Petpet Adventures: Let It Snow - Part Six
Flurries of snow drifted to land on Tvarla's nose, back and antlers. She looked up at the sky and relaxed. No sign of a storm up there. But there was one below, and it consisted of two furious pets fighting over a negg.
Now all three petpets were making their way to where the smoke had once billowed. By now it had stopped completely, and they had to rely on Askar's memory to find their way. Tvarla followed the Polarchuck, who had obviously been here before, and soon a cave could be seen up ahead.
The entrance was obscured by clefts of rock that jutted out from the slope, but with careful scouting they found it. It took a bit more careful scouting and a bit of agility to actually reach it, but when they did, they weren't disappointed at what they found outside.
It was similar to the main cave of the Ice Caves, probably a result of once having been joined to them. But now it was just a massive cavern. Huge spears of ice that looked like pure crystals extended from the walls, all facing inwards to the centre.
The negg was nowhere in sight, but Tvarla could just make out a side tunnel between two stalagmites that jutted out of the ground, looking for all the world like two pillars guarding a doorway. She waved at it, and silently they walked towards it.
It seemed only natural to be hushed in such a large and awe inspiring cavern, so the only sound was the rhythmic dripping of water and their cautious steps. The side tunnel was totally dark, apart from a small spear of light extending half a metre into it. Tvarla stopped and frowned. It seemed only natural that the negg would be hidden in a hard to access side passage, but they couldn't go in there without a light.
There was a small crackle of ice being crushed, and Tvarla jumped and spun around in one smooth movement. Standing behind them was the largest Bori yet, holding a flaming torch in one black and white paw.
It seemed puzzled by their presence, and Tvarla understood that no one had expected a petpet to come looking. That gave all three of them the moment needed to grapple the Bori to the floor.
Ice skittered everywhere as the three petpets plus one Bori crashed to the ground in a huge tangle of fur, paws and hooves. Tvarla found herself with her antlers digging into its ribs. Beside her Askar scrambled to hold the slashing front paws away from the Gwalla attached to its tail.
Then there was a great heave, and it wasn't just ice that scattered everywhere, it was petpets. Tvarla smashed into one of the two pillars, generating a huge crack. She frantically checked her body for injuries, then she realised that the pillar had snapped into two, one half suspended in the air above her.
The Bori was backed up into the tunnel, watching in three separate directions for the start of another attack. It still looked confused. Askar was crouched on the ground, and a few metres away Emari was flying to and fro in the air, distracting the Bori for a few short seconds while Askar crept closer.
Tvarla located the torch, which had rolled only centimetres away from the column, and was resting on the ice, melting it into a small puddle of water. She edged towards it, and the Bori's eyes flickered to gaze at her.
Askar started running, and the Bori was ready to turn away until Tvarla began to charge also, concentrating on keeping its eyes away from the Polarchuck. Askar impacted first, then Tvarla, and their combined weight knocked the white pet into the darkness of the tunnel.
She froze, eyes adjusting gradually to the darkness. She didn't want to walk unwittingly into a wall, but the Bori staggered sideways and there was a loud thud that echoed along the tunnel eerily. Tvarla turned to the light from the cavern that was shining into her eyes.
"Emari, grab the torch," she shouted as loudly as she could, and then winced as the sound returned to her ears magnified tenfold and the icicles trembled around them.
There was a scuffling noise, a loud scrape and then a small ball of light was drifting down the tunnel towards her, looking for all the world like a floating ball of fire. It illuminated the slumped white furry creature leaning against the wall.
Emari dropped the torch and landed, panting heavily. "Do you know how heavy that thing is?" she puffed.
Tvarla eyed it. "I can imagine."
"Don't any of you care where I am?" came the unsteady voice of Askar. A ball of white peeled itself away from the Bori and staggered over. "Do you know how heavy a full-grown Bori is when its lying on top of you?" he asked, his voice touched with sarcasm.
"Ah..." was all Tvarla could manage to say.
"I guess you can imagine that as well," he said, disgruntled. "But you're likely never to experience it for yourself. If you're lucky."
"Out of all the times you could start an argument, you choose now?" Emari cut in as Tvarla opened her mouth.
Tvarla harrumphed and nosed the torch. "I'll roll this along, seeing as both of you seem to have done your share of weightlifting today."
Askar nodded and began padding slowly down the passage, stopping every so often to sniff the air or test the ice. Tvarla soon became tired of rolling the huge wooden object along, and her hooves were beginning to reek of the oil that was leaking out. She kept going, as ahead light began to illuminate their passage.
Finally the tunnel came to an end, and another cavern, this one much smaller, opened up in front of them..
This one was much different. For a start, there were no sharp ice daggers protruding from either the roof or the floor. Secondly there was snow drifting around them, having broken in from a hole in the roof. Several tunnels branched away from them on all sides. Lastly, a huge pyramid of ice cubes reaching almost to the roof was stacked in front of them.
