Petpet Adventures: Runaway - Part Six
The interior of the palace was as grand as the outside; covered in rich tapestries and soft carpets. Decorative ornaments lined the walls. Folfeux stared around the room in awe and the Quilin must have caught the look, because her face softened. Or maybe that was because she was in familiar territory.
Folfeux heard shuffling behind her and quickly stepped away from the tunnel entrance to let her friends through. Asmaral appeared and she gazed around the room with wide eyes. Her tail flicked excitedly and she didn’t seem at all bothered by the sudden light.
Archilles appeared next, shuffling out from the tunnel and squinting at his surroundings. The Quilin waited until he had recovered sufficiently and turned briskly towards a huge archway.
“I know I can trust you now,” she said quietly to Folfeux.
“How?” Folfeux was surprised.
“Because you looked around the room with admiration rather than greed or envy. When Malei first came here he was like that. But he was a good actor, and that’s how he fooled us.” The Quilin sounded bitter.
Folfeux started at the mention of Malei. “It seems that almost everyone in Shenkuu has heard of Malei. Well, the petpets anyway,” she dared to venture.
The Quilin looked down at her. “That’s right. Malei is the most devious and ugly creature in the whole of Shenkuu. He pretends to belong to a group of thieves, but in fact it is he that owns them. Without him they would be nothing.”
Folfeux opened her mouth to ask why, but the Quilin cut her off. “We’re here,” she whispered.
Folfeux looked into the room before her. It was just as large and well kept as the other rooms, but in one corner was a set of petpet-sized furniture. She stared in astonishment; this was the last thing she had expected to find in the palace.
Sitting in a small armchair was a small Hegelob. He was small, half from age and half naturally. He watched them approach warily. The Quilin stepped forward and stood on his right, before turning to Folfeux and her friends.
“Folfeux, Asmaral and Archilles,” she began. “This is Diomoratidai. But call him Dio.”
Dio nodded at her. “Thank you, Kiya,” he said in a deep voice, before turning to face his guests. “What brings you to the palace? I am the petpet of the king of Shenkuu, and I am the highest authority when it comes to petpets.”
Folfeux considered bowing, but decided against it. “Malei is planning a robbery of something in your treasury. They’re coming through the kitchen vent.”
Dio hissed angrily and his eyes flashed with rage. Folfeux had said the right thing to make them listen to her. She wondered if he would have reacted differently if it was just pets planning something.
“That one,” the Hegelob spat. He shared a look with Kiya, who nodded slightly and sped off. “I thought we had seen the last of him when he failed last time, but it seems we’ve only made him more determined. What is he planning to steal?”
“Some sort of dagger,” Archilles replied.
Dio’s eyes narrowed. “Thyra’s Dagger, I’m guessing.” He broke off.
Folfeux spoke up. “Why is Malei so...?” She stopped and searched for the right word. “Evil?”
Dio stopped brooding. “He is a petpet, but he can speak pet. Normally no petpet would talk to a pet, but he decided to. And it just so happened that his pet was a thief. Not a very good one, mind, but he still knew a few tricks. He taught Malei what he knew and together they began their career. Malei stole the artefacts while his pet distracted whoever owned them. It was foolproof. And it wasn’t a problem until he began working with more pets.”
The Hegelob paused, then continued. “They began stealing stuff from the palace; if they hadn’t, we would not have as much security, but we can’t help that. But then his pet wanted to become king. And they made an attempt on his Majesty's life.”
Folfeux froze. Why would anyone want to...? She shivered fiercely and looked away, around the room. Kiya hurried into the room.
“I’ve got someone watching the vents,” she told Dio, who relaxed a bit.
“Wait a second,” said Asmaral. “Does that mean you can speak pet as well?”
Kiya turned to her and shook her head. She had an amused glint in her eyes. “Of course not. We use all our time trying to keep the palace safe, not learning a language we probably won’t ever need. There is a small group of petpets living in the palace, with Dio being at their head. If we see anything suspicious we just make a lot of noise and the pets come running. We’ve trained them well.”
Asmaral blinked slowly. “Oh,” was all she said.
Kiya turned back to Dio, but before she could speak Folfeux heard a loud commotion coming from outside the window. She pricked up her ears and curiously gazed towards it. Archilles, however, headed towards it and jumped up on the sill.
“Hey, come here and look at this,” he called back to them.
Folfeux was there in an instant, ready to see what was going on. Down below, just in front of the huge entrance doors of the palace, two pets were fighting. The guards crowded around and laughed as the two pets tussled fiercely. There was a flash of green fur and she instantly recognised her former pet.
