After managing to escape with my and my client’s life from
a collapsing pyramid, you’d think I would have felt better over the next few days.
Not so. Oh, sure, there was cheery news that managed to cross the threshold of
MonoKeras, Private Investigations. The main thing was the visit I had from a dark
Faerie who shall remain nameless. She was one of my regular contacts, and she
gave me her heartiest congratulations for wiping out the clan of dark-worshipping
Lost Desert nuts that had been in the pyramid when it had collapsed. I thanked
her and mentally began tallying how many favor points I could squeeze out of it.
After all, when you eliminate someone’s main rival for power, they ought to do
something for you in return.
But there was bad news, too. The analysis
from the paint flecks had come back, and I turned out to be depressingly correct.
After two months and a lot of expensive investigations, I had just managed to
prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my client was guilty of bribery, theft,
forgery, and enough other crimes to lock him behind bars till the Babaas came
home. I knew what I had to do, and I did it, but the Chia Cops are notoriously
long on thanks and short on money when it comes to someone with no previous
criminal record or reward money offered.
The flesh around the base of my horn managed
to swell and turn dark purple, but after two or three days even it was beginning
to recover. That still didn’t shake the lousy mood I was in.
I had to admit it. I’d spent two whole
days chewing my hooves, trying to politely get in touch with Sadiyah, and worried
that she might not contact me again. The main problem was that I’d left her
wearing my coat when she went home. And not only did she have my coat, she had
my moon staff, my grand lightning beam, my marker ball device, the tube to hold
Sun Pegasus (well, one of them), half a dozen of my best wands, and those were
just the items I’d actually used in our little adventure. If I didn’t get those
back, I’d have a serious crimp in my operations for some time. But at the same
time, it seemed a bit rude to bug someone to pieces when they were probably
still trying to recover from almost losing their petpet, from assorted bruises,
a nasty cut or two, and from the sight of a dozen knives pointed straight at
them. Plus other things.
I sent Neomail with no response. I
wasn’t sure what her home life was like, and I didn’t know any of her family,
so I didn’t dare try asking any of them. When you call on the phone you don’t
know who you’re going to get. Come to think of it, since she was deaf the phone
was useless anyway… right? Maybe…
It was the morning of the third day
when my fretting came to an end. The door opened and in came Sadiyah. She was
wearing a veil, although her midriff was bare in classic belly-dancer style.
I started to say something and then stopped myself. She couldn’t hear me, so
Mu’awin always had to translate in sign language for us, but where was Mu’awin?
No sooner had that thought occurred
to me than Sadiyah pulled her Faerie Cadro out from under her veil. He’d been
sitting on her shoulder again. I grinned and started to say something, but she
didn’t look at me as she perched Mu’awin on my desk with his back to me.
"Uh... Hi, Sah…" I stopped
again as she made sign language motions at me.
Mu’awin translated. "MonoKeras,
please, I’m sorry I haven’t replied sooner, but I’m worried about Mu’awin. Can
you look at his wings. He can’t fly since he got hurt."
For a second I was irritated that she
was ignoring me, but I shoved it down. Mu’awin was her most loyal friend, as
a petpet should be, and was also her sole means of communication with the world.
Her concern was natural.
I looked. Mu’awin’s wings did look
rather crumpled, and I realized that he was sitting in his own depressed little
lump. I knew how that felt all too well. "Yes, of course, but it would
work best if I had my wands?" I gave a polite little cough and stared hopefully
Sadiyah made no direct reply. She just
reached into the shopping bag she’d carried in (and which I’d spotted before
she’d even sat down) and pulled out my leather coat. I breathed a big sigh of
relief as I took it and began rummaging through its pockets. Everything seemed
to be there, but I didn’t bother for a detailed inventory, just pulled out my
wands and began my analysis.
It only took a minute before I looked
up with an encouraging smile. "Nothing wrong now. A few knots in his life
flows, but those were easily fixed. If he exercises those wings a bit he should
be flying before the day is out."
"Thank you," piped Mu’awin.
I was startled. I knew the sign for thank you, and Sadiyah hadn’t made it yet-
or made anything.
"Uh... you’re welcome, Mu’awin."
It was the first time I’d really spoken to him directly. It made me realize
that he’d been the perfect translator- so good that I never even considered
him as an individual in his own right. But obviously he had to be able to talk
and understand in order to translate. Why didn’t that occur to me before? Oh
well. Maybe because he really was good.
Sadiyah was smiling now and saying
‘thank you’ for herself, along with a lot of other things. "Thank you very
much, MonoKeras," said Mu’awin. "That is good news for both of us.
I don’t know what it’s like to fly, but it’s life to Mu’awin and eyes and mouth
"Oh, you’re welcome. Nothing the
water Faerie couldn’t do."
Sadiyah’s joy flashed to a moment of
irritation when Mu’awin gave her that remark. "She doesn’t treat petpets,"
was the reply. "But enough of that," she continued. "Now that
that is out of the way I can take care of the rest of our business. How much
do I owe you."
That one I had a very good answer for.
"Here, it’s all written out." I handed her the sheet that I’d been
working and reworking and re-reworking for the past two days.
Sadiyah’s gaze quickly took it in
and her eyebrows quirked. I wondered if I’d charged too much as she began motioning
her reply to me. "Are there no medical expenses, MonoKeras. I know you
were hurt as well. Surely that should be in here."
