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The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Three


by playmobil_is_my_life

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It was remarkable how quickly the arid climate of the Lost Desert seeped through my white feathers just as we neared it.

      We had woken early, packed Luna's Faerie Back Pack and departed at nine o'clock. It was important to arrive on time, not only because we all wanted to get a good start on the case, but also to make a good first impression. I knew all about first impressions.

     Even on our first case, it was important. Even when you showed up and it turned out the petpet was just hiding, it was best to make a good impression. You never know, they could need your help in the future.

      As we entered the Lost Desert atmosphere, there was an extremely noticeable change in climate. The grass that grew lush and green in Neopia started to dry up until there was nothing but sand. The sun seemed hotter, in fact, but that couldn't have been true. It had just seemed hotter because the Lost Desert was the hottest place on Neopia. The breezy and cool air switched to a hot blanket of warmth that hovered over the ground.

      "Ouch." I winced as my paws hit the ground. The sand was much warmer than I expected and it made my feet tingle. Damien and Luna slid off my back and landed with a thump in the sand. Lucky for Damien, he was wearing boots so his feet were protected from the burning sensation.

      "A little different than I expected," Luna admitted, not seeming to be affected by the sand.

      A small group of white tents were ahead of us, and a few natives of the Lost Desert, dressed in robes and shimmering jewelry, could be easily seen. A desert Lupe came forward, a wide smile on his face. It was Darius.

      "Good morning, friends," he said, shaking paws with the four of us again.

      "Hello Darius," I greeted him.

      "Did you have a safe trip?"

      "Yes, thank you."

      "Then all is well," the Lupe's smile broadened. "Come, meet the team."

      As we sauntered to the tents, adjusting to walking in the heated sand, I remembered Charlie's lack of enthusiasm yesterday and wondered if whatever was bothering him was gone. It must have been. The pea Chia seemed very relaxed atop my head, for he sat very still and rested against one of my ears.

      The white tents came into view and they appeared much larger than they looked fifty yards back. They were tied to stakes in the ground and the flaps billowed in the warm air. I wiped my forehead, already feeling sweat beading. A couple dozen Neopets, all painted Desert, looked up at us. Some faces showed hope, others disdain. Maybe they weren't sure what to think.

      "These are the detectives that are going to find our Anubis," Darius explained. "I have heard that they excel in what they do, so we can hope for the best." I was a little taken back by his sudden flattery. A round of applause broke out, and most of the crew nodded and then started back to what they were doing. Others, a desert Aisha in particular, lingered around.

      "Hello," she said. "My name's Bek. I was one of the Neopets who found Sethnakte."

      "Pleased to meet you," I said, while the trio exchanged their greetings. "You didn't see any strange happenings, did you, Bek?"

      A frown creased the Aisha's delicate face. "No, I'm afraid not. That's the mysterious thing about it. It all happened so fast that I don't think any of us knew what was going on."

      Oh, I highly doubt that, I suppressed a snort of amusement at her naïve statement. She gave one last smile, said that if we needed anything to ask, and departed just as a desert Wocky rudely pushed through the small crowds.

      "Detectives?" she asked, flipping back her black hair. In a sickly sweet tone, she continued, "Oh, it's so wonderful to meet you. I am just appalled that something has happened to our dear Sethnakte."

      My eyebrows rose and Luna didn't bother to hide a laugh. The Wocky shot her a rude look. The shadow Yurble cleared her throat and bit her lip, turning to me was an indication that she wanted me to handle the Wocky.

      "Yes, it's nice to meet you too," I said awkwardly.

      "I'm Raia, by the way. Darius's daughter, but he probably told you already."

      "Actually--" I began.

      "So Raia, do you know anything about Sethnakte's disappearance?" Damien cut in, realizing that things were getting a little tense. I was already beginning to feel extremely annoyed at Raia's incredibly vain attitude.

      "Actually," she took a step closer to avoid eavesdroppers, "I did notice something that would probably help you out a lot. Except there isn't any way to find it any more, it's long gone. The only way you'd ever know about it was from me."

      I was getting sick of this guessing game. "Instead of playing twenty questions, how about you tell us what you saw?"

