Eye of the Crokabek: Part Two
The Sway! Tim gulped as he scrambled through the tunnels of Moltara on his way back to the surface. No wonder everyone was too frightened to talk about it. But what could one Yurble like Tim do against the might of the Sway?
It did cross his mind briefly that he could just walk away and leave them to it. But Igneot was right. The Moltarans were in no position to do anything about this situation themselves.
Igneot had explained how Mayor Dilbert had mysteriously disappeared a few days ago. Instead, some young Wocky, who seemed to have sprung from nowhere, had taken office. From what Igneot had gathered, it seemed there'd been a failed attempt by the townspeople to address the situation. And now everyone was too scared to even lift a finger against the new mayor.
Igneot didn't know very much about the new mayor. And if the townspeople did, they certainly weren't telling. But Igneot suspected there were strong ties to the Sway. And so did Tim.
Now, taking on the Sway wasn't something Tim would normally do. He wasn't that kind of a guy. But this time Moltara needed him. They needed an outsider. And it needed to be someone they trusted. Tim was the right Yurble for the job. If he was honest with himself, Tim knew he would've done his best to help them anyway. But the fact that he was the only one who could was an added incentive.
Thoughts of Moltara plagued Tim all that afternoon and evening. What could he do? He had no idea what to do, where to start, who to turn to...
Phil. Tim picked himself up off his couch with a renewed sense of purpose. Phil would help him. Phil normally had good ideas. And he was always up for an adventure. Especially if there was plenty of danger involved.
Two minutes later, Tim was ringing the doorbell of his friend's neohome. The Yellow Krawk opened the door and blinked twice at the sight of Tim on his doorstep. “It's a Tim.” Phil observed pointlessly, “Did you want to come inside?”
Phil led him into the lounge room and got them both a hot drink.
“So...” said Phil some time later as he reclined on a couch sipping a fragrant mug of Borovan. Tim let the silence stretch for a moment and shook a few crumbs from a biscuit he was eating.
“Did you want to talk about something?” Phil asked again in a sort of disinterested tone. He wasn't actually disinterested. That was just Phil's way of talking. But Tim was used to it.
Tim cast an anxious glance at the open window. “Could we close that?” he asked Phil.
Phil shrugged and picked himself up off the lounge chair. “Sure,” he said. He walked to the window and shut it. Tim followed him and drew the curtains tight as well. Phil gave him a mildly puzzled look.
“Worried your fan club will find you?” he asked with a grin. Tim just shook his head and walked back to his chair. Phil was always going on about his non-existent 'fan club'. It was a bit ridiculous really.
“No,” he said, “Its just... there's something fishy going on, and I don't want to run the risk of being overheard.”
Phil looked at him with renewed seriousness. But before Tim could explain any further, the doorbell rang again. Tim jumped visibly.
“Oh no, Tim! It's your fan club! They've found you!” Phil teased.
Tim gave him an unimpressed look. Phil had the good grace to look a little apologetic. Then he turned to go and answer the door. He returned a few moments later with a Green Vandagyre in his wake.
“It wasn't your fan club, Tim, just the paparazzi,” he grinned.
“Marta!” Tim exclaimed, and rose to greet her, “What are you doing here?”
Marta was an old friend of Phil and Tim's. She did sometimes write for the Neopian Times, but she was by no means 'paparazzi'.
“Well, I called at your house to ask if I could borrow your space trooper armour – my brother needs some for a dress up,” she explained, “You weren't in, obviously. But your mum told me I'd find you here.”
She looked curiously at the closed window and drawn curtains. “What's going on here?” she asked, puzzled.
“That's what Tim was about to tell me when we were rudely interrupted” said Phil with a grin. He had just returned with a glass of cold water for Marta.
“Not rudely” Marta corrected. Phil rolled his eyes.
“You okay if Marta hears too?” he asked Tim.
“Yeah, why not,” Tim shrugged. Marta might prove to be a valuable person to have on board.
Tim looked contemplatively into his tea.
