the surface. Quaz smiled.
"Take a look at the Gem," he whispered. Avalon
looked down. The Gem was glowing a faint blue.
"Now, can you tell me what that means? No, don't
think about it. Feel it." Quaz was looking at Avalon expectantly.
Feeling foolish, Avalon focused on the light.
"There's nobody following us," he said abruptly, almost involuntarily. "We're
Quaz nodded. "Very good, very good. Well, here
we go." With a grunt, the old Kougra lifted a large, heart shaped black boulder
and tossed it aside. Avalon gasped. Beneath the black rock was a tunnel, large
enough for one of Scarback's massive shadow Gelerts to squeeze into.
Ash whistled. "I didn't know there was a tunnel
leading to Heartfelt!"
Quaz turned his golden eyes onto Ash. "You're
the stray who came here from the city, right?"
Ash blinked. "Yeah. How'd you-?"
"I know almost everyone on the Island, even
if they don't know me." Quaz smiled again. "But I don't know your name."
"Ash," the Lupe said, still looking surprised.
Quaz smiled and shook her paw. "And of course,"
he said, turning to the starry Kougra, "You'd be Avalon." Avalon nodded unnecessarily.
"Well, Avalon, if you'd followed Ash here, you'd
be across the Island. Heartfelt is a city. Heartfelt Cave is another place entirely."
And Quaz entered the tunnel, which sloped down. "Are you coming or not?" he
called, and Avalon and Ash leapt in.
They slid for a few feet downwards before stopping
on dirt. As they got up, Avalon saw Quaz press a button on the wall nearby.
Instantly, the heart shaped rock on the hill slid back into place, bringing
on sudden darkness. All Avalon could see of Ash and Quaz were their eyes.
"We could use some light," Quaz's voice said
pointedly. Avalon realized the Kougra's eyes were on him. For a moment, he wondered
why, then remembered the Gem. He tried bringing forward a will for light. The
gem gleamed white, lighting a narrow path.
"Alright then," Quaz said, stepping into the
beam of light. "Follow me. If you fall behind, you're going to get lost. These
tunnels were built to keep Gem hunters away from the Cave."
For an hour or so, Ash and Avalon followed Quaz's
bobbing, tan tail through the tunnel. The only sound was the padding of their
paws, and breathing. At last, Quaz stopped, and turned around.
"Alright," Quaz said, his eyes gleaming in the
Noil Gem's light. "We're going to enter the Cave, but I'm warning you: it's
going to feel like being dragged down into mud headfirst. If you struggle, you're
going to be kicked out of the entrance and not be able to enter again. So don't
try and get out, unless you want to be stuck in the tunnels forever. Understood?"
Ash and Avalon exchanged a nervous glance, but
nodded. Quaz turned, and the three began ascending a stone staircase, which
ended abruptly at the ceiling. It looked very solid to Avalon.
"Now," Quaz said, turning to look at them again.
"To get in, all you do is put a paw on the ceiling. And remember-don't struggle!"
And he touched his paw to the ceiling. It was like watching someone slurp a
slushie. Avalon's ears went flat against his skull, and Ash took a step back.
The Lupe and the Kougra stood silent for a moment,
but at last, Avalon climbed the top stair. "Okay," he muttered. "Here I go."
He closed his eyes tight, put one paw on the Noil Gem, and the other on the
Quaz had been right. It did feel like getting
sucked into mud. Except for the fact that he was sinking up, rather than down,
it was a lot like being in the swamp again. Seconds later, the feeling stopped,
and Avalon's paws hugged solid ground. He opened his eyes.
Heartfelt Cave was large and gray. The long
left and right walls were filled with at least forty glass display cases. Every
single one was loaded with different types of helmets, swords, and armor. The
case closest to Avalon had a bronze plaque labeled "Kougra", and inside were
several Kougra battle items; swords, helmets, even a pair of bright purple claws.
Avalon realized that each case contained a different species' weapons. For the
first time, Avalon realized that other species of Neopets must have guarded
the Noil Gem.
In a tiny corner was what appeared to be Quaz's
living area. A wooden desk was shoved into the corner, its surface brightly
polished oak. Near the desk was a large bed, covered in thick looking quilts
and blankets. Next to the circular, wooden table was a tall cabinet, with a
sturdy looking lock on it.
What was most interesting about Heartfelt Cave
was the center. The middle of the Cave was actually an entire field, grassy
and alive. A large chunk had been taken from the domed top, allowing sunlight
to fill the Cave. After the darkness of the tunnel, Avalon's eyes took a minute
There was an odd slurping noise, and Ash appeared
next to Avalon seconds later, looking ruffled. Her eyes widened at the sight
of the strange equipment and large field.
"I see you like the Cave," Quaz said cheerfully,
leaning against the wall between the cases of Draik and Elephante weaponry.
"This is a combination training field and headquarters. Several pets work with
the Guardians to defend the Gem. The Guardian Faerie, who I believe Avalon met
earlier, transports them to and from the Cave." Avalon realized that when Quaz
said "the Cave", he'd pronounced it like a city. Avalon could hear the capitol
C in Quaz's way of saying cave.
"You don't have a lot of living space," Ash
noted, pointing to the small corner with one paw.
Quaz shrugged. "Guardians don't spend much time
at their homes. They're often busy, whether it's training an apprentice or fighting
Scarback and those like him, things like that. Guardians can't be lazy. They've
got work to do."
"So this is what I'll have to do?" Avalon asked
glumly, studying the stone floor.
Quaz studied Avalon for a moment. "If I heard
correct, you were bored with your life as a house pet. You wanted something
exciting to happen. You wanted to do something better with your life than spend
it serving your parents."
Avalon looked up. "Do you know what happened
to my parents?" he asked, heart thumping.
Quaz looked worried. "No, we don't know. That
wasn't supposed to happen, Avalon. We were just as surprised as you were."
"Was this 'Guardian Faerie' tracking them?"
Ash asked. Avalon was touched by the Lupe's concern over two pets she'd never
"Yes," Quaz said. "But apparently, at the time
of their disappearance, the Guardian Faerie was giving you the Gem, and fighting
off Scarback's Gelerts."
"When my house burned down," Avalon said slowly,
"I think- I mean, I SAW a shadow Kougra. He had bright red eyes, like the Gelerts.
Quaz nodded, and sighed. "Yes, that's Scarback.
He's part ghost, part shadow. I don't know how those two colors mixed, but the
point is that they did. Anyways, we figured he was the one who burned your house
down. The Gem can't be burned by something as trivial as a fire, but if you
were dead, then Scarback would have no trouble getting it." Avalon didn't say
anything. He'd pretty much figured that out on his own.
"What about Storm?" he asked. Quaz's thoughtful
"I'm not sure. I wasn't worried about him before,
because I thought he'd be accompanying you to the Cave. And now, I don't want
to send in the Guardian Faerie. We don't need Scarback to know any more than
he already does about her and her powers. "
"Do you think the Gelerts got Storm?" Avalon
asked, annoyed at Quaz's elusive talk.
The old grinned wryly. "Storm doesn't look it,
but he's an amazing paw-to-paw fighter. Not so good with a sword, but Storm's
gotten himself out of sticky situations before."
"So," Avalon said after a moment, looking Quaz
right in the eye. "Why did you want me to come to Mystery Island?"
"You haven't figured that out yet?" Quaz raised
what passed for a Kougra's eyebrow. "You're the next Guardian! You're going
to need training, even if it is from an old, Korbaty coot like me!"
To be continued...