Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 114,369,520 Issue: 229 | 23rd day of Awakening, Y8
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Solkaris: The Narrative: Part Two

by x_marks_the_spot


The soft, muffled sound of a tired pack animal suddenly disrupted my thoughts and I looked up in surprise. An exhausted Apis meandered over the dunes, its bandy legs bending with each step as it struggled towards the Oasis bearing its rider and her gear. It was a white Aisha wearing a thatched sunhat and dressed in a beige-colored polo shirt, light green vest and green shorts. I could already tell by her outfit she was not one with the desert. From my hiding place beneath the shadow of the ferns, I watched as she dismounted the large Petpet by the water and allowed it to gulp down the lifesaving liquid ravenously. She, however, ignored the water and instead brought down a heavy sports bag and retrieved a notepad from it before walking up to Coltzan's Shrine. Rather than wait to get blessed (or rejected, as I had been on numerous occasions), she sat down and began scribbling down notes as if there was no tomorrow. She observed the hieroglyphics carved into it, copied down the inscriptions within the cartouches and other such things that were baffling and seemingly pointless to a simple thief like me.

     "What kind of Neopet goes to Coltzan, but not to get blessed?" I mused quietly. Sibil, who was perched on her regular spot on my shoulder, saved me the trouble of having to answer.

     "I think she's an archaeologist," she said softly.

     Whatever she was, I could tell she wasn't like most other Neopets that came by here. I got to my feet and slunk over to her Apis, making sure I didn't attract the Aisha's attention, and began to nose around. The poor Petpet seemed too fatigued to care, and just lay there as I explored the contents of the Aisha's various knapsacks. At first it all seemed pretty usual and of no interest to me. She didn't carry any jewelry or rare artifacts, only some notes, changes of clothes, food (which I took anyway) and various other basic necessities. However, a certain book lying in the sand where it had fallen out of her bag caught my kohl-encrusted eyes, and I picked it up curiously.

     "Hello, what's this?" I wondered, running my hands over the tatty edges.

     It was a well-loved little book, I could see. Already the nice green covering was being eaten away by time. On the front there was a little plaque with the words 'Sarina's Book' written on it. So that's who she was! The world-famous Aisha archaeologist, Sarina Salen! I had heard about her, but never met her before. Not that I wanted to, what could an archaeologist have that would be of any value to me?

     "I think that's her diary, Soki," Sibil whispered into my ear, and I gave her my carefree, lopsided smile that always means I'm up to no good.

     "Let's just see what's she's got in here!" I smirked, and I flipped through the book, its pages making a muffled flapping sound as I briefed through them.

     Suddenly something caught my attention and I opened up the page. My eyes went wide with wonder. There before me was a diagram of the inside of Sutek's Gebmid, the tomb of Neopia's greatest, most respected ruler and home to the richest wonders ever imaginable. I could see it all before me: the torches flickering in their gem-studded sconces, casting a warm glow over the piles of coins and treasure amassed in elaborate chests, piling up the walls and spilling all over the floor. And the floor would be gold too! And the ceiling and the walls and the traditional wall paintings would be made of different types of rare stone, and there would be scrolls with curses and lamps with genies and…and…his gold throne! There would be all his life's treasures in there, and they would all be mine! Ornate pillars, solid gold statues, ancient weapons still intact and ready for use, rich sarcophagi and decorated canopic jars. Rare Mummified Neggs-it would all be there-Golden Scorchstones! And it would all be mine!

     I turned to my Crokabek and she hopped off my shoulder and flapped steadily in front of me.

     "Sibil, this is the chance we've been waiting for!" I squeaked in excitement, hardly able to contain myself. I glanced over at Sarina and saw that she was almost done with her observations. Taking the book, I dragged Sibil into the cover of the ferns once more before continuing. "Once we follow this route we'll be rich! Richer than Empress Vyssa and Princess Amira, richer than rich! Holy Adam, we'll be the richest in Neopia!"

     In the background Sarina Salen had packed everything up and hut-tutted the Apis back into action. Her packs bumped up and down as the lanky Petpet stumbled back over the dunes, this time heading towards the Gebmids.

     "Come on Sibil, the chance of a lifetime!" I said. I could see that she was just as excited and driven by the thought of treasure as I was. Unlike Stan, we both had eyes for gold, and the golden eye makeup she wore outlined her sharp red eyes perfectly against her black feathers, making her lust for the element all the more apparent. I had found her on Krawk Island in the first place, and although she had been all too happy to desert her previous (and might I add, cruel) owner, the pillage and plunder inside her was still lying dormant. But now it had been spurred back into action and it wasn't long before we were rushing off across the desert towards the proudly standing Gebmids, following the tracks left in Sarina's wake.

