Tal lay, sleeping, in a tall oak tree. An electric blue claw dangled over the branch, sunlight peering at her through the leaves. Unaware of her actions, Tal turned to her side, falling from the tree into a blackberry patch. She awoke with a start, leaping from the thorny bush. She rubbed her back where small prickers were inserted, sighing sorely.
"Ow..." she murmered.
She shook her head and walked forward, stopping now and then to pick a thorn from her claws. She continued until she came across a ravine. She peered down the cliff to spy a river of gushing water. Tal could hear movement behind her. Turning quickly, her eyes laid upon a bedraggled Krawk.
He had cuts all over his black-scaled body, and his eyes were tired and miserable. "Are you okay?!" asked Tal, wide-eyed. The Krawk didn't answer; instead, he leaned forward, then fell. Tal caught him and asked, "What are you doing here?! We need to get you to a hospital!" Tal glanced around fretfully, hoping for some path or sign leading to medication. Seeing none, she pushed the Krawk onto her back and carried him to her village.
After a mile of walking, Tal was beginning to become aware of the Krawk's weight on her shoulders, his heavy breaths. She urged herself to go on, and a moment later, arrived at the village. Children were playing, elderly feeding the pidgeons from benches. Tal dragged the Krawk to the healing shack. She placed him onto a bed and asked the Old Techo Healer to help him. He nodded and started pressing some herbs to the stranger's wounds.
Tal left the hut, sweaty and exhausted. She left for her home, knowing the Krawk would take at least a day to heal. She sat on her bed and dumped her feet into some ice-cold water. She rested her back on some pillows, sighing. How had that Krawk even made it to the ravine? How had he gotten hurt so badly? Those were Tal's thoughts as she sat on her bed in deep concentration. She shifted her position a little, making herself more comfortable. Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream was heard, followed by the sound of shattering glass. Tal sat upright and bolted out the door.
The village was empty. Every soul had retreated into their houses, all but the Old Techo Healer, who lay dead on the ground, crimson liquid pouring from his mouth. Tal screamed as the Krawk sprang out of the healing shack, eyes red. His bared fangs were bloody and the smell of evil wafted through the air. "...No!" cried Tal as the Krawk sped toward her, claws outstretched.
The Krawk dropped in midair. He lay, motionless, at Tal's feet. Tal whimpered slightly, then glanced around to see what had happened. She saw an old Wocky holding a staff, glaring at her. The two just stared each other down for a moment, and then it dawned on Tal.
"...I wasn't with him!" screeched Tal defencivly, "He was trying to kill me!"
"Excuses, excuses," yawned the Wocky boredly, "You brought him in, you take him out. Now go, before he kills anybody else."
Tal was stunned. "Where am I supposed to take him?" she asked annoyedly. "He'll kill me before we get anywhere."
"See for yourself," said the old Wocky. She turned tail and entered her cabin.
"Well..." muttered Tal, staring at the sleeping Krawk, "Looks like it's you and me, pal."
The Krawk eventually woke up, but he didn't look or act like before. His eyes were deep blue, and his black scales were nice and jewel-like because of the Old Techo Healer. His teeth were still blood-stained, but they weren't as menacing as the night before. He and Tal just looked blankly at each other for a while until Rommy spoke.
"So, er... got a name?" she asked with a cock of her head.
The stranger didn't speak for a moment; after a while, he finally muttered, "...Raytu."
Tal clapped and grinned, "And I'm Tal!" She suddenly eyed Raytu and shot at him, "So, Mr. Raytu, why did you attack my village?"
Raytu looked alarmed at this last remark. "I don't remember attacking any village," he cried, arms crossed, "You're making things up."
"Are not!" Tal yelled angrily. Oooh, he was getting on her nerves.
"Quit denying the truth!" he shouted at her. One more lie and-
"I hate liars," said Tal, glaring at Raizu. "So I hate you."
"Fine," retorted Raytu coolly, "than I guess we'll go our seperate ways."
"Done!" cried Tal instantly. And so Tal went off toward the canyon, Raytu left to the forest.
