The Mystery of the Crystal Anubis: Part One
I ambled slowly down the brick streets of Yorville on that particularly sunny afternoon, the freshly-earned neopoints in my pocket jangling feebly. I had just left from what may have been the most pointless job of my career to date, and that was saying something, because nearly all of my recent undertakings had been rather boring. It seemed that the general intelligence level of criminals these days was slipping.
My name is Sullivan, and I am a brown Lupe living in Yorville, a small town in the kingdom of Meridell. You may wonder by now what sort of work I do. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that I think for a living. More specifically, I observe, I detect, I discover... I determine. Of course, if you were to ask anybody else, you would be told that I am a detective, and most people consider me the best in the business. It's normally enjoyable work, but lately all of Meridell's evil masterminds seem to have given up... I know I should be happy about this, but it's hard to be. I've been left with jobs that generally involve Neopets misplacing objects that were right under their noses, and they simply weren't looking hard enough.
The sun had about a three-fourths finished with its slow trek from horizon to horizon when I stepped through the door and into my Neohome. "Hey there, Sullivan."
Gil, a spotted Draik with whom I shared my Neohome, was sitting cross-legged on the sofa in our living room, reading a book titled "Draik Tales". Gil's Doglefox, Russell, came bounding at me as I walked in. "How was the job?"
"Pathetic," I responded, giving Russell a pat and flopping into an armchair across from him. "The old Meerca who'd lost her necklace was nearly blind and couldn't find it behind a stack of books on her husband's desk... but hey, I made 1,000 neopoints." I smiled glumly.
"Well, that's not so bad then," said Gil with a chuckle. "Do you have anything going on tonight?" he added quickly.
"No, why?" I raised my eyebrows.
"Well, old Professor Dolan... you remember him, that rich collector?"
I rolled my eyes. "How could I forget? I've only recovered about a dozen stolen artifacts for him," I reminded him, scratching Russell behind the ears.
"Oh, of course," realized Gil. "Well anyway, he's having a party tonight. Says he's made a major discovery, and wondered if we'd like to come."
"Why not?" I said after a bit of thought. Professor Dolan wasn't the nicest person in Neopia, but his major discovery was bound to be extremely interesting. His huge collection of rare Neopian artifacts contained some really intriguing one-of-a-kind antiques, a few of which had strange powers. "There's a good chance someone will try to steal it anyway."
"I'll bet that's why he's asked you to come," suggested Gil, nodding. "What do you think his discovery was, anyway?"
"It's got to be something extremely valuable for him to call it 'major'," I pointed out. "And he's just returned from his expedition in the Lost Desert, so I expect he found it there."
"Good point..." mumbled Gil, lost in thought.
I stood and crossed to our small kitchen, grabbed "The Neopian Times" off of the counter, and read one of the headlines. "Man Sets Fire to his Own House; Claims to be 'Experimenting'".
"Hah," I called to Gil, "Did you see this? Old Marcus Oakley nearly burnt his house to the ground again last night," I informed him as I read on.
"Did he really?" asked Gil after a laugh. "Strange man... Hardly ever leaves his house. He's a good friend of Professor Dolan's, though; reckon we'll see him tonight?"
"'Dunno," I said, folding up the newspaper.
The two of us left the house around quarter to eight that night. Gil was looking sharp as usual, sporting a suit; his tie was yellow with black spots to match him, and it looked surprisingly good. I wore my beige trench coat over a black suit.
Professor Dolan's mansion was just over a half an hour's walk away, but we didn't mind. The night was warm and breezy. Kreludor was half covered by a dark cloud high in the star-speckled velvety blue sky. The town was rather quiet, but we could hear the wind whistling among the tall trees along the road.
"Here we are," I said at last as we turned a corner. Professor Dolan's mansion took up nearly half of the street. Light shone through the many windows, and we could start to hear muffled talking as we approached the short flight of stone steps leading to the large oak door. Gil grabbed the brass knocker and knocked three times.
It was a moment before the door was opened by the butler, a tall blue Moehog. Then a booming voice shouted over to them. "Sullivan, Gil! So glad you could come!"
Professor Dolan bustled over to us. He was a short, rather plump royal Kyrii wearing a Smarmy Monocle on his right eye. He surveyed us quickly. "Come in, come in!" he bellowed heartily. "There are so many people I'd like you to meet..."
