The giant turtle opened his mouth wide, inviting the group to step inside. Darius appeared frustrated. He didn’t get the answer he was hoping for. The group looked at the mouth inviting them in.
“You, you won’t eat us, right?” Va’il asked cautiously.
“No, I do not eat flesh,” the creature said with a huff, which was actually a laugh.
“Then, thank you. You? You are? Your name?” Va’il asked.
“Tenrai. Keeper, your name?” Tenrai asked.
“Va’il.” At that, Va’il took the first step. The rest followed with some hesitation. There was more than enough room, which made the experience even more frightening. Ten men could be eaten whole by a single creature. The seven small people took some relief in the fact that Tenrai was a vegetarian.
The mouth opened, revealing a dark tunnel in front of them. Darius and Var pulled out a few candle-torches, and then blew on them to light them. They stepped out of Tenrai’s mouth and handed a few candle-torches to the boys. They quickly moved up the incline that the tunnel made.
“Great fortuity,” Tenrai said as he pulled his head out of the tunnel. In its place was water. They were in a low spot that moved to higher ground, so they did not have to worry about water entering the tunnel.
It didn’t take too long to reach the room filled with golden luminous stones. The tunnel that Tenrai had brought them to was obviously much more direct than the one Va’il had taken in the past. Everyone considered asking Va’il more about what had happened to him in the past, but they arrived at the room before anyone could ask.
“This is amazing,” Var said.
“It really is,” Darius said in agreement.
“Ever seen so many stones in one spot? It’s almost like daylight,” Zeick said.
“This is wrong. Very wrong,” Va’il said, breaking the mood.
“How so?” Darius asked. He was still amazed by the sight.
“It’s empty, the statues are gone,” Va’il said. The room was completely empty except for the raised pavilion in the middle.
“Statues? There were statues here before? The maroon were here then!” Geon said excitedly.
“I had no idea we housed those things,” Darius said.
“But they are gone! Why did they go all that way, just to come back to Rising, if they were here already?” Va’il asked.
“Didn’t I say it before?” Geon asked rhetorically. “They didn’t know which direction to go upon waking. They wandered for a while, then the item, something made them want the item. So they are coming back to get it. Maybe it is still here.”
Geon had been speaking quickly, and his voice was filled with excitement. For him, this was part of a learning experience that none of his ancestors had known. They could only pass on knowledge. He was excited that he could finally use the knowledge that he had been given and have an experience he could pass down to those that would follow him. He started walking towards the pavilion. The group followed him up the steps.
“This is, this is it,” Geon said when he reached the top.
“What’s that?” Pete asked and pointed to the pedestal.
“It houses the item,” Geon said, then walked over to the pedestal.
“The glass orb? Is that the item?” Va’il asked.
“Orb? Where?” Geon asked with a worried tone. Va’il caught up to him and looked down. There was no longer a glass ball sitting on the pillow.
“It was here, before. A glass ball. It’s missing now. Could it have been the item? Is this bad?” Va’il asked in a rush of words.
“Glass? Ah! Glass, of course it would look like it; that explains it. That explains those legends. I see now. Oh, I see. This, this is horrendous.” Geon’s voice had risen quickly, and then fallen, as the weight of his realizations hit.
“Well?” Darius asked.
“The item, the mother’s item. That’s what it is. The maroon are the children that sleep to her song. If Va’il is right, then there was an orb here that would be the item we need. The only thing that will satisfy or stop the maroon is the mother’s item. They all look like sand, right?” Everyone nodded at Geon.
“Well, what is glass made of? Sand. The item, I didn’t understand until now, what it is. It’s the mother of these particular maroon. Maroon do not die like we do. But, if I’m right in my understanding, they can be turned into glass. They might even be able to do it to themselves, I’m not sure. I’ll need to read the writings we have again. They sleep because of the resonance with the mother orb. That’s how they communicate, by resonance and vibration. The mother orb must have been lost or taken, the resonance was muffled, the maroon children awoke, searched for the orb, lost their way, and then something must have made the orb resonate again, causing the maroon to feel that and start making their way back! The orb, Va’il, are you sure it was here when you were?” Geon asked.
Va’il recoiled from the quickly spoken explanation. He thought about it all again.
“Yes, it was here. Right here, when I left,” Va’il said. Geon’s countenance dropped.
“Then, even though this is good to know, we still haven’t solved anything. Where could it be?” Geon asked, his voice still a mixture of happiness and sadness.
“Could someone have taken it?” Pete asked. Kelin, standing behind everyone, perked his ears at Pete’s question.
“Maybe. But wasn’t this place sealed? If it wasn’t for Va’il and your strange relationship with Tenrai, could anyone else even get in?” Geon asked.
“Taken,” Kelin said. Everyone turned to look at him. “It was definitely taken by someone.”
“How can you be sure?” Darius asked.
“Va’il, you’ve either been hiding this or forgot. What important fact have you left out?” Kelin asked.
“Not sure what you mean,” Va’il replied defensively.
“You weren’t alone down here, that’s what I mean,” Kelin said. The attention focused back on Va’il.
“Oh. Oh right. I didn’t think to mention that. But, wait, then you’re accusing her of stealing?” Va’il asked.
“Yes,” Kelin said firmly.
“I don’t know. I don’t think she would have,” Va’il said while racking his mind. He was trying to recall the exact events that had happened in the past.
“Look, she might not have been evil in doing it, since she didn’t know the consequences, but don’t you think it makes more sense that she took it? Are you sure, absolutely sure, she didn’t, Va’il?” Kelin asked.
“I can’t be sure. But what you said makes sense. And the more I remember, the more doubts I have. It’s the best lead we have. But, then, what can we do? I don’t know who she is. Wait, Darius does!” Va’il said.
“Who are you talking about?” Darius asked.
“Remember, Darius, three years ago, when a certain noble girl caused a cacophony of problems for you? The youngest daughter of a certain family,” Kelin said.
“Melonscone,” Darius said with a mournful laugh.