Kyrok opened his eyes slowly. Looking around, he saw that he was camped at the edge of the Haunted Woods. Beside him slept Sarn, a Kacheek, and Liva, a Wocky, the two companions who had joined him on his quest to find Gnawthral, recover Professor Vinsjin's book, and banish the ghouls once again, thus restoring the lands and inhabitants of Neopia to their former peace.
Dawn was breaking and it was time to be on the move. Gently, Kyrok woke his two friends.
"Sarn, Liva, it is time to go," he said as he softly shook each one.
"Go?" Sarn said sleepily, rubbing his eyes and reaching for his glasses. "Go where? Is it time to go home yet?"
"We aren't going home, Sarn," Liva reminded her best friend as she stretched and stood up. "We're going to Terror Mountain to find Gnawthral, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," Sarn said, standing up and brushing the leaves off his back. "Are we going to eat first?"
"Yes," Kyrok said, as they gathered their belongings. "Our first stop is Neopia Central. There we'll get a good meal and pick up some supplies before setting off for the frozen peak of Terror Mountain."
"Great," Sarn replied. "I can't remember the last time I had a good meal."
A short while later, the travelers arrived in Neopia Central, a busy, bustling whirlwind of activity. Neopets hurried this way and that as Sarn, Liva, and Kyrok made their way past the many shops.
"Wow!" Liva cried. "It looks like you can get anything you want here!"
"That's where I want to go!" Sarn shouted, pointing at the Neopia Central Food Shop. "I'm starving!"
"And I'm relieved," Kyrok added, looking around as the trio headed for the food shop. "I see no sign that the ghouls have reached this place."
Inside the food shop, Sarn bought a giant bowl of stew and Liva chose the shop's special "everything" sandwich. Kyrok sat, rubbing his chin and thinking about the long journey ahead.
"Nothing for you, Kyrok?" Sarn asked through a mouthful of stew.
"Haven't you noticed that Kyrok never eats?" Liva asked. "He's a ghost, remember? And ghosts don't eat."
"Oh, yeah," Sarn mumbled. "Sometimes I forget that."
"I could howl and scare you again like when we first met," Kyrok suggested, smiling.
"Funny," Sarn replied, shoving another spoonful into his mouth. "So where is this Terror Mountain anyway?"
"Across the sea," Kyrok explained. "Several days' sailing from this shore. Once we get our supplies, we will have to locate a boat."
"I've never been sailing," Sarn said. "Is it hard?"
"Not for a brave Kacheek like you," Kyrok replied, smiling again.
Sarn nodded and dove back into eating his stew.
When Sarn and Liva finished their main dish, they each moved on to a slice of jumbleberry pie for dessert. Liva's eyes grew misty at the sight of her beloved grandfather's favorite treat.
She thought of all the slices of jumbleberry pie she had shared with him ever since she was a little girl. She lifted a forkful to her mouth, then dropped it back onto the plate.
"It'll be all right, Liva," Sarn said, knowing exactly what was upsetting her. "I promised your grandfather that we would help him get free from the ghouls' spell. And we will."
Liva and the others had found her grandfather, Cramdill, in the Haunted Woods, along with several other Neopets. They had all been attacked by the ghouls and were frozen like statues. Liva and her friends were helpless to free them. They would remain frozen until Gnawthral and the rest of the ghouls were banished from Neopia.
"Come, we must gather supplies before our long journey," Kyrok said, standing up. The others followed him out of the shop and into the crowded Neopian Plaza.
At the Healthy Food Shop, the group loaded up on things that would keep well during the journey ahead: pineapple juice, trail mix, protein bars, and granola bars.
"No hot stew for you for a while, I'm afraid," Kyrok said to Sarn.
Next they went into a general supply shop.
"Now, you two pick out some warm jackets, hats, and gloves," Kyrok said. "With its fierce blizzards and steep ice cliffs, Terror Mountain is no place to be without proper protection from the wind and cold."
As Sarn and Liva tried on heavy coats, Kyrok gathered torches to light their way for night travel, plus backpacks, sleeping bags, and blankets. Sleeping on the damp ground of the Haunted Woods had been uncomfortable—even for a ghost.
"Do you know where we might find a seaworthy boat?" Kyrok asked the old Bori who ran the shop.
"A boat, you say?" the Bori repeated. "Don't carry them myself. Nearest water is miles away. Hmm, your best bet would be Kiko Lake.
Lots of boats there. I'm sure the Kikos who live there could find something for you. Heading out to do a little fishing, are ya?"
"Something like that," Kyrok replied, realizing that the Neopets of this town really had been spared the horror that was creeping throughout Neopia. "Thanks."
With backpacks and sleeping bags slung onto their backs, warm clothes and blankets rolled up and slipped into their packs, and their food and other supplies neatly tucked away, Kyrok, Liva, and Sarn headed out of Neopian Plaza.
"How far is Kiko Lake?" Sarn asked, already feeling weighed down by his heavy load. He was happy to have food and warm clothes and a sleeping bag, but not so thrilled when he realized that he would have to carry it all the way to Terror Mountain.
"We should make it there before nightfall," Kyrok replied.
"Nightfall! That's hours from now!" Sarn complained. "That's a long way to lug all this stuff! Hey, maybe I can use a drop of the Elixir of Levitation to lighten the load!" He fingered the potions in his small leather pouch.
Kyrok stopped and turned toward Sarn. "That would be a wasteful use of a powerful potion," he explained. "Your potions are for true emergencies only!" Then he turned and led the group forward, shaking his head.