The Treasure at the End
The Thieves Guild was quiet as midnight approached. The grimy floor and walls were dark, covered with numerous shadows. Many figures sat at long, wooden tables, drinking from their broad mugs. A candle flickered at one table, where two cloaked figures sat, eyes suspicious. The Mynci and Lupe glanced at each other, then at the Acara at another table, tilting back in her chair. Her hood was drawn so they could not see her face. Masila the Acara was, with three earrings in each ear and rings on her fingers. The hand beneath her cloak twitched, and her two companions looked away. They knew she was not to be disturbed in her silent phases.
“What do you think of that job, eh Rifor?” murmured the Mynci, eyes fixed on the table leg.
“Should not be too complicated, unless she leaves halfway through,” replied Rifor the Lupe, keeping his voice low. “Which the lass might very well do. What say you, Hallod?”
“Aye,” Hallod muttered darkly. “Not like she hasn’t deserted us before. Left us to deal with the dungeon in Meridell, didn’t she? Not something we could forgive quickly, if we have at all.”
“I don’t think she requires forgiveness,” returned Rifor. “But the job she advertises does strike me as dangerous... though of course, nothing that involves Masila is carefree.”
“Very true, very true indeed. But I don’t think my instincts can overcome my lure for the items we seek, if we succeed.”
“As for mine,” agreed Rifor. “I have much need for the treasure at the end... especially in my defense against Meridell.”
“Revenge, more like,” corrected Hallod. The two chuckled.
“Are you sure we should we take the chance?” questioned Hallod.
“We will regret it if we don’t.” They both nodded grimly.
Masila was watching them through her hood. Seeing this, Hallod and Rifor caught her eye, and nodded intently. Satisfied, Masila got out of her chair and beckoned to them. Hallod and Rifor slid out of their chairs and followed her up the dark narrow staircase.
When they reached Masila’s resident room, she doused the candles and turned to face them.
“So you accept my offer?” she demanded.
“Yes, we do, miss,” Hallod and Rifor chorused together.
“Very good. Pack your things; meet me in the bar in an hour. It is best we leave during the hours of darkness.”
Packed and ready, Hallod and Rifor approached the bar. The residents looked up, but were unsurprised to see them ready to go. Many residents did this sort of thing often. Hallod and Rifor spotted Masila by the door. She beckoned again, and the trio set out into the swirling snow outside. Though few knew it, the secret headquarters of the Thieves Guild was located deep inside the ice caves, the farthest underground tunnel available. The slight disadvantage of the roaring of the Snowager was annoying, but bearable. It was dark inside their realm of the caves, but light was shown ahead.
“Take these,” whispered Masila. She held out a bottle each to Hallod and Rifor, each filled with a dark, murky liquid and labeled ‘Geraptiku’.
“What are they?” asked Hallod, accepting his own.
“You’ll find out.” The three drank their potions quickly, and each fell into a sort of abyss.
A minute later, they all found themselves standing just outside the city, trees hiding them all from view. Hallod and Rifor’s eyes grew wide as they understood what had just happened.
“Does that answer your question?” asked Masila, taking back the empty bottles and slipping them into her pockets.
“Where did you get those?” asked Rifor, a greedy hunger visible in his eyes as he stared into her bag.
Masila gave a wicked grin. “Swiped them... from my dear friend Kayla the potion maker, last time we visited Meridell. Do you two remember our charming trip to the castle?”
They both grumbled and ignored her question.
“So,” said Masila, clapping her hands together. “You know where we are heading, and what we hope to accomplish gaining at the end of our trip.” She paused. “You also know that many, many Neopians come here on a daily basis, for the treasures of Geraptiku are legend. However, not many succeed in finding anything, taking into consideration the tunnels, darkness, and booby traps. They’re fools, all of them, worse if alone. We do have a hint, though, which might make us lesser fools.” She gave a small smile. “Take a torch each,” she said, handing them medium height torches. “We’ll have to watch out for booby traps... and we all have a pretty good experience rate in tunnels, so we might have a head start.” Hallod and Rifor nodded.