Gil and I entered the mansion. What seemed like all of Yorville crowded the large, ornate room, chatting away merrily. Hanging from the high ceiling was an ornate glass chandelier, and a curving marble staircase at the back of the room led to the upper floors. There was a magnificent portrait of Professor Dolan above the large fireplace.
We followed the Professor through the crowd, and he introduced us to several people. “This is Shelly Rose,” he said, introducing us to a pink Aisha with long eyelashes. She kept looking over at the front of the room, where something sat on a table under a small white cloth; it must have been the Professor’s discovery. “A little anxious?” Professor Dolan asked, chuckling. Shelly smiled weakly.
We walked quickly through the room, and the Professor introduced us to a short grey Zafara who was looking around sadly. “How’s the family, Charles?” the Professor asked him, frowning.
“We’re managing...” replied Charles with a sigh.
He also introduced us to Marcus Oakley, an old bearded white Ixi who was looking around nervously, muttering to himself. "He's a genius, but he's a very strange fellow..." muttered Professor Dolan as we continued through the crowd. "Ah, and this is Felicia Westbrook."
Next we were introduced to a pretty purple Xweetok, and I thought Gil sounded strange when he introduced himself. "Felicia here helped me on my last expedition. Great help, couldn't have found the – well, I'll be unveiling my discovery in a few minutes – couldn't have found it without her!" She blushed. We continued through the crowd.
"Rufus!" he exclaimed suddenly, spotting a tall desert Hissi and pulling him over. "This is Rufus Kipling; I met him in the Lost Desert. Great man. He was a thief when I met him, he tried to steal some money from me – but I caught him in the act. He was so sorry that to show his regret, he helped me translate the ancient symbols in the tombs I explored!" He clapped Rufus on the back, who grinned slyly. "Total change of heart. He's been living here with me, until we can find him his own place to live. Homeless, you see, back in the Lost Desert." Rufus's cold eyes narrowed when I met them, but he kept grinning.
Professor Dolan glanced at a tall grandfather clock nearby. "Oh my, look at the time! I've got to go and make my presentation..." and he bustled off.
A minute later, he stood at a wooden podium at the front of the room. Next to him, seated on a table, must have been his newest artifact; it was hidden under a cloth. The Professor cleared his throat loudly.
"My dear friends..." he began, looking around happily. "It is my great pleasure to reveal to you a grand discovery this evening. On my last expedition through one of the largest Gebmids of the Lost Desert, I came upon a hidden shrine, unopened for many years.
"I touched almost nothing, of course, to preserve the ancient history I had come upon, but one object, well... it caught my eye..." He had an almost hungry look in the eye that wasn't covered by the Smarmy Monocle he wore. "Gleaming in the center of the room, I believe it to have been the centerpiece of the shrine, worshipped, perhaps, by the ancient Desert people. I am not aware of what sort of powers it possesses, so please do not touch it."
"Friends..." He took a dramatic pause, grinning at the excited murmuring of his guests. "The Crystal Anubis!"
As he pulled back the cloth, bright light sparkled in all directions from it. Under the cloth was a sparkling, transparent, life-sized carving of an Anubis, sitting with its head held high. There were symbols etched in its collar. Oohs and ahs issued from the crowd, and everyone shifted, some on tiptoe, to try and get a better look.
"Hmm," Gil said thoughtfully with a frown. "I was expecting a bit more. What do you think?"
"Yeah, you're right. Although..." I added, looking back at the Anubis, "There is something... odd... about it. I don't seem to want to stop looking at it."
"Mmhmm..." agreed Gil, staring open-mouthed. Tearing my eyes away from it, I noticed everyone seemed to be doing the same thing. All at once, however, most of the Neopets caught themselves and tore their eyes away from it quite like I had done. I made a mental note to try not to look at it if I could avoid it.
"I'm hungry..." muttered Gil. "Let's go get some –"
But he was cut short by a bright flash of white light that had just filled the room for a split second. Everyone fell silent, but I thought I heard some indistinct mumbling coming from somewhere.
There was another bright flash, but this one came with a short, loud yell that lasted only as long as the flash. I could still hear the mumbling.
A third flash, and the mumbling stopped. A long, deafening silence. It seemed that the flashes had ended.
"Professor Dolan!" yelled a woman's voice. I turned my head to look.
Professor Dolan and the Crystal Anubis had both vanished.
To be continued...