"Hmph," muttered Raytu smugly, "stupid girl. She won't last a day without me... She knows nothing of this world..."
"Hmph," muttered Tal smugly, "stupid boy. He can't survive... When I found him, he was near death..."
"I don't need HER around..."
"I don't need HIM around..."
Tal was on her way to the canyon when she heard footsteps behind her. She laughed and said, "I knew you'd come running back to me." She turned around and screamed. It wasn't Raytu... it was the EVIL Raytu! :O
"No... Don't hurt me!" Tal screamed, holding her paws up to her face, "I didn't mean it! Honestly! I didn't mean to--"
But she broke off in mid-sentance, for she could hear a tiny, cold voice, hissing, "Kill her... Raytu, kill her..."
'So... he's being told what to do...' thought Tal, dodging a blow from Raytu. 'If only I knew who, than I could-'
Raytu had scratched Tal deeply and sent her flying toward the end of the cliff, where she clung with one small claw, the other searing with pain. "Kill her... Throw her off..." hissed the voice determinedly.
"No... Please, no..." pleaded Tal, watching Raytu, tears welling up in her eyes. He rose his claws, but then looked into Tal's eyes. A strange sweep of emotion came over him... why was he killing his saviour? What was he doing?
He grabbed Tal's paw and cried, "I won't let you go!"
"Forget the speech and pull me up!" called Tal fearfully.
Raytu did as he was told and soon Tal was on the ledge, standing on her feet.
"Beautiful ground, beautiful ground," chanted Tal. She turned to Raytu and asked, "So, why the change of heart?"
He paused for a moment and then replied, "I don't know... didn't seem right..."
"You didn't seem to care when you were destroying my village..." answered Tal lazily, stretching her claws.
Raytu sighed and looked to the ground. "...I guess I care now..."
Suddenly, a green mist in the shape of a ring rose from Raytu's chest. Tal took one glance at the ring and memories started to fill her mind... Tal collapsed on the rocky cliffs.
"Get out of here!"
"Go faster, Ta- AAHHHH!!!"
"Tal, wake up!"
When Tal woke up, she was lying in a bed, in a cold place. The Snow Faerie was looking down at her gently, Raytu was looking at her in relief.
"Tal! I thought you'd never wake up!" he cried.
"You've been out cold for three days," said the Snow Faerie, "Raytu says you fainted on a ravine. He carried you all the way here, to Terror Mountain. He says he didn't know any place to go other than to cross the ocean...
"Well, now that you're better, I'd better see a Lenny about some food for you two, hmm?" And she turned to leave.
"Thank you, Ms. Snow Faerie," piped up Tal in a small voice.
"Please, dear, call me Taelia. I'm off!" replied Taelia, leaving the room.
A minute passed by and neither Krawk spoke. Finally, Raytu said, "So - erk - why'd you faint, anyway?"
Tal drew in a breath and answered, "I... remembered. That ring... It was possesing someone else in my village... I can't believe I didn't realize it until now. That ring... killed my family."
"I'm sorry..." mumbled Raytu apologetically.
"Why?" asked Tal quizzically, "You can't control yourself... My turn for questions, though."
"Shoot," replied Raytu.
"Well... I know I just said you can't control youself when you're being possesed, but... well... you did... to save me..."
"What about it?" asked Raytu, "I overcame it. So what?"
"You cared about me..." answered Tal, "And... I don't how to say this but..."
Tal stretched her arms and yawned. "Good to be out of there," she said. She smiled as she made prints in the snow and ran around a lot. She went down the mountainside and into a beautiful cavern of ice. Children were singing, others having snowball fights, others just goofing around. Tal smiled and thought, 'What a nice place...' She trotted to a crystal cave and watched it sparkling peacefully. A negg rolled out of the cave and Tal picked it up.
"Mmmm, I'm starving!"
