The Doctor's Tale: Part Four
"Ironic, isn't it?" Tad sighs after finishing off another drink. "How after feeling the pain of being locked away, I become Dr. Death and lock Neopets away for a living."
"But why?" you ask, feeling very confused. "Why did you have such a change of heart?"
Despondently, he replies, "It was not by choice..."
For three days and three nights I didn't see the Mutant Acara. I did, however, see the Hissi. Once a day, he would open the door a crack and slide a plate of mush over to me. I tried to eat it at first, but it was so horrid that I couldn't even swallow it. So I hid the plates in a convenient gap I had found between the stone bricks of the wall. I figured that there may come a time when they would be of use.
Through overhearing snippets of conversation, I learned that the Hissi's name was Apep and the Acara's name was Teivel. I also heard confirmation of one of my earlier assumptions; I was being held in a cave in Terror Mountain. Plus I gleaned insight to bits and pieces of my captors' personal lives.
For instance, Apep was always grumbling about the cold and how much he missed working in Mystery Island. Teivel usually followed these complaints with a snide remark along the lines of "If you hadn't been so careless, we wouldn't be stuck on this miserable ice block".
Unfortunately, I didn't gain the info I had been specifically listening for. Neither Apep nor Teivel revealed anything about why I had been kidnapped or whether they planned on letting me go any time soon. But I continued to use my sharp ears, which had been trained from years of listening for danger in the Meridell countryside, to make notes of every bit of info I heard. My guess was that eventually Apep would let something slip. If and when he did, I'd be ready.
On the fourth day, Teivel made an appearance. I was slumped against the wall, pretending to be asleep. Starving and sleep-deprived, I was in no mood to deal with the Mutant Acara.
My faint hope that he would leave me to my slumber was quickly crushed.
"Get up," he ordered. Weakly, I stumbled to my feet. He spun around and stalked out of the room, clearly expecting me to follow. I hesitated for a moment. But I came to the conclusion that I was in no state to fight. So I dutifully exited my prison.
I found myself in a narrow stone hallway. The ground was covered in a thin layer of snow, which chilled my bare feet. Apep was waiting just outside the door. As soon as I was out, he slammed it shut.
"What about Sym?" I asked. "Why can't he come?"
"We don't need that little pest slowing us down," Teivel scoffed, beginning to walk down the hallway. When I didn't immediately follow, Apep prodded me in the back. Slowly, I walked after Teivel.
I didn't talk for the remainder of the walk. Instead, I took note of my surroundings. The only visible door in the hallway besides the one that lead to my cell was one at the end of the hall. Which meant no escape routes. I sighed. My situation here just kept getting worst.
Teivel stopped in front of the door at the end of the hallway. He pivoted so that he was facing me and Apep, then instructed the latter, "Keep him here until I come back. I just have a few last minute checks."
Apep grunted in acknowledgement as Teivel disappeared behind the door. I wondered briefly what was in store for me. Perhaps a different cell to lock me in?
The door opened a crack, and Teivel's voice floated out. "Bring him in."
I gulped as Apep grabbed my arm and dragged me through the doorway. I couldn't have been more surprised by the scene that met my eyes.
The door opened into a palatial room. Huge brass chandeliers hung from the ceiling and illuminated the beautiful tapestries on the walls. A long polished wood table stood in the center of the room. It was laid out with every gourmet food imaginable, from Angry Cinnamon Rolls to Zeenana Splits.
I blinked, thinking that such a wonderful vision had to be a combination of my hunger and exhaustion. But the food remained, its tantalizing aroma tempting me.
Teivel was seated at the head of the table, looking straight at me. But his face was devoid of the usual sneer.
"Let me officially welcome you here, Tadherd. I apologize for your less than pleasant treatment earlier, but it was all a necessary procedure. Now I offer you this feast to make it up to you."
Teivel's smile appeared sincere, and his voice was sweet as honey. In all respects, he seemed to be truly sorry for what had occurred over the past three days. But then, that's how all villains appeared when they had a nasty trick up their sleeve.
"You've kidnapped me, locked me up, and threatened me. Why should I trust you?" I asked, suspicion creeping into my eyes. Teivel merely chuckled.
"How right you are," he agreed, raising his unsightly paws up in mock surrender. "I wouldn't blame you if you walked away right now. But if it means anything, I can assure you that I am not trying to do anything to harm you."
I watched warily as the Mutant Acara lifted a fork loaded with food to his mouth. With a smile, he began to chew. I didn't dare blink, afraid that he may try to spit it out. But Teivel swallowed it.
"You see?" he smiled. "Nothing terrible has befallen me. And to further prove to you my sincerity..." Teivel looked at Apep meaningfully. I felt the ties that bound my hands loosen, and then heard a thump as they fell to the floor.
