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The Scarab of Anubits

by frynr


Also by goten__10

"If you didn't take them, then where the heck are they?"

    Merouladen shrugged as he pulled on his blue cap. "Beats me, but I tell you I didn't take them!"

    With a dark glare at his younger brother, Heermeedjet pulled the cushions off the couch once more. "I know I had them last night," he muttered, shouldering Merouladen out of his way as he preened in front of the mirror and adjusted his cap to a more rakish - in his opinion - angle. Heermeedjet simply snorted in derision and continued his search.

    It was a good twenty minutes later that he found his goggles, suspiciously trapped beneath a flower pot in the back garden. He speared his brother with a dark look, receiving an all too painfully false innocent look in reply.

    Merouladen laughed when he heard the older Meerca's muttered threat and he waited until Heermeedjet had pulled the newly found item onto his head. Really, he was far too attached to those goggles and Merouladen had been unable to bypass a small spot of teasing. Hiding them had been simple fun. Of course, Heermeedjet far from saw it in the same light.

    "Ready?" asked the younger of the pair and Heermeedjet nodded. Today they were to check out their next target... although perhaps a better description would have been 'casing the joint'. An important part of their work as going in anywhere unprepared would see them end up in the dungeons deep beneath Amira's palace in Sakhmet. Worse still, they might even find themselves incarcerated in Qasala. After all, most of their exploits seemed to take place in that town. Qasala was still reeling from its recent war, making it easier to do what they did best - namely, to relieve the locals of their wealth. And if that meant breaking into the palace there and stealing directly from Jazan and Nabile, then so be it. They'd done it before.

    The Meerca Brothers were still under heightened suspicion following their pretty public theft of King Coltzan's crown. The most annoying part of that was the crown had been found soon after they'd taken it, making the risk null and void. They had nothing to show for their troubles - other, of course, than setting the guards of both Sakhmet and Qasala onto their own backs. It made their life that much harder, but far from impossible. All it meant was they had to take more care when doing their groundwork.

    Like today.

    The brothers left their hideout located in the seedy back streets of Sakhmet's marketplace. The perfect place to hear any snippets of news or gossip as well as to pick the pockets of the richer residents of the city. Easy money could be made that way, but today they were after something far more valuable. They headed for the Scratch Card Kiosk, checking to make sure the guards were otherwise engaged. It was to cost them 25% of their profits but it was worth paying that to Stan the Kyrii. After all, only the fastest of men would be able to keep up with the wily and swift thief and many a good Elephante had tried. None had yet succeeded.

    On cue, Stan set about his distraction, grabbing the biggest, plumpest and juiciest Ummagine in the entire market. The Kyrii pushed the fruit beneath one arm and ducking his head he sprinted for the alleys, guards close behind him. That neatly left the way open for Heermeedjet and Merouladen to spring into action...

* * *

    It was almost a full hour later that the pair came to a gasping halt and the younger Meerca bent low over his knees, fighting for breath while his brother readjusted his goggles before taking a look inside the sack he held. Countless scratch cards that would collect a small fortune on the black market lay inside, but the only pitfall was it would mean once more working with the Skeith, Malkus Vile. Vile knew ways to pass stolen goods on that would make sure the Meerca Brothers couldn't be traced as the thieves. Neither of them particularly wanted to deal with Vile, but this time they had no alternative.

    Or so they thought...

* * *

    Ever since Nabile had married Prince Jazan, Tomos had been bored. Bored out of his Lupine mind. Sure, Horace and Zina were great company, but he sorely missed the little Ixi.

    The three remaining members of The Desert Scarabs wandered the sandy plains outside of Sakhmet. They had food enough to last the week, but after that, Tomos knew they had to forage once more. That meant a return to the richer pickings found in the wealthier houses that were located in the shadow of the palace itself.

    But life was duller than General Dacon's IQ and Tomos was keen to find a way to bring back the spark that had gone with Nabile's departure. The sight of the two Meercas brought him hope. After all, Heermeedjet and Merouladen were well-known figures in the area and rarely were they seen without some kind of mischief also being involved.

