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The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Five


by corr2000

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The words hit Dublin with the force of a bullet.

      "Kidnapped!?" he spluttered. "When? Why? By whom? Where is she? Is she all right?"

      Dublin started to tremble. What if his actions had somehow caused this? Was this more of Darkblood's work?

      "We 'eard-"

      "And where are my sister and father?" Dublin interrupted, determined to get all of his questions out at once.

      Aiibis took over.

      "Yar sister be fine. An islander heard 'er cries and went to yar house. She was lyin' on the doorstep. Yar mother was gone. Yar father was away on business ('e 'as been since before yar left) and we don' even think 'e knows."

      "And do you know who kidnapped her?"

      "I be getting' there, m'boy! Let me tell yar my theory. That'll explain some o' yar questions:

      "Methinks that it was that there scoundrel Darkblood. He needs sommun with the royal blood in 'em to unlock the Dice chamber of that tomb, doesn't 'e? 'E kidnapped her and is plannin' to take 'er to the desert and get her to steal 'em. That means," he continued, ignoring the fact that Dublin was desperately trying to interrupt, "that we've gotta get to the tomb, and get those Dice first."

      A stunned silence greeted his words. Brune broke it.

      "But mate, yar was there wit Darkblood; you saw 'em quail at the prospect o' getting' past them guards. And even if yar gets that far, those there same rules apply to yar, Aiibis. Yar need someone wit the Blood too!"

      Aiibis patted Dublin on the back.

      "And we got some one. 'E's Sansae's son, 'ave yar forgotten?"

      "By Scarblade, yar right!" Brune exclaimed.

      "All that remains ta be done now," Aiibis smiled, "is ta find that tomb and beat 'em at their own game!"

      The pirates cheered. Dublin's mind was reeling. He had the power to get the Dice and save his mother. The feeling of hopelessness that had surrounded him since the vow evaporated. He was finally on the right track.

      They set out once more, this time toward their final destination. Before they left, the pirates had given Dublin a gift.

      "Jus ta thank yar," Brune said gruffly. "Darkblood's a snake and it's about time someone did 'em in!"

      So saying, he pulled out a long, thin package, wrapped clumsily in brown paper. Dublin tore off the packaging. His jaw dropped.

      It was a maractite dagger. A real one, with a glowing bluish green handle. Dublin swished it through the air. Heat seemed to emanate from it, warming the air as it passed. Dublin looked at Brune with wordless thanks in his eyes.

      "Stole it meself!" announced Brune "That stuck up shopkeeper didn' know what hit 'em." He smirked.

      "Just do me one favor..."

      Dublin waited, afraid that the pirate would want a share of the Die or worse.

      "...make sure to kill Darkblood with it."

      A few hours later, after loading up with many provisions, Dublin was standing in the bow of the Queen, musing over his fate. I will kill Darkblood. The thought disturbed him, but at the same time strengthened his resolve. To take his mind off things, he asked Aiibis, "Why are you my godfather? I realize now that I don't even know your connection to my family!"

      Aiibis thought about this for a moment before answering.

      "I used ta be an ol' friend of yar Mum's. We grew up together see. She a princess, and I the son of the Scroll Repositry Keeper. She'd get lonely with no one to play wit (she was an only child) and I'd get lonely for thar same reason (me father wanted me to become a Keeper too so I spent many a day in that dusty place). And that was that!"

      Dublin squinted at Aiibis, trying to imagine him wearing the white robes of a Keeper.

      "I suppose," Aiibis continued as he turned the tiller from side to side, "that we really became friends when I rescued her from quicksand. Constant problem in the Desert."

      He paused, but resumed at the sight of Dublin's eager face.

      "We were on the way back from Coltzan's Shrine, n' suddenly she stepped on a bad spot. Flailin' her arms and yellin' she was. I ran and got a fallen palm frond. I pulled and she pushed and finally she got out. Deathly afraid of wet sand after that, though."

