Messenger: The Trouble With Selkets - Part Seven
The entire city was in an uproar. People were running everywhere; the streets were filled. The sun had long since sunk beneath the desert’s golden piles of sand, but Sakhmet was far from sleep.
Of course, the guards immediately rushed to Bluecloud’s cell, where they found her playing rock-paper-scissors with herself to drive away her boredom. After a quick interrogation, the guards decided that the cell was too well-guarded and Bluecloud was too dumb to kidnap the princess.
The entire palace was searched. The gates to Sakhmet were clanged shut, just in case the kidnapper tried to escape the city with the princess. Guards tramped across the dark streets, their hands on their swords and daggers, their faces grim and stony. It was a long, dark, night, and the depression continued into the morning, for though the sky shone as brightly as usual and the clear sky was bright blue and cloudless, an air of despair and darkness hung over Sakhmet.
“Do you think that the person who kidnapped the princess also stole the necklace?” Wosret asked me in the early morning. Her eyes were ringed and dark from lack of sleep, and the mud-brick-lined fire pit outside her tent was filled with nothing but ashes and cinders, unused and cold.
“I do,” I answered, lying on my back on the pile of blankets that had been my sickbed. Pecan was curled up on the sand next to me, his bright black eyes anxious and worried. He could feel the despair and sadness in Sakhmet like only a petpet can, and he suffered from it, becoming listless and lazy.
“Maybe the person who stole the necklace and kidnapped Amira also set the Selkets loose in your house, Emma,” Clark mused.
“The Aisha.” I nodded. “She probably set the Selkets loose on purpose, and injected them with Cheops leaves. She hoped that I would be out of the way by then, and Bluecloud as well.”
“But why?” Midnight asked. She was hunched in the corner of the tent, her eyes red from crying all night. “What have they got against you and Bluecloud?”
“We’re heroes,” I answered readily, remembering the words of Dole, the pirate Draik who had attempted to capture Maraqua. “Most of the time, when one saves the world, they become well-known and targets for future evil geniuses to hunt.”
“But she must know that the Selkets didn’t work, because if she also stole the necklace, then she probably framed Bluecloud to get her out of the way,” Clark argued.
“True,” Wosret agreed. We quickly filled her in on everything about the Selkets, Dole, and our journey to Sakhmet. “So therefore, she either thinks that both girls are safely out of the way, or she plans to frame Emma for something. Or. . .something else.” They all looked at me uncomfortably.
“Why are you laughing?” I nudged Clark angrily. “This is serious here. Stop that!”
“But I’m not laughing,” said Clark confusedly. Midnight stared at him. “I heard it too,” she said. Wosret nodded, signifying that she agreed.
“Wait a minute,” I muttered, picking up Pecan. Without a word to any of them, I slipped quickly out of the tent and sprang on a crouched shape near the back of the tent. The figure abruptly stopped laughing and pressed a button on his bracelet. An arrow immediately shot out, heading straight toward me. I dodged it and lunged for my attacker. “Help!” I shouted, as he flung a dagger at me. Pecan hissed at him and whipped his tail angrily. I dodged the dagger and it hit the sand where I'd been standing a moment before.
Wosret and Clark burst out of the tent and sprang into action. Within seconds we had the villain pinned down to the ground. This was rather hard, seeing as he was a slippery red Hissi. He wore a ragged cape on his shoulders, a plain red headdress tied on with a piece of twine, and, on his neck, an elegant gold necklace set with beautiful pearls and one large diamond.
“It’s the necklace!” Wosret jumped back with shock. The Hissi sneered at her and cupped the stolen property in both hands. “I don’t know what yer talking about, but ye can get yer dirty ‘ands off me,” he spat.
“Did you steal that?” Clark asked, yanking the necklace away.
The Hissi growled at him and lunged for it, but I held him back. “Of course. I stole it for myself, ‘cause I’m not dumb enough to sell it in ‘ere. Though now that ye have caught me, I’ll have to leave Sakhmet behind fer ever.”
“But you framed Bluecloud,” I exclaimed angrily.
