The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Lost Lizark - Part Eight
“Let me go, Marlo, you don’t know what you’re dealing with!”
Kale, the red Lutari, tried to wriggle out of my grasp, hissing and growling up at me, nails digging vainly into the dirt. His eyes became wide with anger. “Mekfra flommai utel desa--ow, ow, owww!”
Upon hearing a chant, I forced his arms a little higher, wrenching them painfully up his back. “Sorry, Kale, but I can’t have you putting the mojo on any more of us. I suggest that you keep speaking English to avoid an excruciating amount of pain.” I certainly didn’t want to hurt him, but letting him throw around those chants was probably not the best idea either. “I have to admit, I’m surprised that you’re the shaman we’ve been searching for. For starters, I thought all Lutaris came from Lutari Island.”
“During Geraptiku’s demise, a lot of us fled to Lutari Island,” he corrected heatedly. “Scientists didn’t discover it until much later.”
“Thanks for the history lesson.”
Kale sighed heavily, cheek clotted with dirt. “What do you want from me?”
“Oh come on,” I said. “That’s a silly question. We just want to find the Lizark, take Damien back to Bracknell Road, and leave everyone in peace.”
“There will never be peace with them around!” Kale spat. “I can’t make anyone understand. The spirits are angry! They don’t want their home excavated by a bunch of nosy, stuck up, greedy archaeologists! Don’t you see? Geraptiku is supposed to be the Lost City!”
A wave of closure washed over me. That’s what the attacks on Felix’s team were for. Charlie was right. This wasn’t about us at all.
“And Damien?” Luna asked numbly.
Kale groaned. “Okay, that one I’m sorry for. He just got in the way.”
“So by framing him, you took the focus off Felix’s team,” Charlie finished.
I cursed under my breath. “You could have really hurt someone, Kale. While the Blechies were pretty mild, the fire was a real health hazard to the archaeologists and wildlife around them.”
Kale rolled his eyes. “I was only trying to drive people away. Honest, that’s all. And there was no one in the tents while I torched them,” he added. “I checked.”
“Because that makes everything all right,” said Luna with a smirk. She turned to me. “Charlie and I will go alert the archaeologists nearby. I’ll have the Defenders meet us in this area.”
No sooner than she had taken off, Kale squirmed under my weight again. “Would you let me up? You’re kind of crushing my back.”
“Remind me again why Geraptiku’s supposed to stay buried,” I said, ignoring his request.
Kale’s face flushed. “I’m honoring my family,” he said bitterly.
“By causing chaos and destruction?” I asked. “You have a funny way of showing respect.”
“We are a very covert and independent race,” seethed Kale. “I’m stunned that Felix is so eager to discover something he knows deserves to stay buried. His family died when the city crumbled, too, but he’s hauling out teams of Islanders to come investigate!” Kale exhaled slowly, fervently. “You can’t understand, Marlo. Only a few people would be able to.”
I said no more to Kale after that and let my mind piece together the missing parts of the case. Kale was indeed at the festival for the first part of it, but because he was photographing the event there was no way to tell how long he had been there. He likely passed his camera off to another reporter so he could eventually meet Damien in the clearing, stun him, fetch his missing ‘A’ necklace and charcoal from the base station, snatch the key to the petpet chambers, and finish the job.
Using the utmost of caution, I hauled Kale to his feet to let him stand properly. The red Lutari closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, but before any foreign chant could come out, I had his arms high above his back again.
“Ow! Hey man, I’m just yawning! Sheesh.”
“Oops, sorry,” I said, not at all feeling apologetic. “Couldn’t tell. Now do you want to let me know where the Lizark is?”
Apparently the Lutari had grown tired of talking, as he stared down at the tip of his boots and made no reply.
“Well, that’s just fine. I happen to have a couple of guesses.”
Luna and Charlie returned with a group of archaeologists crowding around them, anxiously peering at Kale. The Lutari’s head was still bent towards the ground, perhaps in his way of admitting defeat. Luna held up a camera.
“Smile for the Mystery Island Monthly.”
While solving a case is always a wonderful feeling, it was more than fantastic to see Damien freed from his dungeon. The royal Aisha’s first move was running into the clearing with his arms spread and face to the warm sunshine. He inhaled the wonderful scent of fresh air and let the breeze seep into his fur.
“I swear I’ll never take sunshine and fresh air for granted again,” he said, doing an embarrassing little spin under the peaceful sky.
The Kougra from the Defenders of Neopia stopped by to pick up Kale the same evening. The Lutari had to be put in restraints to keep him from using any magic in the Eyrie cab. I didn’t know how the Defenders were planning on handling Kale and his “unique” abilities, but was certain that he wouldn’t be giving Felix’s team any more trouble.
“It was great to work with you again,” said Raia. “We should all go out to lunch some time. I don’t want our only visits to be when petpets disappear!”
Speaking of the Lizark, he was incredibly easy to find. The four of us paid a visit to Kale’s small house on Tiki Tack Street and found not only the petpet safe, well-fed, and relatively happy, but also two large tanks. We speculated Kale had grown the Blechies there and then transferred them to region three when the time was right. Charlie made a face and Damien said, “That’s disgusting.”