      Raia sighed and rolled her eyes. "I can't. At least not right now. Later, okay?"

      Later? I thought, annoyed. There was no later. If this information was as vital as Raia said it was, we needed it now. How could she be so selfish? I didn't have time to say any more, because Darius appeared at my side and grinned.

      "I see you've met my daughter. Well, as much as we would love to stay and chat, I bet you'd like to take a look at those Sakhmetian caves. Am I right?"

      I forced a small smile. I wanted anything to find out what Raia knew, or if she was just bluffing, but we couldn't blow off our client to go on a wild Mallard chase with Raia. Darius clapped a hand on my shoulder, nearly shaking off Charlie. I nodded and forced myself to say,

      "Sure, let's go."

      ***

      After walking a quarter mile out into the desert where there was nothing but sand, sky and wind, Darius stopped in front of a piece of yellow caution tape. He jumped over the tape and I noticed the rust-colored lid that was hiding something below the sand. I flew over the tape to help Darius shift it.

      "Thanks," the Lupe said. "It usually takes three or four of us to move it." Once the rusty lid was removed, I stared down into a very dark tunnel that didn't seem to end. Darius turned to us, "If you want to check it out, be my guests. Here's a map of the cave," he withdrew a yellow piece of parchment, "and a lantern." He handed us the two items that he had carried out into the desert. We took them with thanks. "You don't need to worry about the lantern, it'll shine for nearly twelve hours."

      "Cool," I said, and then added joking, "but I don't think we'll be that long."

      "Great," said Luna, taking a step down the ladder. "Let's go."

      "Have fun," said Darius, preparing to turn. He quickly swiveled around and said very seriously, "Oh, and do your best to avoid the Black Wadjets. They are extremely poisonous. Well, see you later!"

      And he left us with a sour taste in my mouth. Wonderful. Poisonous Wadjets. Oh this was going to be some heck of an adventure! Luna took a few steps down, grasping the bars with her black paws.

      "Why don't Charlie and I go first?" I offered. Luna looked like she was about to protest, but I jerked my thumb behind me. Sighing, she climbed back up the ladder and stepped aside. I wanted to make sure it was okay, and take the lantern to see how far down we were going.

     The opening was just big enough for Charlie and me to squeeze through. I felt the pea Chia's grip tighten on my ear. It was very awkward since I couldn't move my wings much, so I ended up making these little pauses as we were falling down. The lantern bobbed up and down on the walls. I heard Luna starting down after us, and then Damien. It took us a good minute because we were all moving slow and cautiously. There were times when Charlie and I strayed from the group only to hear Damien say, "I can't see anything."

     I paused in midair so the Aisha could regain his grip and continue descending the ladder step by step. The thing I noticed immediately and loved about the Sakhmetian caves was that the temperature dropped nearly eighty degrees. It had gone from one hundred and thirty degrees Fahrenheit to fifty degrees below the surface. Now this was more like it.

     I flapped a little to get Charlie and I a few more feet down when I felt my hind legs touch the dusty floor. I spread my white wings and was glad to find that the cave spread out to the left and right. We had made it to the bottom.

     "Just a little more, guys," I called to Damien and Luna. Luna took a couple more steps until she came to the floor. She stepped off the ladder and turned to face me.

     "Here, let me see the map."

     She unrolled the parchment, eyes darting from corner to corner. Damien finished climbing the ladder and wiped his paws on the back of his pants. He peered over Luna's shoulder to see what she was looking at.

     "Wow," said Luna. "This cave is really big. In fact, I don't think-"

     She stopped hastily and turned to the left. Charlie, Damien and I were looking that way too because the four of us had heard the same noise. It was a scuffling sound that bounced off the walls due to high acoustics. I narrowed my eyes to attempt seeing in the dim light, but had no luck. The scuffling noise returned, along with a footstep or two.

     Before I could do anything, from up ahead there was a click and a blinding light was shining directly in my face. What the…? I raised a white paw and squinted as the figure came closer…

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part One
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Two
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Four
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Five
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Six
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Seven
» The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Eight



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