     Sarina was already there when we stumbled up to the site that night, tired, weary, but much too excited to rest. The Apis was curled up alongside the largest Gebmid, Sarina's tent canvas erected next to it, shielding both her and the Petpet from the chilly winds and rapidly dropping temperatures. I could see her silhouette moving around inside her makeshift shelter as her lantern flickered and danced and played with the firelight. She appeared to be rummaging around, looking for something, and my hand instinctively reached down to my sash to make sure I still had the notebook. I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt the worn leather cover and couldn't help sniggering at the unfortunate Aisha. She had had no idea I had taken her book; she could look everywhere in there and never find it! I chuckled to myself at the thought. From inside the tent I saw Sarina look up as I ran off to find the entrance to the Gebmid.

     "Hello, is anyone there?" she called out into the night, and only the night replied in a chorus of crickets and desert whispers. The stars and the moon overhead were not enough to help her distinguish my fleeing form as I scampered off.

     The main door to the Gebmid could only be opened using the lucky coin that Brucey B. held in possession. There was no other apparent way to open it, but, like all things in my home country, there is always another way to do something, and so it was that there was a second entrance to the Gebmid, only very craftily hidden.

     This second door was embedded so cunningly in its stone that I barely made it out. It had been many sandstorms since it had last been opened, and sand was piled high against it, covering almost half of the door in its coarse warmth.

     Putting flint to tinder, I lit a wooden torch I had brought and held the light up to the door. In the center of the door was a round disk, at the middle of which was a carved circle. Lines emancipated out from it like the rays of a sun, and in each compartment formed by the rays there was a hieroglyphic picture. To the right and left of the sun were two winged Gebs, both upside-down. The door was the simplest thing to open, I hardly needed to study the diagram in Sarina's book.

     Turning the disk clockwise, I wound it around until the Gebs were upright and facing the sun. There was a gravelly chink and then the door slowly began to open, rising upwards and revealing a dank, dark passageway, every inch foreboding. Normally I would've turned tail and ran, but there was gold to be had! With Sibil perched snugly on my shoulder, her ebony head half buried beneath my tangled fringe, I strode confidently into the tomb, unaware that I was being followed…

     I hadn't gone too deep into the Gebmid before I came across the second puzzle, one much better known and much more baffling. A great heavy wall of stone barred my path, a grid of hieroglyphic symbols and pictures covering its vast face. There were red-stained gems; green-hued palm trees, sandy obelisks, orange suns, blue Desert Blumaroo heads and black scarabs. All these and more riddled the wall that surged from the floor before disappearing in the shadows above; my pathetic torchlight unable to reveal what secrets lay amongst the ceiling. I felt so small and insignificant compared with the majesty and mystery of it all.

     I have watched many Neopians (my owner among them) playing a reconstruction of this game in the Games Room; swapping adjacent tiles to make three or more in a row so that they may disappear, and all the time the tiles keep coming and coming and coming. I gulped and wondered if this puzzle had an end to it as well! Just as I was about to shift a few squares of my own, a loud, desperate cry echoed throughout the chamber, scaring me half to death.

     I swiveled sharply around in surprise and saw Sarina Salen standing defensively in the corridor from which I had just come.

     "STOP!" she yelled again, blocking the passageway determinedly. In her right paw she gripped a torch of her own, and she had a backpack and a fair length of rope with her. No doubt she had followed me after I had run so carelessly by her tent, and upon seeing the door to the Gebmid open pursued me farther.

     Well, no Aisha was going to stop me now.

     "Hand over the book, Solkaris," she panted, clearly exasperated from running so hard. She read my look of surprise and glared at me. "I know who you are, I saw the poster in Sakhmet! Now hand over my book before I have you arrested!"

     "By whom?" I sneered. Sibil glowered at her from beneath my bushy fringe. A coward and hopeless fighter she may be, but she's no shrinking violet when it comes to siding with me. "There are no Guards for miles around, and besides, once I find that treasure I won't have to worry about them anymore!"

     To prove my point, my hand shot to the nearest tile on the wall and swapped it with another beneath it. I heard Sarina yelp again as the whole chamber began to rumble and shake.

     "You idiot!" she screamed, running across the room towards me, her free paw outstretched as if she intended to strangle me." That was Sutek's--AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!"

     Before she could finish her sentence a hidden trap door fell open beneath us, sending us both plummeting into its gaping mouth. It happened so suddenly even Sibil was pulled down with us. The torches snuffed themselves out as the suffocating darkness enveloped us, and our cries of surprise and terror were muffled as the doors slammed shut above us, plunging us into blackness.

     We dropped for a long time, our screams echoing in our ears as they reverberated loudly in the narrow tunnel. I was wondering if the drop was ever going to end, or if Sutek had gone so far as to include a never-ending pit as an addition to his array of traps, when I suddenly slammed onto hard stone and everything went black.

To be continued...

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