Tal took a bite of the succulent negg, then another. It tasted very sweet, but crunchy. When she had finished her negg, Tal wanted another. She entered the cave where the negg had rolled out from and went through many twists and turns. She finally came across the biggest treasure ever; there was more than just neggs. There was plushies, toys, food, neopoints, faeries, there was a fortune invested here! She glanced up and saw a huge, snake-like monster, apparently asleep. It was crystal and see-through, like ice. Tal could feel it's hot breaths in her face and she silently picked up a few more neggs and some faeries. She tiptoed out of the cave, but one of the beast's eyes opened.
It let out a bellowing roar and started slithering after her. She gasped and ran full-speed away. She couldn't remember which way she had come, she was getting lost, and to make it all worse (if that was possible), the monster's roar had made the icicles on the cave's ceiling soar down, shattering into millions of pieces. Tal dropped her goods and ran on all fours.
"Faster, Tal! Faster!" yelled Raytu at the cave's entrance. "He's gaining!"
Tal ran harder still and jumped through a small hole in the wall, which the beast crashed into. A scowl on it's face, it slithered back to it's treasure.
"That... was close..." breathed Tal heavily.
Suddenly, another icicle dislodged itself from the ceiling and came crashing down toward Raytu.
"WATCH OUT!" screamed Tal.
"Wha...?" asked Raytu, but Tal had already pushed him out of the way. The icicle stabbed Rommy in her side. She let out a howl of pain, and clutched her side, which had grown red.
A second later, Taelia arrived with an expression of worry on her face. "I heard the commotion from the peak," she cried, squatting beside Tal, "but I didn't think it could possibly be you two. But you're hurt, and we need to get you to my home..."
Taelia held Tal in her arms and carried her up to the mountain's peak, and back into her house. She set her down on the bed and started wrapping bandages around Tal's wounds. "Honestly..." she muttered, "We've told the Snowager not to get so emotional..."
When Taelia had finished, Tal tried to get up but Raytu held her down.
"Hey, Raytu," she said, "I wanna get up."
"No way!" Raytu cried, "You're hurt pretty bad. You need to lie down."
"I'm fine," grumbled Tal, but she stayed down. Taelia and Raytu sat with Tal until slight snores could be heard. Raytu and Taelia left her to sleep and went to their own rooms.
Tal found herself in the middle of a grimy street. She stood on her feet and glanced around. Old, rotting buildings were covered in mud and slime, the street paved with gunk. Tal didn't know why she was here, and this place sent a chill down her spine.
Suddenly, she felt like she was soaring in the night sky. The stars twinkled at her curiously as she flew above the dirty street. Her stomach was doing acrobatics, and the whole sensation of flying was really enchanting. A little voice hissed, "Kill her... Tal, kill her..."
Suddenly, Tal came back to reality. She was looking straight into the eyes of... herself! There was a little Krawk that looked exactly like Tal curled up, whimpering. She had the same markings and everything. But Rommy could care less. She'd do anything to get that floaty feeling back...
"A quick stab... Your death will be painless, Tal, and no one will ever know who killed you..."
Tal, unaware of what she was doing, rose her paw in the air, spreading out her knife-like claws. She was bringing it straight down, to her double's death, to her own death...
Tal opened her eyes. The sheets and blankets of her bed had been thrown all around her. She was sweaty and hot, and her heart was thumping like mad.
"Tal! You were tossing and turning uncontrollably... You wouldn't wake up..." cried Raytu, his face pale. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah... yeah, I'm fine... Just a bad dream..." lied Tal.
Tal didn't want to tell Raytu about her nightmare... she didn't think it was normal. He might think she was crazy if she told him.
"You're a sore liar," replied Raytu, his arms crossed.
"I said I was fine!" shouted Tal, "Why don't you believe me?!"
"Fine, have it your way," answered Raytu, turning to leave. "I was only trying to help."
As soon as Rommy was completely healed, Taelia packed them a bit of food and they set off. As they journied down the mountainside, Tal caught a glimpse of the Snowager's cave. It was badly damaged. Rommy sighed and trotted forward. She glanced at Raytu, who was walking toward the exit with his face straight. 'Is he still on speaking terms with me?' Tal wondered, watching Raytu.