      Dublin remembered that his mother had never liked being at the beach much in his childhood. Was this the reason? Suddenly, a great wave of homesickness swept over him. He remembered all the things he had enjoyed on the island: swimming, searching for seashells, climbing trees, reading... And it occurred to him in a flash of realization that he might never see his home again. Never see his sister, his mother, his father... What if Darkblood proved a stronger swordsman? He shivered. He did not want to die.

      Aiibis, seeing his changed mood, suggested that he go below. "Those gosh darn cannons keep a slidin' around. Go see if yar can't fasten 'em down wit summat."

     Grateful for the excuse, Dublin went below, dutifully inspected the perfectly secure cannons and tumbled into his hammock. He was asleep within minutes.

      The next day they passed under Faerieland. The sun was out and they could see the light reflecting off the spires of the castle. Dublin was perched on the mast, polishing the blade of his dagger with the hem of his shirt and thinking. He was now bound to this venture. What had begun as a quest for revenge had become a rescue mission. He was the only one who could save his mother. As he gazed at the cruel steel blade of his dagger in the sunlight, an idea formed in his mind. Why hadn't he thought of it before?

      "Aiibis!" he called, gliding down to the deck. "I know someone who can help us!"

      That same afternoon, Dublin and Aiibis stood at the gates of the palace.

      "Yar sure about this, m'boy?" Aiibis asked nervously.

      "Of course!" Dublin tried to look confident. "It's our only chance."

      "But, 'ow much power would a girl o' your age 'ave over them Protectors?"

      "If anyone knows a way to get past them, Xan does."

      Aiibis shrugged doubtfully and allowed Dublin to lead him up to the gates. Two large Grarrl guards blocked their way.

      "We're here to see the princess," Dublin tried, his voice quavering slightly.

      One of the Grarrls snorted.

      "And why would we let you do that?" he jeered.

      Dublin drew himself up to his full height and looked the guard straight in the eye.

      "Is that anyway to speak to the King's grandson?" he asked.

      The guards' eyes widened in shock.

      "We must apologize, Lord Dublin, we had no idea-"

      "Next time," interrupted Dublin, "it would do better to let me in."

      Still mumbling apologies, the guards swung the gates open and allowed them to pass.

      Once they were out of earshot, Aiibis started to laugh.

      "Yar be just like yar mother." He chuckled. Dublin felt rather flattered.

      Through the palace doors they strode, into a huge room with a very high ceiling. Everything was marble. Intricate carvings laced the huge columns that held up the roof, and statues of gods rested in niches along the walls. There were a lot of finely dressed people milling about. No one recognized Dublin. Have I changed that much? he found himself thinking. One servant, a desert Usul, approached them.

      "Excuse me my lord," she said, dropping a curtsy,"I was told that you wished to see Her Highness, Princess Xanxas-Zumatae?"

      Dublin nodded.

      "Follow me."

      She led them out of the entrance hall and up a wide marble staircase. As they strolled through large courtyards and halls, it became apparent just how large Sakhmet Palace was. Dublin had never thoroughly explored the entire thing, even in the hundreds of times he had visited his mother's family here. He loved running about the halls with his cousins. His father, however, Dublin remembered, had never liked visiting. It had been the subject of many arguments.

      Finally, about ten minutes later, the Usul stopped in front of a large finely wrought door. She raised a large, heavy-looking knocker and let it fall against the door with a bang.

      There was the sound of rustling paper, and a muffled voice called, "Come in!"

      Their Usul guide opened the door and bowed them in.

      The princess's antechamber looked like a smaller version of the entrance hall. Marble columns lined the walls. Sunlight streamed through a window in the corner. A long couch piled high with overstuffed pillows stood in the middle of the room. On it, sat a young desert Poogle with a guilty expression on her face. It cleared at the sight of them, however.

      "Dublin!" the princess cried, jumping up from the couch.