Kiya stood beside her, watching every move and flicking her tail. Dio was slowly making his way to the window, and Folfeux saw that he wasn’t actually that old, just extremely tired. He heaved himself up beside the Quilin and frowned down at the fighting pets.
“They look familiar...” he mused.
“That’s because they’re the thieves,” Asmaral hissed, spinning around. “I think that’s the distraction.”
Kiya caught on immediately. “We need to get to the kitchen now,” she said.
She leapt off the ledge, and Dio tried to follow, but he stumbled and fell heavily to the ground. Folfeux jumped down after him and leant over his body. He was breathing slowly and she sighed with relief. Kiya ran back with worry clouding her eyes.
“He’s fine,” Folfeux assured her.
Dio stirred. “I’ll be alright. I just need a few moments to rest,” he panted.
Kiya paused. “We need to go the kitchens now, can you catch up?” she asked.
He nodded and Asmaral stepped forward. “I’ll stay with him,” she announced.
He shot her a grateful look and picked himself off the ground, before returning to his armchair. Asmaral nodded at Kiya, and she set off again, with Folfeux and Archilles racing behind her.
“Where’s the treasury?” Folfeux asked as they ran.
For a moment she thought Kiya was too busy to answer, but then she replied. “In the basement, next to the kitchen. The main entrance is quite close to the kitchens. But there is a petpet entrance that starts where Dio is right now. It’s safe.”
Folfeux nodded. She was glad that the Quilin had answered all her questions, whether intentionally or not didn’t matter.
Kiya came to a stop before a small doorway. From the interior of the room wafted a delicious smell that was layered with all types of food. Folfeux breathed it in, realising how hungry she was. She and Archilles had been given supplies by both Jalla and Sadeth, but they were long gone.
Beside her Archilles sniffed hopefully and Kiya frowned at him, although there was an amused glimmer in her eyes. There was no sign of the guard she had posted here, and she was looking worried. She stepped inside and Folfeux followed quietly.
Inside was a normal looking kitchen, but it stretched twenty five metres and with many more cooking utensils. At the far end Folfeux could see a large trapdoor set in the wall. She figured it must be the vent when Kiya padded towards it. Another Quilin suddenly jumped out from the shadows, but stopped when it saw her and stared suspiciously at her and Archilles instead.
Kiya turned and opened her mouth, presumably to introduce the petpet, but a loud scraping noise from the vent stopped her. She silently faded into the shadows and Archilles followed her.
Folfeux stopped, forgetting to hide, as the sound grew louder. She had just noticed Archilles beckoning paw when the trapdoor slammed open. Folfeux jumped onto the bench and scooped up a knife in her jaws. She crouched there, waiting for Malei to appear.
Instead of Malei, the brown Pteri and the blue Kougra crawled out, as well as a red Lupe she had seen in the inn with them. They peered around and saw her crouching on the bench. The Pteri raised an eyebrow.
“That was fast, Malei,” he commented.
Folfeux was confused. She glanced behind her, searching for the other Juma, but he wasn’t there. Then she realised that the Pteri had been addressing her. He must think that the knife was Thyra’s Dagger. She stopped crouching, and stood straighter, trying to look as tall as Malei.
The Kougra stared at her, brow furrowed. “Where’s Zariam, Malei?” she asked.
As Folfeux wondered who on Neopia was Zariam, the Pteri faced the Kougra.
“How can you expect him to answer with a dagger in his mouth, you dumbo?” he growled.
The Kougra turned on him, her eyes narrowed, but the Lupe interrupted.
“That’s not Malei,” he said slowly. “It’s too small. And that’s not a dagger, it’s a knife.”
His words stopped the two pets, who turned their heads to stare at her. Folfeux dropped the knife and prepared to run. The Kougra dived towards her, paws outstretched, but she leapt to one side.
“I would appreciate it, if you didn’t refer to me as ‘it’,” she spat, as she landed lightly on the ground.
The pets paused in surprise and she realised that she had just spoken in pet, something she had never done before. She was as shocked as they were and stopped. The only thing that stopped her from being trampled by the angry pets when they got over their surprise was Kiya and her Quilin friend jumping out of the shadows and letting out a fierce call. Folfeux guessed it was their warning call when at least half a dozen pets ran into the kitchen.
Folfeux wended her way through the crowd and to the side of the kitchen, where she joined Archilles and Kiya in running out of the kitchen. The other Quilin stayed behind. Kiya turned her head behind her and yelled to Folfeux.
“We need to get back to Dio,” she shouted.
Folfeux nodded and they all raced towards Dio’s room. They didn’t meet either Dio or Asmaral, so she assumed they were still in the room. She burst through the entrance and stopped dead.
Dio was lying on the ground with a cut on his right flank and Asmaral had disappeared.
To be continued...