Suddenly, the cavern shook. "Wha...?" asked Rommy, but the icy ground was already splitting down the middle. "Raytu!" she yelled, reaching her claw over the giant crack for Raytu's. Their claws just barely touched each other's, and soon broke free. "No!!!" she screamed before everything went black as she tumbled down the crevice.
CHOMP. CHOMP. CHOMP. PULLLLL.
"Ow!" shouted Tal as something started chewing her tail.
"Get offa me!" she cried, pushing a dinosaur-like neopet away from her. It was still holding Tal's tail in it's mouth.
"Owww!" yelled Tal, pulling her ear out of it's mouth. The neopet gave her a toothy grin and ran off. She massaged her slobbery tail and muttered, "My torture's never gonna end, is it...?"
Tal stood and looked around. She was standing in a giant pile of leaves and mud, and she hastily got out. She brushed herself off and was amazed by what she saw; this world was something she had seen only in history books. This was early Neopia, the time of the cavepets!
It was a hot and hazy afternoon. After spending a month in a cave, eating prehistoric plants and fish, Tal didn't feel very well at all. Her scales were dirty and messy, her teeth were turning yellow, and her back ached from sleeping on the hard, cold, stone floor. "I desperatly need to find a way out of here..." muttered Tal, totally depressed. She couldn't stand living in this jungle any longer... She needed to get back to civilization.
Tal grabbed her make-shift spear and went out to hunt for her supper. She could hear movement in the underbrush and whizzed around, her spear rasied and ready to strike. From the bushes emerged a prehistoric Usul and Jubjub. The Jubjub grunted and looked from Tal to the spear in her hand. He nodded to the Usul, who a second later was gripping a spear in it's paws. Tal cocked her head quizzicaly and then looked to her own spear.
"Eeek! No! I come in peace!" she cried defensively.
The Usul snorted and grabbed Tal by the arms. It was unusually strong for an Usul. The Usul then dragged Tal through the jungle, the Jubjub leading the way. They finally reached a small village. Tal felt quite stupid- she had been sleeping on a hard stone floor while a mile away, there was a village with warm fires and soft beds.
The Usul pointed a finger to a small hut made of mud and grass. Tal nodded and cautiously ventured into the hut. It was one-room with a blazing fire in the center of the room. A small straw bed was set in a corner, a stone side-table beside it. There was a straw mat rolled out at the end of the bed, on top of the twigs, bugs and dirt for flooring. She shuddered, wondering who in Neopia could stand to live in such a dump.
Suddenly, the skin-curtains covering the door shook. A moment later, an elderly Kyrii entered the hut. She paid no attention to Tal; instead, she pulled out a rock bowl and a bone pestle and started mashing some plants. When she was done with this operation, she poured some water into the bowl along with some Mulloscs and propped the bowl up on sticks over the fire. She rubbed her paws together and glimpsed up at Tal, who had sat on the floor, cross-legged.
She glanced up at the Kyrii and said, "Me Tal." Those other neopets had no language other than grunting and snorting, and this one wouldn't be any different. The least she could do would be to keep her context as simple as possible.
"Hello, Tal," the Kyrii said gently, "I am Kyruggi."
Tal gaped in surprise. This neopet could speak! As well as she could!
"You can speak?! This is amazing!" And for the first time in a while, Tal laughed. "Incredible! Wonderful! Great!"
Kyruggi just stared at this idiot.
Kyruggi shook her head and stirred her concoction. She lifted a bit out with a spoon and poured it in the rock bowl. She handed the steamy stew to Tal, who took it gratefully, feeling the pain of hunger in her stomach. She sniffed the mixture and took a sip. A moment later, she was trying as she may to not throw up. Kyruggi just watched her intently.
"Not used to these plants or something, dear?" she asked.
Tal nodded groggily. She then pointed outside and exited the tent, taking if a waft of fresh air. She fanned herself and groaned, her stomach thundering. As she leaned against the wall and threw up the soup, she glanced up and saw no one other than Raytu, watching her suspiciously. She choked on her breath and rubbed her eyes.
"Raytu?!" she asked excitedly.