Was she kidding me? The mental image
of Kallisari making sure every last thing had been treated flashed through my
mind. I shoved it back down. "No, no, that’s okay. I didn’t need to go
to a doctor, it was just a few cuts and bruises."
"Very well. Is this all I owe
"Yes, yes that’s it."
She paid cash. I like clients that
do that. Now, except for making sure I’d gotten everything back in my coat,
I was satisfied too.
But it seemed that Sadiyah had a few
more questions. "MonoKeras, please be honest with me. Why didn’t you tell
me you planned to destroy the clan instead of letting me be the head of it."
I tried stalling. "Whoa! What
makes you say that?"
Mu’awin’s tones managed to sound almost
accusing. "I’ve had time to think. I know now that I could never have hid
my deafness for long. I was lucky it went as far as it did. You would have known
that, too. And you also planted all of those explosives on the way in. It just
worked out too nicely to not be your plan all along."
She had me cold. I laughed. "You
should have been a detective yourself. Yes, I figured that it would have to
happen sooner or later. You didn’t want to be the leader, but you shouldn’t
have to be on the run, either. Wiping them out was the only other option I saw.
But if I’d told you that, you never would have had the determination necessary
to carry your part through to the end. That was a tough battle of wills that
you fought. If you’d been thinking it was all a sham, you would’ve lost… or
worse, they might’ve discovered we weren’t for real."
Sadiyah’s veil puffed out with her
sigh. She made her signs a bit more slowly than usual. "I see. I suspected
as much. So I am not the High Priestess of the Stone Eye Clan."
I turned that one over in my mind.
"Actually, I guess you are, or would be. You won the title honestly enough,
and we were the only two to leave there, just like that Aisha said. But since
there’s no Stone Eye Clan left, it’s an empty title now."
Was that disappointment I saw flickering
in her eyes? "But this is good news," Mu’awin translated for us. "That
means that I don’t have to worry about anyone seeking revenge, if they are all
gone. And I suppose it means that I can give you this as well."
Sadiyah was watching Mu’awin, apparently
waiting for his lips to quit moving. I assume that because as soon as he had
finished talking, she gave me another package from her bag. I opened it and
found three smaller bundles. The first one proved to be the knife that had been
the start of the whole thing.
"Whoa! I thought I’d left this
behind in the pyramid."
"You did. I grabbed it when we
had to move to the wall and I stuffed it into the pockets of your coat."
The next item was a true stunner. "The
crown!" I blurted. "I had no idea! Where did you… I mean how did you…"
I gave up and waited for her answer.
Mu’awin began her reply. "I caught
it with my free arm when they ripped my clothes off. When you gave your coat
to me, I-"
"—stuffed it into the pockets",
Mu’awin and I chorused.
I had to give a short laugh. "That
coat has had just about everything stuffed in it, it seems like."
Sadiyah eyed me as that was translated,
and then a spark of amusement came into her eyes. "Do not be afraid, MonoKeras.
I made sure everything was in there. And you should be ashamed of yourself.
Some of those items are very naughty."
There’s something a bit humiliating
about having your conversation partner sitting there looking at you as you finally
understand what it was they just teased you with. I did my best to respond anyway.
"Hey, if you look in a magician’s coat, don’t be surprised to find a few
"I must be naïve. I was surprised.
But I admit not totally innocent. I’ve found that a moon staff is a very useful
thing. I think my sisters respect me a bit more now-- "
"Okay, then," I murmured.
But Mu’awin hadn’t finished yet. "—but
you’ve not opened the last item. The other two things I gladly get rid of, now
that I know I no longer need them. But this last is also a personal gift to
Gift? I opened the last package.
It was Sadiyah’s ankle servant bracelet. My jaw dropped. "But you don’t
have to do this! I know it’s got special memories for you, and you shouldn’t
feel like you need to part with it."
Sadiyah began motioning a response
before I quit talking. "I want to do this, MonoKeras. For one thing, I
truly do no longer need it. The temptation to use it, now that I know how, would
be too great. And as for the memories, they are not all pleasant. I think that
I would rather keep the additional memory of depositing all of this with you.
You are one of the few people who might understand, I think. And besides, it
gives you a matched High Priestess set."
I looked up at her sharply when I heard
that one. Okay, there was that sparkle in her eyes. She was definitely teasing
me again. "I’ll remember that at the next masquerade party I go to, "
I replied dryly.
Sadiyah giggled when that one made
it to her. She stood up as she made her response. "It would be authentic
at least. I think I must go now. But you really are sure that the clan is gone."
I grinned with as much assurance as
I could muster. "I have it on very good intelligence. The clan is
no more." Mu’awin started to translate and I said, "better add another
‘very’ in there, Mu’awin." He nodded and did so- I guess.
"Good! Then we can forget these
nightmares." Sadiyah reached down and retrieved her petpet. She gave me
the ‘thank you’ sign, and Mu’awin did too… except he used all four hands at
once. I’m not sure what that meant, but as the door closed behind her, I was
sure of one thing.
There might be tens of millions of
other Neopets out there. But there could only be one Sadiyah.
With deep and sincere thanks to buttercup730, for the use of Sadiyah and for
the continual feedback as I wrote this story. It would have been a lesser tale
without it. Also, thanks to sailorchristmas for the use of MichiruKaioh.