Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 127,331,912 Issue: 258 | 22nd day of Gathering, Y8
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The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Six


by corr2000

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It was quite an ordeal. When Xanxas told Gaba (the Usul servant) that she was not feeling well, she just bowed and said she would tell the princess (Xanxas's mother), but Dublin saw her roll her eyes as if this wasn't new. When the sun sank below the horizon, they began to get ready. The guards' outfits were made for Grarrls so they nearly fell off. They avoided this problem by stuffing copious amounts of pillows into the robes at belly level. Xanxas's size was hard to conceal, so it was decided that she and Dublin go in the same robe. Since Xanxas's face looked more Grarrlish than Dublin's, she was on top. Dublin grumbled a great deal about this, but eventually allowed a laughing Aiibis to pull the robe over both their heads. Still, it was very hard to walk with Xanxas standing on his shoulders. What was more, he couldn't see so she had to constantly whisper things like "Left! No, not that far!" and "Stop. STOP!" Climbing down a four-story wall proved nearly impossible, but they tried valiantly. The end result was that they fell the last story and landed in the canopy of a stall. Luckily, no one was around, and the stall was the kind that sold fabrics.

      The walk along the alley out of the city was better. Dublin sort of got the hang of acrobatic walking and they went over their plan a few times. Once they "took over" for the tomb guards, they would head straight to the dice chamber. Dublin could then open the chamber and grab the dice. Xanxas knew a poem they could say that would hopefully pacify the angry spirit of Noahr (Lost Desert kings' spirits liked to hang around for a while). They would then reseal the chamber and wait for Darkblood. When they got to that part, Dublin's hands always started to sweat. If all went well, they would kill Darkblood and save Sansae. The biggest problem was actually doing it.

      Presently they came to the desert. The sun had now completely set, and the tombs looming around them looked rather ghastly in the half-light. They found King Noahr's without difficulty. It was the biggest, and the only one with guards at the entrance. The Protectors really didn't want to risk Darkblood returning. The three of them hesitated, not sure how to approach the formidable-looking guards. Then Xanxas hissed at Dublin and he reluctantly moved forward.

      "Who's there?" one of the guards asked suddenly.

      Xanxas cleared her throat and wobbled a bit.

      "We're here to relieve you, sent by her majesty. You five are her favorite guards, and she wants you to enjoy the festivities."

      Below her, Dublin grinned. It was perfect. She was telling them exactly what they wanted to hear. Xanxas was a natural. These guards didn't stand a chance.

      A large, burly Grarrl who seemed to be the leader spoke.

      "That's all very nice," he said rather menacingly, "but what are your numbers?"

      Dublin's heart sank. Now they were going to get it. They were found out! Would they be brought to the king? Would they detain him and question Aiibis? What would they do to Xanxas?

      He shouldn't have worried.

      "1292588, 1292592 and 1292534," Xanxas said promptly.

      The captain nodded and turned to the rest of the guards.

      "We got the evening off, boys! Let's party!"

      All the Grarrls cheered and ran off toward the city without a backwards glance.

      When they were out of sight, the three imposters let out sighs of relief. Xanxas climbed off Dublin's back and he stretched.

      "That was amazing, Xan!" Dublin said, awed. "How did you know those numbers?"

      Xanxas turned to him.

      "As you know, my hobby is spying. I know everything there is to know about this place, including how to blend into the security system. I entered those numbers into their books a long time ago. Guards with those numbers don't actually exist, so I use them whenever I need to. I don't really need to bother, though. None of the captains actually remember all the numbers; they just pretend because they're supposed to."

      She winked.

      Aiibis finished extracting himself from his robe and tapped Xanxas on the shoulder.

      "That was mighty nice there," he said appreciatively, "but don' yar think it be time ta be getting' on into that there tomb?"

      "Definitely!" Xanxas agreed and led the way up to the tomb door.

      "It must be locked!" Dublin said, tugging at one handle.

      "Not so." Xanxas moved closer and examined the very center of the double doors. An odd symbol was engraved there. She reached out one paw and touched the glyph. At once, blue light suffused the door. They all leapt back as the sand under the door started to move. A column of sand rose up from the ground and snaked around the doorframe. The door dissolved, leaving a gap bordered by the now still sand.

      They stood in stunned silence for a moment.

      "Whoa," Dublin breathed.

      "Let's go," whispered Xanxas. Even she looked surprised.

      Cautiously, the three of them approached the dark opening. Aiibis took a deep breath and stepped forward. His form quickly disappeared into the gloom. Xanxas and Dublin looked at each other and followed.