Kyruggi came outside and looked around. "I don't see anyone."
Tal turned to her and replied, "How can you not see him?! He's standing there in broad dayli-" But her words died as she turned to see the Raytu-less village.
"What...?" she questioned uncertainly, and Kyruggi patted her on the shoulder.
"It's the heat, darling. Take a good nap and you'll be better in the morning."
Tal nodded, still confused, and layed down on the straw bedding, eventually dozing off.
"Kill her, Tal kill her..."
Again, she raised her lethal claws, again, not knowing, not caring...
Tal's eyes opened slowly. The sun's rays were beating down on her through the cracks of the hut and the villagers were chattering amongst themselves outside. Kyruggi wasn't in the shack. She sat up and got out from the bed, making her way toward the skin flap. She parted the two skins carefully and looked outside, only to find the whole village clustered in one huge group, talking with worried or excited expressions. Tal waded through the crowd and was aghast by what she saw. It was Raytu... and not an illusion this time!
"Raytu!" she cried, sprinting to the place where he lay. He didn't look so good. His entire body was covered in scars and blood, and he had one paticularly nasty gash that was olive-green. She winced at the sight of him like that and looked around for Kyruggi.
"Where is Kyruggi?" she asked a nearby Meerca.
The Meerca grunted and pointed toward the wood. Tal picked up Raytu gently and put him on her back, stumbling from the weight. She trudged along into the forest, searching for Kyruggi, who she was sure could heal Raytu.
She stumbled along for about an hour, and just as she was sure she could no longer bear the weight, Kyruggi sprawled into the clearing. She looked pretty beat up, too. Her eyes looked up at Tal in fear. She got to her feet quickly and ran away, screaming, "RUN!"
Tal was so confused. She didn't know what to do. A moment later, she heard rumbling and the crashing of trees not too far away. She took a few steps back and then turned tail and fled as a huge monster came thundering into the clearing and glared at her. In her rush to leave, Tal tripped over a tree root and Raytu went flying. He crashed into a tree trunk and awoke, glancing around.
"Whad da...?" he asked slowly, the world moving in dizzying circles.
Tal screamed and Raytu reacted. Before he realized what was happening, he was on the monster, tearing out it's flesh with his claws and fangs. The beast let out a groan of pain and reared on it's hind legs. Raytu clung on with his claws and dug deeper into the skin. Tal got to her feet and leapt out of the way as the beast fell to the ground. It snarled terribly and glared at Raytu, who was still weak and fell from the creature's back. Tal gasped and took action. She stretched out her claws and tore out the monster's eyes, blinding it and having it screech out in pain. It swiped it's claws around stupidly, unable to attack it's enemies. Tal winced and thrust her claw into the beast's chest, ceasing it's heart's beating. She withdrew her paw and ran out of the way as the mighty creature collapsed to the ground.
A few days later, Raytu woke up from his slumber, his wounds gone. He looked slowly from one end of the room to the other. He was in Kyrruggi's hut, but he didn't know that. All he knew was that Tal was looking down at him with great relief.
"Oh, Raytu!" she cried joyfully, "I was afraid you were dead!"
Raytu scratched his head and met Tal's eyes.
She was crying.
Suddenly, Raytu felt a surge of emotion for her.
And he was sure she felt the same.
The next day, the pair of Krawks left the village. As they traveled through the woods, they saw the remains of the monster they had destroyed the other day. Tal told Raytu about the entire battle in nauseating detail with a grin. After a week of walking, the two came upon another village. They decided to rest here for the night and figure out where to go next. They fell asleep in a cozy inn and woke up around noon the next day.
As they paid the clerk and left the hotel, they realized they had left the prehistoric world and were quite happy about it, too. They walked for another week or so until they reached a beach. The warm sands and shimmering seas were wonderful. They made a campfire and rested her for the rest of the day.
In the middle of the night, Raytu woke up from a nightmare and lay in his bed awhile. He glanced over the dead fire to find Rommy's empty bed. He got up and stretched, wondering where she could have gone. Then he heard the song.
"Why can love hurt you deep inside?
