Coltzan IV and the Not-So-Brilliant Bet: Part Two
It was dawn. Coltzan slipped out of bed and stretched his aching muscles, which were sore from the exhausting race the previous day. Stifling a yawn, the young Shoyru realized it wouldn’t be long before his friends – and bitter rival – would be expecting him at the pyramids.
He snatched his satchel off the floor of his bedroom and threw on his robes and headdress hurriedly. Dashing down the hall with his Anubis hurrying after him, Coltzan couldn’t ignore a stab of guilt plunge through his heart. His mother would be worried sick when she discovered his empty bedroom, with no note of explanation. Coltzan had considered writing one, but his heart ached just thinking about it. Besides, what would he write?
The Shoyru was outside now, ready for flight. He hugged his bag of supplies and petpet to his chest and dashed across the sand before leaping into the air and soaring above the Lost Desert. He marveled at the sight of the beautiful palace of Sakhmet and the intriguing Ruins of Qasala as his wings beat the air rapidly.
He had only been traveling for ten minutes, but his wings were weighing him down tremendously. Reluctantly, he swooped down to the ground and set down his Anubis.
“Garrett, why do you have to be so heavy?” he grumbled to his petpet, who just stared blankly at his cocky owner.
The two traveled by foot to the pyramids where a large crowd of neopets was waiting. It was past dawn; surely the street vendors would be starting to set up their stands now. Coltzan quickened his pace anxiously.
“Where have you been?” Alam sneered as soon as Coltzan was within speaking distance.
“I-I’m sorry, guys,” Coltzan apologized reluctantly, panting.
“Why did you bring your petpet?” Alam asked, his gaze flickering to the Anubis.
“Um, I... uh...”
Coltzan realized he was the only one who brought a petpet. He felt embarrassed, especially when Talina defended him by saying,
“There was no rule against bringing your petpet.”
He stared down at the sand beneath his paws. He didn’t need anyone covering for him, especially not Talina. He felt his pride beginning to wane and die. He had to be strong. He gazed up at Alam abruptly, as sharp and as quick as a sparkler and glared at his foe.
“Look, can we just get this over with?”
There was no sympathy, no compassion in Alam’s tone as he replied, “Fine. Talina, where are the slips of paper?”
Talina stepped forward with an old sack in her paws. Inside dwelled several slips of paper, all curled up inside of one another.
Alam reached toward the bag, but Talina slapped his paw before he could. Alam’s face held a look of complete and utter shock. Coltzan laughed heartily. Alam and Talina aimed warning looks toward him.
“I don’t think all of us should go on this journey,” Talina said carefully.
“Why not?” Jeremy asked, disappointment looming in his face.
“Think about it... for those who know we’re all friends, it will look pretty suspicious if we all go missing. You know what I’m saying?”
Coltzan shrugged. “I don’t see what’s so wrong with all of us going,”
As he said this, he noticed the skinny Tonu again. He was wearing a sweater vest and looked like the Brain Tree in Faerieland next to everyone else, who wore robes and headdresses and bracelets. Wasn’t it kind of hot for a sweater vest?
“Someone has to stay here!” Talina urged. “When our parents go nuts trying to find us, somebody has to stay behind to cover for us!”
There was a pause. The sun continued to slide up the sky, despite Coltzan’s pleas of protest. If only he had arrived earlier!
“She’s right,” Nathan finally said, the early morning sun glistening in his eyes.
“Fine,” Alam and Coltzan sighed at the same time.
They glared at each other before stepping forward toward the bag in Talina’s paws.
“So, how many names are we drawing?” Coltzan asked the Acara.
“Two. Three of us will go into each pyramid, leaving two behind to keep the parents away,”
“Why don’t you and the Tonu stay behind?” Coltzan asked.
Nathan and Marlow exchanged nervous glances and Garlan’s eyes grew wide with shock. Talina looked as though someone had struck her on the head with a bat.
“He... he has a name, you know,” she mumbled softly, staring at the ground.
Coltzan took a step back. Why did she look so hurt? Did she really know this Tonu? Coltzan sure didn’t. He looked at the little pathetic wimp, who was staring at Coltzan with a mixture of fear and pity.
“What’s his name then?”
Talina looked up at the Shoyru and stated, “Milton. Don’t you remember? I introduced him to the group last month. He-he’s new to the Lost Desert.”
“I can tell,” Coltzan responded, nodding his head toward the hideous sweater the Tonu wore.
Jeremy and Garlan laughed, and Marlow stifled a giggle. Talina, however, looked furious.
“We are not here to make fun of Milton!”
Her voice echoed across the clearing and stopped Jeremy, Garlan, and Marlow’s snickers short. Everyone was silent, even Alam. Coltzan looked his friend deep in the eyes, but the Acara refused his gaze. Why was she all of a sudden so protective over this... this... what was his name again? Milrod?
Coltzan began to apologize for the second time that day, but Alam interrupted him with a rude statement.
“Hurry, guys, we’re running out of time. We need to get into the pyramids before the day ends!”
Everyone turned to Alam and glared. Coltzan glared the hardest.
“Fine,” Talina grunted. “Draw your two names.”
Alam pushed in front of Coltzan, who snorted in disgust. The Techo reached greedily into the bag and pulled out a piece of parchment...
“Garlan!” he shouted triumphantly.
O.K., Garlan’s tough, so Alam already has an advantage. But, Nathan and Marlow are still open. And Jeremy. I still have some good options.
“Your turn, Coltzan,” said Talina.
Coltzan’s paw slid inside the bag and rifled around until he came up with a slip of paper. He unrolled it carefully and read, “Talina.”