"What is that?" Tvarla asked.
The torch rolled away, but Tvarla left it. The light from the roof was enough to see by, anyway. Looking closer, Tvarla could see one side of the pyramid had been melted, stills steaming slightly. Maybe it had been steam they had seen from their cave down the mountain, not smoke.
"I have no idea," said Emari, taking a hesitant step closer.
Askar was frozen still, a look of absolute incredulity plastered on his face. That was along with recognition and a twinge of pain for an unknown reason.
"I remember this," he said.
"What?" Tvarla asked. "We've never been here before."
Askar ignored her, creeping slowly up to the massive structure, so slowly that it looked like he thought it would burn him. He ran a paw through the snow dusting the floor and looked up.
"My brother and I discovered this," he whispered. "One day we found a hole that was filled with ice, so we ate through it, as us Polarchucks do. When we were done we had cleared out the entire cave, leaving that hole in the top."
Tvarla looked closer, and noticed that some of the blocks of ice had different hues from the others around them. One was pink, one blue, and near the very bottom there were green and orange.
"Who made all this?" she asked. Then, "What brother?"
Askar avoided the second question. "I have no idea who made it, but once we started munching the ice, we decided to clear the entire cave, just to see what was inside. Then one day Vrailli came in and saw us..." His voice faded away.
Emari was up close to the blocks by now, examining them carefully. "Could a pet lift these blocks?" she asked.
Askar jerked out of his reverie. "Yes," he said finally.
"So the negg could be buried inside?" Emari queried.
"I suppose," Askar mumbled, seeming to forget his mumblings from before. Or if he remembered, he was deliberately hiding it.
"You think Vrailli put the negg in there?" Tvarla asked Emari dubiously.
"It's a possibility. And it can't be too far in, just so that only he and his Bori could get it out."
"Well, doesn't he think he's smart?" Askar growled, leaping forward and gripping a block of greenish ice in a pair of sharp claws. "But not smart enough."
With that he bit down onto the ice. Despite it being the size of his head, the ice cube immediately disappeared, leaving a large gap. Then the gap was filled by another falling ice cube. Tvarla watched in fascination as Askar made short work of ten blocks in twenty seconds. She turned to exchange a shocked look with her Gwalla friend, who was now perched on the pyramid, scanning through the ice
"I see something to your left!" she shouted, and Askar changed his course to follow her directions.
Soon Tvarla could only see a transparent tunnel in the blocks, which her friend swiftly disappeared into. She jumped onto the pyramid and could see the form of a Polarchuck a good three metres in, munching away.
"Doesn't he ever get full?" she asked no one in particular.
"I guess it's only water," Emari murmured. "You've gone too far! To the right now!" she yelled, and Tvarla was thankful that there were no icicles in the cave.
Askar moved according to her instructions, going towards anything that didn't match the ice. This time he was headed towards a light blue and green object. He reached the ice cube, then froze, backpedaling fast, although not for a reason Tvarla could see. The next moment he had burst out of his tunnel with a short, tube shaped thing not far behind, growling angrily.
It had razor sharp teeth and tiny pinhole eyes, which glared at him, and then all of them as a group. A thin, weedy voice emitted from its mouth.
"What are you doing stealing my precious treasure?"
Tvarla noticed that the Wurm had now curled itself around a small green gem, the type that most pets would fight over. But the only good virtue it had that she could see was that it was shiny, and ice was as good a substitute for it as any.
"We're not stealing your treasure," Askar panted. "I'm looking for a negg."
The Wurm glared at him suspiciously. "A negg, eh?" it said after a moment. "Now what would a nice petpet like you want with an old negg?"
"What would a respectable petpet like you be doing with a useless gemstone?" Emari quipped back.
The black pinpricks beamed their gaze towards her. "I'm keeping it away from them pets. Just like the Snowager keeps his whole cave away from them. Most of the time."
"Well, the Snowager sent us here," Tvarla said, reluctant to draw the prickly gaze towards her, but talking anyway. "He lost the negg and we need to find it."
The Wurm seemed to relax at the mention of the name. "The Snowager lost something? I thought she kept everything under lock and key."
"He," Askar corrected, "the Snowager's a male."
"Is he now?" the Wurm sounded curious. "I must have been frozen for longer than I thought."
"What do you mean?" Tvarla asked.
The Wurm glared at her, then smiled wryly. "If the Snowager wanted to tell you, the Snowager would tell you. Incidentally, I know nothing about the subject, and if you don't mind, I'll be on my way."
It slithered away, leaving the gemstone behind. Tvarla opened her mouth to tell it, but then it was gone. But before it disappeared from sight, it shouted over its back.
"Keep going, Mister Polarchuck. Straight out in front."
Askar looked at Tvarla. "So he told us where the negg is, I think."
Emari nodded. "That was nice. Well, you'd better go and find it."
Askar sighed and turned back to the pyramid.
To be continued...