“I’ve just realized something,” said Luna, as we exited Kale’s home with the Lizark in tow. “Remember those pictures from the festival? Kale wouldn’t have shown up in any of them because he was behind the camera. And he said there was another photographer with him. When he left the festival, the second photographer would have still been taking pictures, making it seem like Kale was there at all times.”
“True,” Charlie agreed. “Good closure.”
Back at the base station that same evening, many of the archaeologists congratulated us on solving the case and said their thank-yous. It didn’t really make up for some of their previous behavior, but was a nice gesture all the same. Felix made a toast to us and we all drank to the Lizark’s reappearance, Damien’s release, and to any future findings of Felix’s team that would help them continue to uncover the mysteries of Geraptiku. The last one made me feel a little guilty.
“What’s wrong?” asked Luna, taking a seat next to me as I glumly sipped at a glass of juice.
I’d spent the evening thinking of what Kale had said to me. At first I had been indifferent to what the Lutari was saying, but then I began to really delve into it.
“What if... what if Kale was right? About Felix’s team, I mean. What if they really are causing the Geraptikan spirits anguish? It’s not fair that their city’s being dug up.”
“Who says Kale is speaking for all of the Geraptikan spirits around here?” Luna asked.
I shrugged. “Well, he is a shaman.”
“Felix is a direct descendent as well and he’s the one leading this excavation.”
“...but he’s not a shaman,” I finished.
“Okay, okay, just because he doesn’t have the ability to communicate with the spirit world doesn’t necessarily mean Kale’s right. Look at it this way. When the archaeologists find something amazing in Geraptiku, they study it and are a step closer to fully understanding the Geraptikan race. That’s how Geraptiku deserves to be honored. What was once a flourishing community doesn’t need to be hidden from the rest of Neopia forever.”
I swirled the juice around in my glass with no intention of finishing it. “I guess.”
Luna smiled understandingly. “You can’t listen to your heart in cases like these, Marlo. Although Kale makes a good point, we can’t take sides.” There was a long pause where neither of us said anything for a while, but then Luna broke the silence. “You ready to go home?”
A smile tugged at the corners of my beak at the thought of my warm bed and soft pillows. I turned to her. “First thing tomorrow.”
Damien had eagerly dressed into his normal clothes as soon as he reached the bedrooms. He felt liberated and so truly happy as he padded softly down the hall, slipping out the back door with a lantern. After being locked in that dungeon for almost a week, the Aisha was dying to stretch his legs.
He didn’t feel so uneasy walking on the path at night now that there were no strange voices coming from around him. His lantern illuminated small petpets and petpetpets scurrying out of his way, their eyes glowing like moons.
Damien reached the outside of the dungeon in little time. “Hello?” He shined his flashlight onto some of the trees nearby. “Victoire?”
The red Ixi appeared from the path ahead of him in her typical cloak and hood. He noticed that she had no flashlight or lantern.
“I’m surprised you’re not back at the base station celebrating with everyone else,” Damien said.
For the first time during their visits, she laughed softly. “I am not much of a people-person.”
He smiled and said nothing for a few moments. “I just wanted to thank you for your company and help with the case.”
“You’re welcome. It was a pleasure to assist you, and I hope we meet again.”
“Yeah,” said the Aisha. “Me, too.” He started to turn. “Well, I should get back to the base station before my lantern gets too low.”
“Wait, Damien,” said Victoire. “Give me your hand.”
Slightly perplexed, the Aisha extended his paw, face up. Victoire uttered a few words in a language he had heard before, but was far from understanding. A warm, gentle light emitted from her hooves and floated into an orb that hovered just over Damien’s paw.
He felt his heart beginning to race. “You can do magic, too?” A sudden realization overcame him. “So that’s why you didn’t want to be involved in the case.”
Victoire smiled. “I hope you understand. Good luck on your future investigations.”
“Thanks,” said Damien. He gazed down at the sphere of light that still shone brightly inches from his paw. He looked up. “Victoire...?”
But the Ixi was gone.
Raia rinsed her brown paws in the sink just outside of the base station, washing away all of the dirt and dust. “A true archaeologist’s paws are never clean.” That’s what Felix always told the team.
When the Wocky returned to her bedroom, she noticed a small, white envelope sitting at the corner of her bed. Normally Raia took a cart to the city once a week to collect her mail, but today there was a letter addressed to her and stamped from Neopia Central. She sat down at her desk and slit open the envelope.
Although you weren’t our official “client” in this case, we opted to send this letter to you because of the minimal contact we had with Felix. Thank you for being so helpful and kind during our stay in Geraptiku. We are glad the Lizark is back with you safely and that things will be returning to normal in no time. Best of luck with your archaeological findings! If you ever need us again, please do not hesitate to send a letter or drop by -- you are always welcome.
Oh, and the four of us are eager to take you up on that lunch offer. Let us know when you have a day off!
Author’s Note: Edited by beewitched2. Thanks for checking out my series; I appreciate your interest and support! :)