      They stumbled along in complete darkness. Dublin had no idea where the other two were, and he was too busy trying to walk in a straight line to care. He heard a yell from up ahead and stopped. Someone bumped into him.

      "Ahh!" He jumped back.

      "It's me, dunderhead. I think Aiibis is in trouble."

      "Xanxas!"

      "The very same. Now do you have any idea how we can get some light? We'll never find Aiibis in the dark. I knew I should have brought matches!"

      Dublin felt around in the darkness.

      "There must be... ah!"

      His fingers touched a wall. Feeling his way slowly, he traveled up the wall until his fingers hit something embedded. He yanked and the thing came loose. He held it in his hand, squinting to see--

      This time they both screamed. The "thing" in his hand had just erupted into flame. Dublin swore and dropped it. It rolled away across the stone floor, still lit. By its light, Dublin examined his unfortunate hand.

      "Are you badly hurt?" Xanxas asked.

      Dublin frowned.

      "No," he said, puzzled. "When that thing was in my hand, I could feel its heat, but it didn't burn me."

      "And it's not scorching the floor!" Xanxas whispered, moving toward it.

      "Are you crazy? What are you doing getting near-"

      But Xanxas had picked it up. She held the cherry-sized stone in the palm of her hand and smiled as the red flames licked her arm, leaving the flesh untouched.

      "Things around here are getting stranger and stranger!" she remarked and led the way down the tunnel.

      The light revealed that the ceiling was very low, and getting still lower. Pretty soon, they had to bend down to walk. Just when Dublin was sure that it would come to a dead end, they saw a light. They hurried forward... and stopped dead.

      They were standing in a large, well-lit room. Gracing the opposite wall was a huge door. It was bright blue with many runes and glyphs carved into the intricate designs of vines that laced its front. Dublin's scribe training kicked in and he was able to roughly translate the old script:

      Chamber of the High Body of King Naohr and His Gifts of the Afterlife

     What was good was that they had found the dice. What was bad was that about 15 pirates stood in their way. Large, beefy and squint-eyed brutes glowered down on them. Two of them were holding a struggling Aiibis. Another two were holding Sansae. She was in rags and had an utterly defeated expression on her face. But Dublin did not see any of this; he was looking at the captain. He was frantically examining and re-examining every feature of that taut face, praying that he was mistaken.

      "Dad?" he whispered.

      Captain Darkblood laughed. It was an evil laugh, filled with hatred and greed.

      "Hello, son," Dublin's father sneered. "Miss me?"

      Dublin could not think. His body and mind had been frozen by the hatred in his father's eyes. As if in a dream, he moved his lips to form the word:

      "Why?"

      Darkblood smiled a cruel smile.

      "Which why are you asking, son?" he hissed. "Why I killed your tutor? Why I want the Dice? Why your mother was fool enough to marry me? Why trusty Aiibis left out the teeny detail of my identity? I can explain his actions. He never met me. How was he to know? Your mother, on the other hand, knew me, but had no idea of my true life." He let out a huge fake sigh. "If only they'd bothered to compare notes."

      Dublin's knees gave way. He sank to the floor. It was too much. His own father. How could that be? But as he thought, it all came clear. His father had never been home much, he had never really known him...

      Two pirates grabbed his shoulders and pulled him roughly to his feet.

      "Now now, boy," Darkblood sneered, "Don't go lying on the floor, I want you to see this."

      With that, he strode over to the pirates holding Dublin's mother, Sansae. He grabbed her and dragged her up to the great blue door.

      "Open it!" he hissed.

      Sansae looked at him and her expression changed. She stood up straight and jerked her arm out of his grasp.

      "I'll die first!" she said with venom.

      Darkblood stared at her, as if he could not believe what he was hearing. Then he smiled evilly.

      "You are brave, wife. I married you solely because you could get me the Dice, but I don't mind your personality. Since I have our son, you can have your way."

      He drew a dagger from his belt.

      "No!" Dublin shouted, fighting desperately against the two pirates, to no avail. Next to him, Aiibis and Xanxas were similarly struggling.

      Sansae stood straight, her eyes overbright.

      "Aiibis," she said, "I thought you were just jealous, but I should have heeded your counsel. Dublin, I love you and your sister more than you know. Be strong; we shall see each other again some day. Xanxas, you have been a wonderful niece. My greatest regret is that I will not live to see both of you, Dublin and Annika, grow up."

      She bowed her head. A small sob escaped Xanxas. Dublin and Aiibis were frozen with horror. Darkblood moved the bright blade toward her neck...