    "Let's go see what those two are up to," Tomos said softly to the Blumaroo and the Zafara he was with and they padded silently across the Lost Desert until they reached their goal.

    "So... what's new?" Tomos asked, peering curiously at the bag Heermeedjet held. Or was it Merouladen? All Meercas looked alike to the Lupe.

    "Nothing!" snapped one of the brothers.

    "Why do you ask?" demanded the other.

    Tomos smiled slightly. "Scratch cards? Isn't that a little... um... low? Even for you?"

    The pair scowled. "Like you know of a better way to earn some money!" sneered the older brother. "That why you and your friends here have to steal food just to survive!"

    "Oh, I know of a treasure just waiting to be found," Tomos replied.

    "Then why haven't you gone after it?" asked Merouladen.

    "Because," answered the Lupe, leaning closer, "some of the tunnels are too small for us to pass through." He paused, adding, "Not too small for... oh... say, a Meerca."

    Tomos stepped back to allow that to sink in. Really, Meercas could be incredibly slow and it felt like an eternity passed before the proverbial Neopoint dropped with a resounding clatter.

    "Hey! We're Meercas!" exclaimed Heermeedjet.

    "You don't say," muttered Horace and Tomos hushed him with a terse gesture of his hand.

    "So you are." The Lupe beamed. "Maybe we could work together..."

* * *

    "A scarab, you say?"

    Tomos looked back at Heermeedjet and shook his head. "Not just any scarab," he replied. "This one is made of the finest gold with the beetle's body a perfect emerald the size of my fist." Tomos clenched a paw to demonstrate. "Not only that, but the head and legs are encrusted with rubies and sapphires with two perfect black diamonds representing its eyes. It's past priceless," he stated, crossing his arms loosely over his chest. "So... are you in?"

    The two brothers glanced at each other, hints of smiles on their faces but Tomos was sly and not easily fooled.

    "You'll never find it without us," he said. "The Temple of 1,000 Tombs is enormous and riddled with pitfalls and dead ends. Without our map, you would be lost in there for years trying to find your way back out... Assuming you survived the traps. Many have tried and failed. It's said their ghosts still prowl the endless chambers and tunnels, looking for the Temple's treasure."

    Tomos shot Horace and Zina a look, knowing they had the Meerca Brothers right where they wanted them and the parts of the Temple that had thus far been inaccessible were surely now open to exploration. That said, Tomos didn't trust either of the Meercas, but as there was only one way in - and out - of the Temple he felt reasonably confident the crafty pair would be unable to make off with the scarab. That was always assuming it even existed, as the Lost Desert was filled with grand tales of treasure and the like. Horace and Zina had been on their own quest for some time now, trying to find the fabled Golden Scorchstone in the long-abandoned desert ruins but to no avail. Hopefully the scarab would be easier to find.

    As expected, Heermeedjet and Merouladen agreed to the conditions of the plan, promising to return with the scarab. Of course, they intended to do nothing of the kind, but finding another way out of the Temple was sure to prove virtually impossible. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it. For now, they had to get inside and avoid countless deadly traps, but they were nothing if not determined...

* * *

    The Temple of 1,000 Tombs.

    Desolate and long-since left to decay, although recently it had been the scene of some pretty frantic activity. It was during this time that Tomos had stumbled across the map, left in one of the libraries and behind a door displaying a coiled snake. Three other doors with serpentine designs on them had been found by other explorers but the one with the coiled asp had been undetected... by all bar Tomos, of course. The map had been found inside an urn in the corner of the room and the Lupe had immediately seen its value. The map that led to the legendary Scarab of Anubits. The same map now inside his vest and against his chest.

    He pulled it out and handed it to the older of the two Meercas. "Follow the trail marked with red dots," Tomos said. "It will lead you to the library and then on to the chamber where the scarab is supposed to be found."