Why does it leave you with nowhere to hide?
When someone doesn't love you back
It hurts so bad, all becomes black..."
She sat upon a small cliff overlooking the ocean, it's waves glistening in the light of the moon. Tal turned quickly and saw Raytu pulling himself up onto the cliff. They just watched each other for a minute, a minute of pure silence. Then Raytu came and sat beside her, who stared at the ground. After a long pause, Raytu spoke.
"So... did you write that song?"
She nodded solemnly.
"It's very pretty."
A shooting star passed by the pair, twinkling in the velvet sky.
"It's kind of like... the sky is it's own sea itself, with golden fish swimming above us as the stars." Tal said breathlessly.
Raytu nodded. "Yeah, it's nice... very nice..."
"Did you make a wish?"
"On the shooting star..."
"Oh. Of course."
"What was it?"
"...What was yours?"
"If I tell you, it won't come true."
"Than I won't tell you or mine won't come true."
There was another slient pause between them; then Raytu bent over quietly and kissed Tal. Her cheeks turned crimson and Raytu smiled warmly.
"That was my wish."
The next day, they left. They rented a boat from a fisherman and went across the sea. Traveling for a month, they finally hit land. It was another warm beach, but with shops and natives walking around and trading and socializing. A big sign read, 'Welcome to Mystery Island!'. They collected fruits from the trees and ate them gratefully. It was so much better than raw fish for a month. They took a map and went to go find an inn. They made their way to the back of the island and took a left turn. Their noses were so pressed up against the map that they scarcely noticed their surroundings- such as the portal they entered. They found themselves in a dark and dingy alley.
"This doesn't look like the rest of the island..." Tal said, glancing around.
"I'll say." replied Raytu.
They heard a whirring noise behind them and spun around. There, standing before them, was an elderly Wocky.
"I've seen you before..." Tal said slowly, eying the Wocky.
"Indeed," answered the Wocky with a nod, "in your village the night this young man destroyed everything." She nodded toward Raytu.
"That's all in the past!" Tal cried, growing angry.
"No, darling, it's the present. Allow me to demonstrate!" The Wocky pointed her staff to Tal's chest as a gassy, green ring emerged from the point and entered her frame, lightning-fast.
"NO!" yelled Raytu as Tal's eyes began to glow red. She was being posessed... was this it for them?
"Kill him, Tal. Kill him."
Sure. As long as I can have that funny feeling back.
I was once called that... maybe.
What was that name again...?
Tal's eyes flickered open. The Wocky had taken ahold of Raytu, a rusty dagger in her paw.
"Oh dear! Just look what you've done," said the Wocky carelessly, "you've woken my angel of death. Well, if you can't beat them... Destroy them." An evil glint rose in the Wocky's eyes as she rose the dagger, plunging it deep into Raytu's throat. He kicked and fussed, trying to escape her hold.
"I love you..." he choked to Tal.
Then he moved no more.
Tal sank to her knees.
"No..." she sobbed as the Wocky drew closer.
Memories of being with Raytu filled Tal's mind, and made her cry even harder.
"No..." she sobbed even louder.
The Wocky lifted the dagger, ready to strike, a cruel grin forming on her face.
"No...!" Tal screamed, her tear-stricken eyes glaring up at the Wocky. She found a new power inside of her, as if it had built up inside of her all these years until she could find a good time to unleash it. And that time was now.
She grabbed the dagger and quickly stabbed it in the heart of the wretched Wocky, ending her worthless life swiftly and painlessly.
Tal exited the portal with Raytu's limp body on her back. She carried him to the dark shore. The moon had risen high, sending white light across the sand and sea. Tal gently laid Raytu's body in the ocean, a bouquet of tropical flowers with him. She slowly walked to the dock and sat on it, dangling her feet in the water.
"Why can love hurt you deep inside?
Why does it leave you with nowhere to hide?
When someone doesn't love you back
It hurts so bad, all becomes black..."
Why can love hurt us so?
Why does it leave us with nowhere to go?
His ghostly song comes over the sea
For Rommy to listen to for eternity.