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The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Absent Anubis - Part One


by playmobil_is_my_life

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In the dusty Sakhmetian cave, hundreds of feet below the violent sandstorms, blazing sun and sandstone-colored buildings of the Lost Desert, three brave explorers pressed further down the carved path. Their lanterns swung at eye level and the flames danced on the walls around them. Darius, the group leader, was in the front and carrying his lantern and a small backpack. The desert Lupe paused to wait for his colleagues as two separate paths loomed in front of him.

      This cave in the Lost Desert was exceptionally intricate, with numerous twists and turns, forked paths and some places where the ceiling was so low that you had to crouch down to get through. But the most amazing thing about it was the red, blue, and green markings that were painted across the walls. They were so precise, each shape seemed perfectly marked and put there for a reason. Darius couldn't read the symbols but he knew that the cave paintings were extremely important. They were what the team was following, after all.

      Darius turned his attention back to the fork in the path and lowered his lantern. Both passageways were pitch black, except for the faint light from his lantern that bobbed up and down on the floor.

     "Kysen?" he called.

     A female desert Aisha stepped into the lantern light. "No, my name's Bek," she teased.

     Darius rolled his eyes at his friend. "Where's the linguist?"

     "Somewhere back there."

     Right on cue, Dr. Kysen emerged, clutching a smaller lantern and a leatherback book. A Cobrall Dagger was sheathed and hung from his waist. He was a tall desert Ruki and a bit on the serious side. Being a linguist and reading the symbols on the walls, he was supposedly leading them to the heart of the cave, but Darius wasn't sure he and Bek could trust him. Dr. Kysen had only been with them a week, whereas they had been friends for years. Darius didn't like the Ruki but knew that he was crucial in the caves. Without him, they would be lost.

     Dr. Kysen stepped forward to face the black tunnels ahead of them. His claw grazed the painted wall and his dark eyes narrowed. He seemed to know what he was doing, but Darius had his doubts. The Lupe knew he, Bek, and the rest of the team above ground didn't have a choice. They needed to trust the linguist.

     "This way," Dr. Kysen said, indicating the tunnel on the right. So Darius and Bek followed him, as always. The one thing that bugged Darius was that Dr. Kysen never bothered to tell what the symbols meant. When he asked the first time they started down here, the Ruki told the story of the Neopians in the B.N. time that lived in the Lost Desert before it was discovered. The Ruki explained that they supposedly left the cave and its paintings alone for new generations of Neopians to view, centuries later.

     An interesting story, believable, at least. But true? Maybe.

     It was Dr. Kysen who led the way now, leaving Darius and Bek to follow the dusty footprints that trailed behind his large strides. The temperature of this cave was cool. The Lost Desert sometimes went up to one hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, so when he was down here, Darius always appreciated the cold air and lack of sandstorms. He learned over the years that when you lived in the Lost Desert all year round, your body started to adjust to the radical heat waves.

     Dr. Kysen stopped abruptly and Darius halted behind him, looking up. They had come to a dead end. This was the first time that Dr. Kysen had misled them.

     "Do we turn back?" Darius asked. He started to swivel around, but Dr. Kysen stopped him.

     "No, I'm positive this is it."

     Darius certainly couldn't see how the linguist thought so, but he obeyed and planted his feet. Dr. Kysen read the paintings above them, occasionally mumbling to himself and raised his claw. Darius concentrated hard to hear what the Ruki was saying, "The middle of the wall and just to the left…"

     Dr. Kysen pressed firmly on the spot with his brown claw. This must have been the correct action because with an immense sound of shifting stone, the wall slid to the right and slowly started to open. Darius and Bek watched in awe as the stone wall retracted sideways into the doorway, permitting the three of them to step inside.

     As they did, Darius stared up at the gigantic shrine that was before them. The sandstone steps led up to the top, where a vast statue of an Anubis, a petpet common to the Lost Desert, looked down upon them. The cloud of dust that had swelled around them started to settle and Darius was able to get a better look after wiping his face.

     "The heart of the Sakhmetian cave," whispered Bek. The desert Aisha stood silently at the foot of the steps and gazed longingly up at the shrine.

     "It's amazing," commented Darius.

     "It's just what I expected."

     Darius turned to look over at Dr. Kysen. The Ruki shrugged, "The symbols above the wall acknowledged the room into which we just entered. It is indeed the heart."

     "These paintings, symbols…" Darius paused, caught up in all of the paintings woven from floor to ceiling in the room. "What did they say?"

     Dr. Kysen hesitated with an unreadable expression on his round face. "They said that this shrine was worshipped by the Neopians of the Lost Desert before King Coltzan III. Perhaps this was the temple of the first Coltzan?"

