The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part Six
At the Lost Desert Marketplace, there were many multicolored
tents and Neopians draped in light fabrics that passed by each stand. I could
see the many different goods as we neared the ground. I landed with a thump
in the sand and felt Damien and Luna jump off.
Sweat beaded on my feathers from the two-mile
flight and I exhaled slowly. It was nearing lunchtime and the hottest hours
of the day. Plus, it being the Month of Relaxing didn't help the heat much.
I licked my orange beak, feeling a little dehydrated. Fortunately, there was
a stand that was selling cool drinks, so we went there first.
We split up almost immediately. Luna absolutely
loved to shop, whether it was in Neopia or on Kreludor. She and Damien visited
all of the stands while Charlie and I sat on a bench and watched the people
pass. The sun was so hot that it seemed to evaporate some of the water before
it could reach my mouth. Charlie was taking shade under one of my white wings.
The pea Chia yawned.
"You know," he said, "it isn't so bad if you're
in the shade."
I smirked and folded my wing, exposing him to
the fiery sun only to receive a, "Hey!" I put my wing back in place so he could
get comfortable again.
I watched a female desert Aisha browsing the
items on display and talking to the vendors. She eventually made her way over
to our bench. I recognized her.
"I thought that was you," she said. "How's everything
"Fine," I answered.
"Where are the others?"
"Shopping," I said. "Enjoying themselves."
"And you're not?"
"In this heat? No way."
Bek laughed. "I don't blame you. It does take
a while to get used to. It makes the Sakhmetian caves feel really good, doesn't
"Oh yes," I said, and then a thought struck me.
"How well do you know them? The caves, I mean."
"Pretty well," said Bek modestly. "I was the
one who discovered the entrance. It was just a few months ago, but we've been
down so often it all seems familiar. Plus, Dr. Kysen seems to know what he's
doing." She half winced at the Ruki's name.
I noticed that. "You're not too crazy about him?"
"He's just…" she began. "Secretive. That's how
you could describe him. When we're in the caves, he's always keeping to himself,
never sharing his notes or thoughts. It just makes him seem untrustworthy. We
don't really have a choice, though."
"I see. Speaking of the caves, we're heading
down this afternoon when Luna and Damien return."
"Be careful," warned Bek. "They can be dangerous."
I nodded and she forced a smile before rising
from the bench. I watched her until she blended with the other desert Neopets
and was out of site. Moments later, I wondered aloud, "What do you suppose that
"She's right," said Charlie. I looked down at
him. The Chia continued his theory. "There are poisonous Wadjets and secret
temples, dark corridors and a long way to fall. I've read about the Sakhmetian
caves. They aren't like the Healing Springs in Faerieland. The first Neopians
that came to the Lost Desert discovered the caves and made traps. There was
supposedly treasure from the first King Coltzan hidden in a few of the caves,
and the Neopians were making sure that no one could find the temples easily.
"So they built dungeons, retracting walls and
compressing chambers to stop anyone from finding what they were trying to hide.
Bek was just being honest; it is dangerous. I was a little anxious when we first
came here but things seemed fine." Charlie looked up at me doubtfully. He bit
his lip and finished, "We just have to be careful, okay, Marlo?"
I took a minute to soak up all he had said. I
looked down at him, unaware that he was this knowledgeable of the caves and
said, "All right. Is this what was troubling you before our arrival?"
"Pretty much," said Charlie honestly.
I nodded, but didn't have time to respond because
Damien and Luna were coming our way, each carrying a bag. Luna greeted us and
showed us all of the jewelry and fabrics that she had purchased from various
vendors. She handed me the bag and I sifted through it, pretending to be interested.
"What's this?" I asked. I picked up one of two
plastic tubes. There was some kind of green liquid inside that sloshed around
as I shook it back and forth.
"Glow sticks," said Luna, snatching them from
me. "The Lost Desert gets the darkest of all Neopian worlds at night. Plus,
these are really cool and they've just been imported from the Virtupets Space
I laughed. "Glow sticks? Luna, you're such a
She ignored my comment and tucked them safely
in her Faerie Back Pack.
"We still on for those caves, Marlo?" asked
I looked down at Charlie. I had already promised
him we'd be careful, but I wasn't sure what his reaction would be.
"You bet," said Charlie, with a small grin.
After depositing Luna and Damien's shopping bags
at the tent, we started off across the sand and down into the caves, back over
to the metal lid that sealed the entrance. Back down the cold ladder also, and
back further into the eastern part of the caves where we didn't have time to
venture during our last visit. I clutched the map and shivered from the cold
stillness. I was leading the way and Luna was following close behind with the
lantern. It was extremely dark in the cave, but the fire's glow was so radiant
that it brightened the surroundings.
It had been nearly two hours since we had climbed
down the metal ladder and taken the left path. It seemed like turn after turn,
the symbols on the wall were running together and the complicated tunnels never
came to an end.
"Maybe we're going in circles," I said.
"We're not, it just feels that way because we've
been turning so often," Luna told me. "The temple's just up ahead." She squinted
down at the map and added softly, "I think."
"It better be," I mumbled, but no one could hear
me. Patience was definitely not my forte.