“So what's up?” asked Phil.
Tim released a big pent up breath and launched into the story. He told them of the strange goings-on in Moltara: the depressed mood, the new mayor, the people's fear. He also told them of his suspicion that the Sway were behind it all. “And I guess that could be why I ran into a flock of Crokabeks roosting in the dark cave,” Tim added, “The Sway use them as messengers, don't they?”
“Oh, that makes so much more sense now,” breathed Marta. Tim shot her a quizzical look. “That's why there was a random Crokabek following me here.”
“WHAT?!?” Tim slapped the arms of his chair in shock and sat bolt upright, his heart racing. “Why didn't you say something?!” he exclaimed, hurrying across the room to the window.
Phil raised his eyebrows “Uhh, maybe because she didn't know it was relevant or something, I don't know.”
Tim peered furtively through the curtains, looking for any sign of a Crokabek. Fortunately there was none.
“So what do we do now?” Marta asked Tim.
“I dunno, eat pizza?” Phil chuckled. He was lying on his couch as casually as you please. Tim and Marta were both on edge. They looked at Phil, disbelieving. “I dunno, it just sounds like it's all too much effort if you ask me,” Phil joked.
“But, Phil,” Marta began, “The Moltarans need outside help, don't you see–”
Phil held up his hands in an appeasing gesture, “Calm down, calm down,” he said, “I was only joking.”
Tim grinned at him. But Marta gave Phil a look of disapproval, then dismissed him and turned back to Tim.
“Well,” said Tim, returning to the topic of 'what next', “I think I'm definitely going to have to go back to Moltara and gather some more information.”
“I'll come with you,” Marta said immediately.
Tim wasn't the least bit surprised. Marta had never been one to sit in the background while others did the hard work.
“But I'm thinking we shouldn't go 'till tomorrow,” he added, “It'd look pretty suspicious to be creeping around at night time.”
“Well we'd better get a good night's sleep, then,” Phil commented.
“Oh, are you joining us Phil?” asked Tim in mock surprise.
“Yeah, 'course. You think I'm actually going to sit here and do nothing while you guys go off and save the world?” he rolled his eyes at them.
Tim had expected no less. Regardless of what he might say, Phil would always be up for an adventure.
“In the mean time, anyone keen for pizza?” Phil asked hopefully. With him it was always about the food.
The sky was just starting to grow light the next morning when Tim, Phil and Marta all met at Phil's front gate. Tim and Marta were putting up a decent pretence of being awake. Phil wasn't bothering. He yawned widely at regular intervals. Silence reigned. Phil and Marta looked to Tim expectantly.
“Cool” said Tim, nervously – That was his way of starting a sentence when he knew people were listening to him. He dumped his pack on the grass and started to sort through. “Yep, so I've got together a couple of things we might need... a compass, rope, other rescue equipment, some weapons, and a couple more things I thought might come in handy...”
“Is there any food?” Phil asked hopefully.
“That's in your pack,” Tim told him, pointing to another large pack by the gate. Phil grunted, then hefted it experimentally.
“It's actually not that heavy,” he assured them.
Tim shrugged. The two packs were a comparable weight. He had made it that way on purpose.
“Is there one for me?” Marta asked, “You know, just 'cos I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't carry things,” she said reprovingly.
“I know,” Tim told her, “You can give us a break from carrying when we get tired.”
“It's all good, I'll be right,” Phil said hurriedly.
Marta rolled her eyes. Classic Phil.
“Cool. So is there anything I've forgotten?” Tim asked
Phil turned to Tim and shook his head, content. “Nup, sounds like you've got it all covered,” he said approvingly. The Yurble really did know what he was on about.
“Cool. Well let's get going,” said Tim.
And together the three friends set off for Moltara.
They reached their destination just as the sun was beginning to peek above the horizon. The surface entrance to Moltara stood in front of them. Tall and imposing. And it was guarded.
“Welp,” said Phil. “This complicates things.”
To be continued…