      "Hello, Xan!" Dublin said cheerfully, clapping her on the shoulder. "We have a lot to catch up on."

      "We sure do!" Xanxas said, as they all sat down on the couch. "For instance-" her demeanor changed suddenly "-where have you been?"

      Dublin cringed at the venom in her voice.

      "It's a very long story, I don't think-"

      "Tell it!" she hissed.

      Dublin looked to Aiibis, who nodded slightly, and began to tell.

      For half and hour he talked, trying to convey the urgency of everything. He finished by saying, "I know it was wrong to leave like that, but at the time it seemed the right thing to do. I hope you can forgive me."

      She glared at him.

      "Because of your actions, your mother - my aunt - has been kidnapped by a gang of bloodthirsty pirates who want her to violate the rules of respect for the dead's wishes. Do you know the effect this has had on grandpa? And my mother? They have been frantic ever since you disappeared. And now this! Even if you don't care about how I feel, it was a mean thing to worry them so. Do you realize that you have been gone nearly three weeks? Before they kidnapped her, your mother was frantic. Your father is off looking for you right now. That is why he was not there when your mother was taken. Did you even consider..."

      She continued in this vein for some time. Listening to her, Dublin felt even worse. It was all true. All the things he had pushed out of his mind were coming back to haunt him. Why had he not planned it all better? He now realized that he had pretty much been going on whims and suspicions, never thinking farther than killing Darkblood. Another of his fears was confirmed too. He had been responsible for his mother's position. And his father's. Was it true that his father was looking for him all over Neopia? What if he'd run into the pirates too? Before he could consider the implications of that, Xanxas grabbed his arm and snarled: "Are you even listening?"

      Dublin turned to her.

      "Look," he said wearily, "All of what you are saying is true. I did not act in an honorable way. I deserve all of the criticism that you can think up. But there is no time. I need to try and right all that I have ruined. The key to that is defeating Darkblood, and for that I need your help."

      Xanxas's expression softened.

      "I understand the pressure that you must be under," she said. "And I too must admit to something."

      Dublin was astonished. Xanxas never admitted to being wrong.

      "Part of the reason I am so angry is frustration. I have been very jealous of you these past weeks. Sailing around Neopia with a pirate, searching for lost legends. Remember when we were little? We would pretend to be off climbing Terror Mountain, or bouncing around on the clouds of Faerieland. You have done these things while I have been stuck here, making do with crashing royal parties. I should not have let my emotions interfere. If I can help you in any way, I will."

      Dublin looked at her, knowing how hard that had been for her to say. "Thank you," he said simply.

      They all sat in silence for a moment. Then Aiibis cleared his throat.

      "Now that we've sorted out this," he said carefully, "don' yar think we should best be startin' about getting' past them guards?"

      Xanxas jumped. She had forgotten he was there.

      "Of course," she said, all business. She reached under one of the many pillows and pulled out a very crumpled map. Dublin now realized that the rustling sound they had heard was her hiding it. He grinned. That was so Xanxas.

     "I have the perfect idea," she continued. "This evening, my mother is having another party. Everyone is expected to attend, even the Protectors. In their place, they will leave a small band of regular, all-brawn-no-brain guards. I will say I am not feeling well and stay in my room. No one knows that you are here yet except the servants, who can be bribed, so you won't be missed. When everyone is downstairs at the party, we can use the rope in my closet to climb out the window. The ally below leads directly out of the city, straight to the desert where the tombs are. Naohr's is the last on the right. It's also the biggest. There will be a lot of guards at the entrance. We will be dressed as guards (I have some of their outfits in my closet too) and say we are coming to relieve them. Since they are so dim-witted, it will be easy to fool them. Once they are off at the party, it will be easy for us to enter the tomb."

      "That sounds great!" Dublin said with enthusiasm. "Only one thing: you are coming?"

      She smiled. "I wouldn't miss this for anything."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part One
» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Two
» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Three
» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Four
» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Six



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