We walked on, leaving only dusty footprints and
silent thoughts. My feet were tiring a bit, but I wasn't about to stop and take
a rest. Finding the temple was much too important. The four of us started through
the winding tunnels once again, with Luna pausing every few seconds and consulting
the map from Darius.
Luna continued to lead the way intrepidly, stopping
again. "It's so hard to read this chicken scratch," I shot her a glare, "but
I think it's just up ahead." Up ahead, however, turned out to be a dead end.
"Come on, this isn't it," I said. "Let me see
"Wait," she said, brushing my outstretched paw
away. "I was right. It is here."
"Look," said Damien, pointing down at the map
over her shoulder. "It shows the temple right in front of us. If only this wall
wasn't here we could get through."
"You think?" I asked, exasperated.
Damien laughed at my sarcasm. He had a really
good sense of humor, unlike Luna, who probably would have elbowed me in the
ribs. Luna was shaking her head and frantically searching all over the crumpled
piece of paper.
"Look right above the wall," said Charlie suddenly,
pointing down towards the map from Damien's shoulder. "There's a paw print symbol.
Guys, we're not supposed to go around the wall, we're supposed to go through
Damien appeared to be catching on. The royal
Aisha pressed his paw up against the stone wall and said, "Like this?" Nothing
happened. Damien frowned and starting tapping the wall in different places.
"This isn't going to work," I told him. "That
wall is not going to move just by you tapping on it like that. Now if we had
a couple of Skeiths on one side and any type of food on the other…"
I started to turn back when there was a monstrous
rumbling sound. Slowly, I turned my head and glanced over my shoulder. Damien
lowered his blue paw from the wall as it retracted into the side. The shifting
stone grated on the floor and a wave of cool, stuffy air blew into our faces
like a cloud. I felt my orange beak drop open in surprise after the dust settled.
"It's amazing," Luna agreed.
"I guess there's a certain spot on the wall that
opens the door," said Damien. "I wonder how Darius and the others found it."
"Dr. Kysen, no doubt," I said. The Ruki sure
seemed to like to show off his brains. "Come on, let's take a look around."
We timidly made our way inside, our footsteps
echoing off the walls. The acoustics in the room were amazing. If you spoke
in only a whisper, someone could probably hear you on the other side of the
room. There was nothing much to see on the walls, the paintings from the outside
had ceased but there were some distinctive markings around the shrine.
The stone steps leading to the shrine were a
light gray and very dusty. Not many Neopians had been up here; that was obvious.
I flew upwards towards the top and the air was just as dry as it was down on
the floor. I landed at the top of the shrine, some fifty feet up from Damien,
Charlie and Luna. An overwhelming feeling of fear overtook me as I stared down
over the edge. It shouldn't have… I was an Eyrie, I could fly after all, but
being up so high was a little scary. Sure, I could fly and I loved to fly, but
I didn't love falling so much. I took a few steps back.
"What's up there, Marlo?" asked Luna, starting
up the steps.
"Nothing," I replied. "Sorry to disappoint you."
"Darn," Luna sighed when she reached the top.
"I was hoping we could at least find something up here, wasn't that the point
of this whole excursion?"
"Actually, I think I've found something a little
more useful," Damien called from the base of the shrine. With the lantern handle
clamped in my beak, I swan dived off of the top of the shrine and landed swiftly
on the dusty floor. Luna glared as she hurriedly made her way down the steps.
Charlie hopped from Damien's shoulder to mine as the royal Aisha began to squeeze
through a crevice in the wall.
"Wait," I said, catching up to him. "I'll hold
the lantern for you. Just go slow, okay? We don't know what's in there…"
"Gotcha," said Damien, and he inched his way
into the crevice.
"How well can you see?" Luna called.
Damien turned his head once he was a few feet
inside. "There are more symbols back here, they seem to be making a circular
pattern…" He chuckled. "Wish we had Dr. Kysen about now."
I secretly disagreed with him. We heard a little
more scuffing of Damien's boots and then a response of, "I can't go any further,
it's too tight. I'm backing out." More shuffling sounds and I raised the lantern
a little higher. I could just see the brim of Damien's hat and the outline of
his face, turned sideways, along with his torso.
"Darius and the team must have missed this when
they came in," said Damien, thinking aloud. "It's too bad we-ouch!"
"You okay?" Luna asked.
I saw him shake his head, "Yeah, but my leg…
I think something… bit me…"
He staggered out the remaining few feet and leaned
against the cave wall to check his leg. There was a tear in his green pants
and a few drops of blood near the area. I looked up at his face: surprised at
how off-color it seemed. I squinted in the lantern light, wondering if it just
looked that way because of the shadows.
"Damien?" I asked. The Aisha didn't reply. Instead,
his eyes closed and he leaned against the wall. Something was definitely wrong.
I kneeled down and took him by the shoulders but he couldn't seem to hold his
"Marlo," Luna said, in a strained and terrified
whisper. She was pointing across the floor.
I watched with growing dread as a small figure
slithered out of the crevice. Its tongue flicked the air a few times and the
creature hissed as it made its way to the other side of the cave. I immediately
felt sick as I realized what it was:
A Black Wadjet… and Damien had just been bitten.
To be continued...