     The deceased Lupe King did mean a lot to the citizens of the Lost Desert, Darius knew. Some Neopians went to Coltzan's Shrine, the current one above ground, to ask Coltzan for strength or health. Sometimes, he granted it to them. Just the thought of standing in the King Coltzan's chamber was overwhelming. Knowing that they were the first ones to discover it felt surreal.

     "The symbols above the wall also said," Dr. Kysen continued, "that at the top of the shrine is a great fortune that was left here by the King himself." Astonishingly, he seemed unimpressed. Darius asked him why. "I've seen many caves in the farthest corners of Neopia. Much of this isn't new to me."

     Whether it was a new piece of information or not, it was simply stunning. Bek turned to look over at Darius, but he was already climbing the stone staircase to the peak of the shrine.

     "Be careful, would you?" she called. "We don't know what's up there."

     "You heard the linguist," called Darius over his shoulder. "A great fortune." The Lupe padded up the stairs, panting only slightly, until he reached the top. Carefully making his way to the center, he stood before the shrine.

     Sitting at the top of the shrine, with its paws crossed and ears pointed in alarm, was an Anubis.

     ***

     The discovery of such a small creature living in the Sakhmetian cave was breaking news for Darius and his team. Almost instantly after finding it and realizing its rarity, Darius, Dr. Kysen and Bek evacuated the temple and returned to the opening where they could present it to the team that evening.

     A dozen or so archaeologists and explorers, all friends or colleagues of Darius, were gathered around the table in their building that evening. The Anubis had been confined to an iron cage until they could find out more about him. Darius withdrew the cage from the back room and set it on the table. It was covered by a thin, green cloth to keep the Anubis feeling safe and out of harm's way.

     "Friends and fellow archaeologists," Darius began, "an amazing discovery was made in the Sakhmetian caves today. With Dr. Kysen's help, we were able to locate the heart of the cave, the shrine for the first King Coltzan." There were a few cheers of approval and smiles in the crowd. "However, the second discovery we made was not as great as the first, but more of a mystery. How could an ancient petpet have survived so long in a secluded place with little food and water? The answer may always be a question in our minds."

     Placing his paw carefully on top of the green cloth, Darius said with a grin, "I'd like you to meet the newest discovery…"

     With a small upward flick of his paw, Darius removed the green cloth and gasped as the cage was revealed: vacant. Where the Anubis had once sat, there was only a small slip of paper.

     Someone laughed. It was a desert Grarrl. "Is this some kind of magic trick?"

     "No, I…" Darius began, but his voice trailed off. The Anubis was gone? How? Bek and Dr. Kysen, who were standing behind him, appeared looking fretful at his shoulders. Darius picked up the small slip of paper and unfolded it. He read it silently to himself:

     Sorry to inform you that your discovery will not be able to attend this evening. I sincerely apologize for his absence, but you should know… he will not be returned to you. He now belongs to me and we will keep it this way. Do not go looking for him. Good day.

     ***

     It was a perfect day in Neopia Central. A definition of perfect would be a blue, cloudless sky, warm sunshine that shone from the tips of the trees to the streets, and a mild summer breeze. It was a great day to be outside, enjoying the early summer weather and the city was peaceful.

     Yeah, but so what? I was never really into spending the day frolicking in the flowers or swimming in the stream near the edge of Neopia Central. Well, Eyries weren't too good at swimming, but you get the point.

     You see, on most occasions there was a mystery to solve or some trouble to land us smack dab in the middle of whether it was in Neopia Central or another city. But in the house today, it was so quiet that I could hear the hum of the Faerie Fridge.

     It was nice not having to rush from place to place while trying to locate a missing petpet and keep track of all of the suspects in the process. Detective business was hard work, but the reward was usually worth it. Plus, I had my siblings on the case as well. The four of us made it our job to relocate any petpet, no matter how far away they were or how perilous the situation looked.

     I was normally part of the Petpet Detectives… but not today. Today was a day to read my book, prop up my large white feet and take an afternoon nap.

     Then a loud knock at the door startled me. Slowly rising upright, my mind whirled with thoughts: Who in the world would come to the last house on Bracknell Road in the middle of the day? The mail-Ixi had already arrived and I was positive the neighbors were all out in Neopia Central, roaming around. Who did that leave? With a small groan, I rolled off the sofa to answer my own question.

     I was startled to find a desert Lupe (he must have come a long way) standing on the porch. He extended his orange paw. I shook it.

     "Hi," he said. "I'm Darius. You're a detective, right?"

     I introduced myself. "Marlo, and yes. Is there a problem?"

     "There is, Marlo," the Lupe said, frowning. "An Anubis was stolen from me on the 22nd day of the month of Relaxing."

     "Enough said," I told him, gesturing towards the door. "Come inside and we'll talk."

     As he brushed past me, elegant desert robe swishing around him, I realized that my day of not doing anything escaped out the front door. We were busy again. I grinned to myself: good.

To be continued…

 
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