“Let’s set out then.”
The three had reached the stone door to the Deserted Tomb. It was covered in vines and looked as if it had not been in use for years. There were a few Neopians outside the door, wondering if they should take the chance. Masila rolled her eyes. She rotated the circle on the front of the door and made it lift open, about halfway only; you had to stoop to get in. Masila glanced at all the Neopians outside, then shrugged and went into the tomb, Hallod and Rifor right behind her. The door closed as soon as they got in, plunging them into total darkness.
“The torches,” hissed Masila, lighting her own. It was far from quiet inside the vast entrance of the tomb, many others were calling out to each other, crying, and looking desperately for a way to get out. The three exchanged looks, each having the same ominous feeling in their hearts.
By this time, Hallod, Rifor, and Masila had been traveling for two days, all very hungry and impatient. The only thing they found was a dusty old coin, and they all thought that could hardly be called ‘breathtaking’. The numerous tunnels grew smaller as they wandered, many leading to dead ends. They all wondered if they would live out to escape this dreadful place.
“I don’t know if I can go on much longer,” panted Rifor, collapsing on a small boulder. “It’s too far.” He knew he sounded whiny, but his words were spoken with honesty.
“It’s either give up or live up,” snapped Masila, glaring at Rifor.
“I give up,” exclaimed Hallod. “I just want to go back!” Hallod knew his assumption that the journey would not be too complicated was wrong by now.
Masila fell silent. She would like to return as much as the Lupe and Mynci, though she had a feeling the treasure was just beyond her sight- if only she could reach it. She sighed. “Let’s keep going for a while.” She sat up, and looked for a route out of their current tunnel. “This way,” she called; spotting a route that looked dryer and did not smell as much within their tunnel. They tried to spot something other than dirt and vines. Nothing.
Masila reached up to the wall and searched for the feel of something hard. Only dirt was there. But she then spotted a hole, about the size thumb of a faerie, and dug into it. She felt a tiny latch, a loop. She grabbed it and pulled. “Look at this!”
When she had pulled the latch, she found it was attached to the middle of a stone block, which she pulled out of the wall and set on the floor. Etches were many into the stone, and Masila brushed away the dirt so it was clear to read:
IF YOU SEEK THE TREASURE IN THE TOMB
THEN WHAT YOU WANT IS IN THE GLOOM.
IF YOU CAN FEEL IT, IN YOUR SOUL,
THEN YOU ARE VERY NEAR YOUR GOAL.
SEARCH AROUND, YOU ARE SO CLOSE
WILL YOU FIND WHAT YOU WANT THE MOST?
Each of the trio was searching frantically; they knew that this was it. Nothing could stop them now.
Time was ticking. Nearly an hour had passed since they found the message in the stone, and still, within that tiny little tunnel, they had not found a thing. The walls had been searched for any more holes or markings, any object in the tunnel surveyed. They were getting nowhere.
“We’re getting nowhere,” complained Rifor. “Not a thing since the message! Nothing! That message is probably a fake... maybe there is no real treasure after all!”
Masila and Hallod paused as the message sank in. If they really had come in to find nothing, what was the point in staying anymore?
Rifor was kicking the boulder. “It- isn’t- fair-” he stopped. The thing he had taken for a boulder was really a large chest, with just a tiny lock in front which they had not seen. When he had last kicked it, he had kicked the lock, and so the top swung open, and what was held in it was discovered.
It was a large note. The letters on it seemed to glow a bit, but it might just have been the candlelight. It read:
Hello, friends... it seems you have found the treasure chest of the deserted tomb. Too bad I have found it first, taking the treasure with me. It seems fair, I take the treasure, and you steal my bottles for transportation to Geraptiku, so it all works out. I know for a fact you only took three, Masila... so how do you plan on getting out of here? I suggest you find a way, although it may be difficult with the obstacles I have set up for you.
Your Dear friend,
Rifor gulped. “So... she took the treasure. And- how do we get out of here?”
There was a roar from the distance.