The Lost Tomb of Coltzan: Part One
The stifling hot desert wind shrieked past, weaving its tale of loneliness throughout the mostly deserted and barren town of Qasala in the Lost Desert in Neopia’s southern hemisphere. The only Neopets that remained in this forsaken place were traders and merchants, but on this unnaturally hot morning - even for the Lost Desert - even they made ready to pack up their wares and belongings and abandon the eerie ghost town for the bustling town of Sakhmet, which they justly assumed would be a far better place to pursue their entrepreneur’s lifestyle.
But little did they know that there were ancient and innumerable riches secreted in the mountains just beyond the reaches of Qasala, riches which had remained untouched ever since they were put there thousands of years ago. Was it real? Was it a myth? If it was somehow true, then why had it not been found before? Was there a curse? Or was there a far greater mystery or stealthy secret hidden, waiting to be found, within its rocky prison?
“I’m telling you, there has to be an ancient cemetery somewhere out here in the Lost Desert!” sounded a vociferous and absolutely certain opinion from a dusty and somewhat rickety-looking tan tent. Jynifer, a very outspoken Royal Draik archaeologist intern, was quarreling vehemently with the four other archaeologists stationed at their lonely and out-of-the-way post on the outskirts of Qasala. Needless to say, tempers were running above average, much like the temperature.
The other archaeologists were Jewellya, an arrogant and overly vain Disco Uni who hated work of any kind, and who spent most of their precious study time arranging her mane or applying makeup to her patterned face; Aliah, a kind and gentle Faerie Shoyru who scarcely ever spoke, but when she did she sounded like the whisper of the wind that caressed their desert tent; Jaik, an Alien Aisha recently transferred from the Kreludor Space Station, whose specialty really was ancient meteors, and who desperately wanted to return to Kreludor to investigate the large meteor recently discovered there; and Ukodus, a Grey Grundo that everyone tried to discreetly avoid, due to the fact that, well... let’s just say he spent a LITTLE too much time mining rocks on Kreludor and it went to his brain. He hardly ever spoke at all.
Jaik and Jewellya were looking at Jynifer rather dubiously, as if wondering whether the heat had gone to her head or if she had evidence. Aliah actually looked as if she believed Jynifer. She was the only one who ever did anyway. And Ukodus... Well, he didn’t look one way or another. He always had this eerie expressionless look on his face that just made you want to back away slowly and protect your petpets. To tell the truth, he looked like a zombie.
“How do YOU know that?” Jaik shot back fiercely, his voice a bit muffled by his large space helmet that he never seemed to be without. “There’s nothing out there in Qasala. It’s a ghost town! It has been that way for years. Nobody wants to live there anymore because it’s so deserted!”
“And besides...” Jewellya idly remarked, as if she were truly interested in the conversation. She was fidgeting with her long orange mane - as usual. “Even if there was a cemetery out there, you couldn’t pay me a million neopoints to go all the way out there. The temperatures would make my mane go all frizzy!” She shuddered at the very thought of how awful her mane would look under those circumstances. The others stared at her in disbelief of her vanity. How could a Neopet like Jewellya possibly be an archaeologist? She was a stereotypical Uni, which meant she hated to get dirty and do difficult - and at times sweaty - jobs. That was practically the job description of an archaeologist! Sometimes Jewellya just didn’t add up when it came to why she became an archaeologist in the first place.
“This is how I know,” Jynifer continued, ignoring the pouting Jewellya as if nothing had ever taken place. She spread out a bulky, ancient-looking papyrus document on the green bamboo table in front of them. She grunted with the effort of lifting the heavy scroll. “This is a document from the Gebmid tomb of Sutek,” she informed them, dropping the papyrus rather unceremoniously on the table. The others nodded in acknowledgement of the name. Everyone in Neopia had heard tell of the great King Sutek, who had ordered the building of the very first Gebmid. “I don’t know how it came to be there, but it isn’t written by Sutek or anyone associated with him.” She hesitated continuing to let that sink in, and the other archaeologists gasped in surprise. She paused a while longer, wiping her brow free of perspiration, then continued, “It’s written by King Coltzan himself! Now, everyone here knows of the fame of his great monument, Coltzan’s Shrine, where the restless spirit of the great king bestows gifts upon us, the Neopets,” she waited for nods, then resumed her tale, “but WHERE was Coltzan buried? His tomb has not been discovered yet! It is my opinion that this document was buried with Sutek so that the location of Coltzan’s tomb would remain a mystery from tomb robbers looking to steal his fantastic treasure.”
Jynifer continued by explaining what the ancient papyrus signified, and that it was really a map to Coltzan’s tomb! She completed her speech by stating what she had learned from the document, that the tomb was located in the mountains, in a place beyond the city limits of Qasala, called The Mountain of the Kings. By the time her speech was over, everyone was intrigued and highly enthusiastic about going on an expedition to the mountain. All but Jewellya that is, as Jynifer had suspected all along.
“Like I said, you couldn’t pay me to go out in that heat,” she refused, stubbornly shaking her head. “It’s fine by me if YOU go, though. Go ahead, pass out from the heat. I am staying here in the tent, though, thank you very much.”
“Come on, Jewellya, it’ll be fun!” encouraged the normally soft-spoken Aliah, her violet wings twitching with the anticipation of the expedition ahead. “If anything goes wrong, I can fly back with you.”
Jewellya continued to shake her pink head vehemently, flipping her long orange mane every which way. “No way. Leave me out of this disaster. But, uh,” she continued, turning her back to the rest of the crew, “send me a neomail, will you? Let me know what’s going on every once in a while, what you find. Take Helyn with you,” she suggested, waving a hoof at a cage with a white, sad-looking Angelpuss in it. “She can fly back to HQ with your neomail. Besides, she needs the exercise. We haven’t had time to play with her or anything since we got stationed here.” She sighed, remembering another time. “I wish we were still stationed in Maraqua. That was so fun.”
“Aw, come on, Jewellya.” Jaik walked over to her - rather slowly, however, because of his bulky space suit. “You don’t have to be jealous just because Jynifer found the ancient papyrus document and you didn’t. That doesn’t even matter. Nobody thinks less of you or more of her.”
She whirled about to face Jaik, eyes flashing furious blue fire. “You think I’m JEALOUS?!” she cried in sarcasm and disbelief. “Of HER?!” She gestured to Jynifer with a shaggy green and yellow hoof. Jynifer was happily chatting and making complex dig plans and collecting the equipment with Aliah and Ukodus - well, mostly just Aliah, because Ukodus was just standing there and grinning like Doctor Sloth. Ukodus wasn’t the most intelligent Neopet. He was good at heavy lifting, though.
“All I’m saying is you’ve been acting sulky ever since Jynifer announced she had discovered that old map,” Jaik replied, trying but failing to scratch his head through his space suit.
Jewellya didn’t reply for a long time. When she did, she was noticeably quieter and, quite shockingly, seemingly humbled. “You’re right. I have been acting horribly. Which is another reason why you shouldn’t bring me along. Just go ahead. Have some fun, and be sure to bring back some treasure for me!” She grinned, seeming to be a normal, kind Neopet for the first time ever since the team had known her.
Jaik grinned back at her. “Well, I’ll see what I can do, but you know everything we find belongs to the Museum of Neopian History in Sakhmet City.”
“Of course, I know that!” Jewellya retorted laughingly. “Now just go, before I decide I want to go with you!”
And with that, the archaeological team - Jynifer, Jaik, Aliah and Ukodus, with packs on their back filled to the brim with water, food supplies and digging supplies - set off for the Mountain of the Kings, Jynifer, holding the map, leading the way.
To be continued...