Talina looked shocked, as if she had no idea her name was in the bag, but she didn’t say anything. Coltzan pretended to look disappointed, but couldn’t ignore the rush of happiness that spread through him as he stared down at the name in front of him.
Alam’s jealous eyes stared down at his next paper, which he had drawn in the midst of Coltzan’s hidden excitement.
“Nathan!” he cried.
Nathan grinned happily and gave the Techo a high-five. Coltzan felt a twinge of envy as he reached for the next name... his last team-member.
Marlow and Jeremy were left. Coltzan didn’t know which one he would rather have on his side. And there was that Tonu, but Coltzan doubted Talina included his name.
He unrolled the paper in his paws, which felt clammy with sweat. He took a deep breath and tried to ignore the prickling feeling burning his felt as his friends watched him open the paper with anticipation. He stated the name: “Milton.”
There was a pause. Talina gasped and the Tonu stepped forward shyly. All of a sudden, Alam burst out laughing and Garlan joined in.
“Stop!” Talina cried. “Stop it!”
Alam ceased immediately and stared at his feet.
“Jeremy and Marlow will return home and cover for us. Alam, Nathan, and Garlan will travel into that pyramid over there,” she said, gesturing toward a pyramid in the distance, “Coltzan, Milton, and I will go into this pyramid.” Her voice was cold and grave.
The Acara pointed to the pyramid nearest to the group.
“We’re staying overnight, right?” asked Nathan. “So we return here in the morning?”
“Everyone ready?” she asked.
The group nodded and set off in their separate ways. Alam glared at Coltzan with hostility, his teeth clenched, before leading his team members toward their pyramid. Coltzan’s feet plodded on beside Garret, Talina, and that Tonu. What have I gotten myself into?
A massive gold surface lay before them. Though it was made hundreds and hundreds of years ago, it stood strong and loomed menacingly above the group. It cast a ghostly shadow across the sand, which felt cool and eerie at the same time.
Coltzan shuddered. To his relief, the others didn’t notice.
“So, this is it,” he said casually, trying to disguise his fear.
“Yep,” Talina replied breathlessly. “Are... are we really going in there?”
Coltzan looked at the Acara. He nodded.
“If my ancestors did, so can I!”
A grin was planted on his face. Talina rolled her eyes, but she smiled, too. The Tonu just stared down at the book he had brought along with him.
“A-according to my book here,” he stammered, turning the page, “the ancient Sakhmetians built their p-pyramids in such a c-complex manner, that e-even the guards had a d-difficult time g-getting in and out.”
“What do you mean?” Talina asked sweetly.
Coltzan kicked the sand beneath him, which clumped together in a little cloud of dust. Why did Talina like him so much? He was so nerdy and weird. Really, really weird.
The dust made the Tonu wheeze uncontrollably. He reached into his backpack and retrieved a tissue. After several minutes of him blowing his nose and Coltzan rolling his eyes impatiently, he continued, “The ancient S-Sakhmetians ‘rigged’, as you might say, their pyramids with recalcitrant puzzles and methods of d-deception to keep thieves away.”
“What?” Coltzan questioned. “And why?”
“W-well,” The Tonu muttered shyly, “w-when a pharaoh died, they made him a t-tomb, which they placed in a pyramid. It took many decades to f-finish building, so they were u-usually built when the p-pharaoh was born, not when he d-died. All of the kings’ jewels and items - even their p-petpets - were buried w-with them.”
The Tonu held the colossal textbook out so Coltzan could see a picture. It was a tomb. A sarcophagus sat in the center of the picture. Swords, robes, headdresses, staffs, jewels, furniture, games, and countless other items surrounded it. Most of them seemed to be made of pure gold.
“Why did they bury all this stuff with the pharaohs?” Coltzan asked.
The Tonu pulled the book closer to him and flipped the page again.
“The Ancient Sakhmetians believed in the afterlife.”
“After life?” Coltzan echoed.
“Afterlife,” Talina confirmed.
The Tonu continued, “Once a pharaoh died, they buried all of his belongings with him because they believed the pharaoh w-would live a n-new life as a spirit inside the t-tomb. Therefore, h-he needed his precious items if he was to live again. The b-builders of the pyramids wanted the pharaohs t-to be happy in the afterlife. That’s why we have Coltzan’s Shrine.”
Coltzan stepped closer to look over the Tonu’s shoulder. There was a picture of an Anubis on the page Milton was studying.
“Why is there an Anubis there?” he asked.
“A-Anubises were a-always buried with p-pharaohs,” the Tonu explained, “Anubises were b-believed to assist the pharaoh in reaching the afterlife.”
Coltzan tapped his paw against his chin and looked down at Garrett curiously.
“Garrett is sacred?” he asked.
“A-According to the ancient Sakhmetians, y-yes,” Milton answered.
Coltzan muttered something inaudibly. The Tonu’s answers were never clear.
“So... wait, I’m confused... why are the pyramids rigged with traps?”
Milton gazed up at the Shoyru with deep black eyes. They looked as round and as hollow as a Meepit’s.
“To keep the thieves away. When t-thieves learned the p-pyramids were filled with gold and jewels and items they could sell for a fortune, t-they d-decided to sneak into the pyramids and steal the pharaoh’s items. So, the pyramid builders hid traps and tricks inside t-the pyramids to keep intruders out.”
“Oh,” Coltzan mumbled finally. He was tired of this little history lesson of Milton’s. “So how does this relate to us?”
“Easy,” Talina answered. “We have to get into the pyramid, right? Well, try finding a way in past all those booby traps.”
Coltzan stared at the massive monument in front of him. He gulped. Talina smiled.
“Piece of cake, right?”
To be continued...