“I don’t have the teensiest idea what yer yapping on about,” snapped the Hissi. “I don’t know no Blueclouds.” I could tell that he was lying.
“Well, why were you kneeling outside my tent with a dagger in your hand?” Wosret blurted.
“I was hired by a shady feller, by the name of. . .well, I ain’t going to tell yer their name. Anyhow, they hired me to follow yer and put you out of the picture, Wocky. An’ I stole the necklace just fer the fun of it.”
“You steal things for fun?” asked Clark.
“I was dared to, all right?” the Hissi snarled. “An’ I’m a pretty good thief when it comes down to it. I helped a little with the Qasala Robbery of Year 7 back a few years ago.”
Clark looked mildly impressed. “The Qasala Robbery of Year 7? Really?”
“That’s enough talk,” I snapped. “Let’s get this guy in the dungeon, and Bluecloud out.”
“What?!” the Hissi sputtered. On a dash of sudden inspiration, I grabbed a piece of paper from my pocket and instructed the Hissi to sign his name on it.
“What fer?” he asked angrily, as Wosret jogged off toward the palace.
“To prove that you alone stole the necklace, and not Bluecloud,” I explained. He snorted but signed it in scrawling hieroglyphics. A minute later, Wosret and two guards came back to take the Hissi. As they reached for him, he smiled and winked and slipped out of our grasp, running across the street at breakneck speed.
“After him!” one of the guards shouted, and the four of us sprinted after the Hissi. We soon lost him in the crowds, however, and gave up the chase.
“It doesn’t matter, much,” Clark announced. He opened his hands. “See, I have his signature AND the necklace.” The guards took both happily and agreed to release Bluecloud. Wosret and Clark went off to the palace with them, but I decided to try and see where the Hissi went.
After a bit of asking around, I was able to find a small alleyway that apparently a Hissi wearing a bright headdress had dashed into, according to a Mynci shopping for fruit nearby. I slipped into the dark alcove and trudged along a narrow path. After about ten minutes, the path stopped.
I was far from the city, and in a tiny alley filled with dust and Spyder webs. Directly in front of me was an enormous oaken wood door. Surprisingly, the door had no keyhole or even a doorknob.
“Hello!” I called. “Open sesame!”
“Name,” drawled a bored voice from the other side of the door.
“Um. . .Emma.” I said it tentatively, my whole body tense and ready to run.
“What?” the voice said. It suddenly became excited. “Oh, good. . .come in, then.” The door flew open, and I stepped inside. Pecan shrank back against my shoulder and narrowed his eyes. We were in an empty hallway. The floor was sand, like the alley outside, and the walls were wooden, adorned with torches every three feet or so. I looked around for the owner of the voice, but I saw no one. The door was slammed shut, and I hesitantly stepped forward.
“Help! Help!” I heard an unfamiliar voice call. There was a dull thud, and the voice gave a wounded cry, before falling silent. My ears pricked, I stepped forward again, my hands shaking and the fur on the back of my neck stood straight up. After listening for a few more seconds, I started walking forward quickly.
The hallway began to widen, and I found myself in a large room. The floor was sand and the walls and roof were wooden, like the hall, but unlike the hallway, this room was occupied.
It was filled with thieves. I could tell because unlike the rest of Sakhmet, these pets had money, but they didn’t look like merchants or royalty. Most of them had scars or bruises, and some of them had bags of neopoints or jewels, or wore bracelets, necklaces, and rings. They were talking to each other and sitting around a fire at the back of the room, laughing and comparing goods. There were pets young and old, of every color imaginable, from the common Shoyru to the elusive Krawk.
I walked toward them, not knowing what else to do. My eyes were fixed on the thieves, not on the ground, and I listened to their laughter, not a voice near me calling “Stop! Stop!” But it was too late. I stepped on a trap of some sort, and two seconds later Pecan and I were trapped in some sort of net hanging from the ceiling. The thieves laughed even harder and pointed at me. But what surprised me most of all was that, right across the room and dangling in a net similar to mine, was Princess Amira.
To be continued...