      And then something clicked in Dublin. He could not, would not stand there while his mother was murdered. A great surge of adrenaline shot through him. In a quick movement, he drew his maractite blade and slashed the arms of his two captors. Their cries made Darkblood pause and look up...

      Dublin raised his dagger over his head, let out a yell and charged at his father.

      Dublin flung himself at Darkblood, stabbing toward every part of him that he could reach. Darkblood let out a howl of pain and his dagger clattered to the floor. In the blink of an eye Xanxas had pushed aside her surprised captors and, picking up the dagger, joined the fray. Aiibis picked up Dublin's dropped fire-stone and attacked the pirates. While it did not burn his skin, the pirates cried out in pain when it touched them. Sansae ran over to the great blue tomb door. Out of the corner of his eye, Dublin saw her place her hands on the door and whisper something with her eyes closed. Suddenly a dagger flashed out of nowhere and grazed his right eye. Yelling in pain, Dublin fell backwards.

      Suddenly, a great rumble boomed from somewhere below them. The chamber shook and great chunks of the ceiling fell around them. Curled tightly in a ball with both hands over his injured eye, Dublin hoped against hope that he would not be hit. A great current seemed to swirl around the room, as if a small hurricane was passing through. Then a deep voice boomed about the chamber:

      "Those who have disturbed my slumber, the curses of the sun are upon you. Take now this plague as reward for your deeds."

     A hand grabbed Dublin and dragged him across the floor. He struggled weakly, but the pain incapacitated him.

      "It's okay, m'boy, it's Aiibis!" a gruff voice whispered. "And yar gotta see this."

      Dublin raised his throbbing head off the ground. He and Aiibis were lying in the small corridor that led to the chamber. Xanxas and Sansae were crouched next to him. They were all gazing, transfixed at the chamber they had just come from. Dublin turned his head and looked...

      Darkblood and his crew were still standing in the chamber. They had looks of utter horror on their faces. Dublin could not imagine why, until he saw the floor. It had turned from smooth stone, into some kind of tan mud. Slurping noises were coming from it. All of the pirates were trying to run out of the chamber, but their feet seemed to be embedded into the floor. Then it dawned on him--it was quicksand! The four of them watched, transfixed, as the pirates sank deeper into the mire, until they were up to their heads. All of them were yelling in fear and struggling frantically. Finally, with a last glurp, the quicksand pulled them below. Their yells stopped abruptly.

      Dublin, Aiibis, Xanxas and Sansae sat petrified, still staring at the floor. With another rumble, the sand disappeared, leaving smooth stone in its place. Before any of them could move, the great voice boomed out once more:

      "Dublin Corfax of the House of Kings, I, King Naohr IIV give you the Golden Dice of the Sun. Use them as you will, with my blessing. Also, thank you, Sansae Corfax for not revealing my tomb to the traitors. Blessings of the King be upon you."

      The voice stopped. All was silent. Suddenly, a beam of light shot down onto Dublin. The pain in his eye disappeared. At the same time, something heavy dropped into his hand. He sat up fully and looked at the gift. It was a square golden box with a glyph engraved in the lid. Eyes wide with wonder, Dublin looked around at his stunned companions. An understanding passed between them. They all smiled and hugged. When they broke apart, Sansae wiped her eyes and turned to Dublin.

      "I would ask you to come home, but you have grown far too much in the past weeks to return to your childhood home. I am giving you your... your father's ship. The time has come for you to go start your own life. You have my blessing."

      "An' mine," said Aiibis solemnly.

      "Mine too!" said Xanxas quickly, not wanting to be outdone.

      And they all laughed.

     Epilogue

      A few months later, amid the cheers of the Smugglers and the stomping of Royal feet, Aiibis and Sansae were married. They had been friends all their lives when they finally died in year 5. Xanxas ran away and joined Dublin on his ship as first mate. Annika grew up to become a great beauty and won many trophies. She had now retired from her career and lives a quiet life on Mystery Island.

      Dublin himself? He fulfilled his dream. He joined the Smugglers and became a great captain. He changed his name (as most pirates do) to Deadeye, in honor of his tutor and also his injury, now only a blurry spot on his vision. Songs were sung about his deeds. He was the first pirate to make a map of the Smugglers' many hiding spots. Unfortunately, it was found and reproduced and can be bought at the Trading Post for about 20k a piece. He kept the Dice all his life but never used them until he retired from the ocean. He keeps the originals shut away, but his favorite game features a pair of reproductions. His name has now faded into the past, but he still likes to regale the village children with tales of the Dice and hopes that he can help one of them follow in his footsteps and become a rider of the waves.

The End

 
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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 Five



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