    Heermeedjet scanned the map and shot Merouladen a glare when he leaned too close to see for himself, almost knocking them both to the ground.

    "And watch out for the traps," added Tomos. He'd come close to falling foul of them himself and he knew how dangerous the Temple could be to anyone not taking due care or watching where they placed their feet. "Avoid the rooms with coloured doors," he warned.

    The Meerca Brothers nodded and headed inside, only sparing the briefest looks for the engraved words above the main door...

    The waking dawn on the dunes

    Window into the soul

    The words meant nothing to them anyway and wasting time pondering seemed insane. That said, willingly entering into a catacomb riddled with traps was hardly sane... wasn't it?

    Tomos and the other Desert Scarabs dropped back to sit under the shade of a nearby palm tree. He knew it would take them a while to make their way through the Temple. Ample time for a short snooze...

* * *

    A good two hours later and the pair had to admit they were lost. They'd just arrived at a door depicting not a coiled serpent but one fashioned out of some kind of a blue inlaid stone, shaped like a sweeping river.

    "Are you sure that doesn't count as coiled?" asked Merouladen.

    His brother speared him with a dark scowl. "Do you even know what 'coiled' means? Does that LOOK coiled to you?"

    "Well, no... Not really."

    Heermeedjet huffed a breath of sheer irritation. "Then permit me to hazard a guess that this is the wrong door! Let me see that map again," he snapped and Merouladen handed it over. A few seconds later a hand cuffed the younger brother's left ear, sharply and in sheer annoyance.

    "What was that for!" demanded Merouladen.

    "Idiot!" growled Heermeedjet, making a great show of turning the map the correct way up and he began to retrace their steps, this time making for the right section of the Temple.

    Twenty minutes later and they knew they were close but the two weary Meercas needed a quick rest. Merouladen dropped down to sit, leaning back against a door shaped in an oval and of the deepest green.

    "NO!" yelled Heermeedjet, but he was too late. He made a wild lunge for his brother, but they both toppled inside with the older brother's jacket catching on the rough stone wall. The room opened out into a vast pit and one lined with pointed stakes. Heermeedjet just had time to grab his brother's arm before he plunged into the pit and it was some time before either of them felt able to move. First Merouladen, who clung to the wall, inched back towards the door where he reached back to help Heermeedjet. It was only when they were both back on solid ground once more that Heermeedjet cuffed his brother's other ear.

    "Owww!" whined Merouladen, but from now on he was determined to be more careful.

    A lot more careful.

* * *

    "This HAS to be it!" exclaimed Merouladen. "Look! That's definitely coiled!"

    Heermeedjet peered at the door and nodded. "Looks coiled to me," he agreed and he reached out to open the door, breath held and heart racing. This was it... The end of their quest. Well, almost. From here it would be a short distance through the small tunnel that Tomos had been unable to fit in... then the treasure would be theirs. Sure, they had to get out of the Temple again but with the scarab in their hands it would be a piece of Coconut Tonu Cake. The Meerca Brothers peered inside, pushing cobwebs out of their way as they slipped into the dust-laden library.

    There, behind a bookshelf was the tunnel Tomos had told them about. The two Meercas squashed themselves into its cramped confines, crawling towards their goal. They straightened as they emerged in the secret room and drew close to the pedestal where the scarab would be found... only to stop in utter shock. No scarab but instead what looked to be seeds.

    "What are they?" asked Merouladen and Heermeedjet picked up a couple.

    "Still fresh, so they've not been here long, and if I didn't know better, I would say they were Ummagine seeds."

    He looked at his brother as the same thought struck them at the same time and their voices rang out in anguished unison, echoing around the empty room.


    And outside the Temple of 1,000 Tombs, a lone figure straightened and dusted himself off. He'd used a trap that although it'd left him coated in sand it had also deposited him out back of the building itself, out of sight of Tomos and his friends. Stan the Kyrii and grinned down at the emerald beetle in his hand before pushing it into a pocket and sprinting away from the scene. No one would catch him. No one ever did!

The End

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