My mind was working furiously. It was possible that Teivel had prepared special food for his own consumption, and then poisoned food to feed me. But then again, why would he go to so much trouble? He could have easily forced poison into me when I was locked up. And besides, how much longer could I go without food? As for the ropes, the two could easily overpower me to retie them. But then again, I was much quicker. My head spinning, I made my decision.
Slowly, I sat down in the chair opposite of Teivel. I took a forkful of the nearest dish and looked at it. Bangers and Mash, if I wasn't mistaken.
Here goes nothing, I thought, taking a bite.
It was delicious. I hadn't ever tasted anything so good, besides Lyla's pies, of course. Throwing all of my previous caution to the wind, I began digging in.
While I ate, Teivel explained that every once in a while, if I was good, then I would be granted the privilege of eating like King Skarl. And eventually I might earn the pleasure of sleeping in an actual room instead of my cell. I nodded enthusiastically when he said this, although I didn't believe a word of it. Why would Teivel kidnap me just to give me luxuries?
The only option that wasn't offered was going back home. When I asked why, Teivel began to talk again of creation and destiny. I was beginning to feel drowsy after eating so much, so I kind of tuned him out. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but at the time I really wasn't in the mood to listen to my captor justify my imprisonment.
I left the dining hall that evening feeling fuller than I ever had. After the meal, Teivel had regrettably informed me that I had to return to my cell with my arms bound. When I asked for the reason, he again explained that it was all "necessary procedure". He had then hastened to remind me that this was only a temporary arrangement if I was a "good boy". He spoke as if I was just a child in Neoschool and not his prisoner.
I still didn't trust him or Apep, but I had come to face the fact that I was stuck here. However, I had thought of something to do that would at least improve someone's life.
As Apep shut the door behind me, I couldn't help smiling mischievously. While I had been stuffing my face, an idea had occurred to me. I knew that it would be impossible for me to escape. The crevices I had spotted outside my cell were too small for even the smallest Neopet to crawl through.
However, they were just the right size for a Puppyblew.
After much begging, Teivel had allowed me to bring some food for Sym. He hungrily gulped it down, then nestled next to me. I absentmindedly stroked his back, working out the last few kinks in my plan.
I waited for what I assumed was a couple hours. Then, I began to scratch Sym in his favorite spot. His tail began to wag, soon becoming a blur of color and fur.
Just as I had planned, his tail whipped at the ropes. Within seconds, the mere motion had frayed the ropes. A couple more seconds and Sym's tail had sliced right through his binding.
Sym stared at his hind legs in surprise. Realizing he was free, he flipped for joy and covered my hands with grateful licks. I felt a tug at my heart, but I knew without a doubt that this was the only way.
"Sym," I whispered, getting his attention. My little Puppyblew, the best friend a Neopet could ask for, looked up at me with loving eyes. "Outside this door is a hallway. If you go straight ahead, there's a split in the wall. You should be able to squeeze through it. Once you're through, I want you to go to the nearest house you find. I'll try to come and find you. But if something-" here I gulped, knowing the impact of my next words. "-goes wrong, don't come back for me. No matter what, I want you to stay where you're safe and warm."
Sym nodded, his eyes filling with determination. I knew that he understood the importance of my words.
"And you have to promise me one thing," I added, holding his head in my hands. "Promise that you won't forget me. Ever. Know that I'll always love you. You're my best friend, and that will never change."
Sym held my gaze. Though he could speak no words, his thoughts were clear.
I love you too, Tad.
My timing was perfect. Just as I gave Sym a hug goodbye, Apep opened the door to deliver my breakfast. I grabbed the plates of mush that I had been saving and tossed them with all my might at the Hissi. Two of them hit their mark.
"Argh!" Apep hissed, scraping the mess out of his eyes. But it was too late.
As soon as the plates were out of my hand, Sym had bolted out the door. I watched with a mixture of relief and sadness as he wiggled through the opening. For a second I saw his eye peek back, filled with love and sorrow for what had to be. But then it was gone.
The next few hours were torture. Apep was furious that he had been tricked, Teivel was outraged that Sym had gotten away, and I was the punching bag for their wrath.
That night, I found myself in complete solitude. Both my hands and feet had been bound, and the filthy bag was back over my head. The worst, however, was the aching pain that tore me apart from the inside. For I knew that I would never see Sym again. I hadn't the heart to tell him that I would not be escaping to find him. Somehow though, I knew that Sym had understood without needing to hear the words.
And as much as it hurt me, I knew I wouldn't be able to bear it if Sym had to endure the miserable life that I was sure to have as prisoner here. I had set him free for the noblest reasons; it was better this way.
But no matter how many times I thought it, I couldn't forget all the times we spent together, or the look in his eyes as he said his final goodbye.
To be continued...