The Lost Tomb of Coltzan: Part Two
They had set out, the four of them, with hope and eagerness, anxious to find the long lost tomb of Coltzan. Their eyes were sparkling as they thought of the piles of precious jewels, the ancient robes, and - Jynifer most especially on this point - loads and loads of ancient documents. Nothing could bring down their high spirits.
That had been over three hours ago.
They now walked lacking that spring in their step, the energetic fire had gone out of their eyes, and they dragged their feet as they trudged along. Perhaps the only one who was not any different was Ukodus, who didn’t have the brain enough to realize he was tired and losing hope.
Aliah attempted to fly ahead and scout as she had done since they left the camp, but her wings couldn’t carry her any more, so she fell into place behind Ukodus and hiked, her wings wilted and drooping behind her.
Jaik tried to look brave and cheerful for everyone’s sake, but even he was beginning to look worn out under his gleaming space suit. He wished now he had taken the time and remembered to take it off before he left. It was getting highly uncomfortable in the searing heat of the Lost Desert late afternoon.
Jynifer still held the map, and still managed the lead, but she looked as if she would collapse at any second. Her violet skin was looking a bit dry and grey. If they didn’t stop soon, they wouldn’t want to go on any farther.
Jaik glanced ahead of him, at the drooping figure of Jynifer. He hesitated before speaking, and when he did, his voice was cracked and dry. “Um, Jynifer? When are we going to stop to drink? We really need to soon, if we ever want to reach the tomb of Coltzan.” He paused, then muttered under his breath, “If the blasted tomb even EXISTS.”
She momentarily stopped walking and turned to face Jaik. “We’ll be there soon.” She forced a smile, which was an interesting feat, considering her lips were dry and she had to force them apart. She hoped her own words of encouragement were true. “But you’re right, we do have to stop to drink. I’m sorry.” She sat down on a small rock protruding from the burning sands, and rummaged around in her pack for the bottles of water. She passed around the bottles, attempting once again to appear as if nothing was wrong. The rest of the team took her lead and sat on small stones nearby. As they ate and drank, everyone looked at each other awkwardly. There was nothing to say. Even if there was, their lips and throats were still hurting too much to speak.
Helyn the Angelpuss hissing at a passing Scarabug was the only thing that broke the heavy silence. The Scarabug quickly skittered away in fear.
Finally Jaik got up the courage to speak again. He swallowed hard. “Hey, Jynifer? Um, not to be rude or anything, but - do you really think we’ll find Coltzan’s tomb out here? I mean, as far as we know he could’ve been buried on the other side of the Lost Desert!” When Jynifer opened her mouth to protest, he held a space suit-gloved hand up to deflect her coming retort. “I know, I know, that ancient papyrus said he was buried there. But MAYBE...” he took a deep breath. “Even THAT was a decoy! MAYBE that was buried with Sutek to keep Coltzan even more safe!”
When Jynifer and Aliah looked at Jaik as if the heat must have gone to his head, he continued hastily, “OK. Maybe that was buried with Sutek so that, in the event of Sutek’s Gebmid being broken into, if they found that document, it would give them the wrong information about the location of Coltzan’s tomb.” He sat down again with a smug expression.
“Well, IF that were true,” Jynifer retorted, visibly aggravated, “then where IS Coltzan’s tomb?”
Jaik had no answer to offer her. His mouth hung open, and he shrugged sheepishly.
“Precisely.” Jynifer couldn’t believe how foolish Jaik was being. Of course they were all tired, but that idea was simply ridiculous! “Now listen. The papyrus,” she gestured to the ancient, innocent-looking document, “says that Coltzan’s tomb is in that mountain there.” She squinted in the bright sun and pointed toward a not so distant-looking mountain. “They say that the entire interior of the mountain is stuffed with rooms upon rooms of treasure, and then of course, the sarcophagus of Coltzan himself in the very center of the mountain!” Her eyes gleamed with anticipation once more, and she seemed to be two inches taller than the slumped-over, despairing Draik she was twenty minutes before. “Just like Sutek’s Gebmid, except... a real mountain.” Her voice became hushed as she contemplated that interesting fact. Suddenly, she snapped out of her reverie and down to business once again.
Jynifer ordered them all about, gathering empty water bottles, closing up the packs, making Ukodus carry the excavation equipment. The sun had dropped low in the sky by the time they had finished organizing themselves. Jaik shaded his eyes with a white-gloved hand, squinting at the rapidly dwindling sun. He sighed, hoping they would reach the tomb before night fell.
After walking on a little farther - and in the shade of the mountains by now, thankfully! - Jynifer came to an abrupt halt, forcing her fellow archaeologists to come skidding to a stop. She stared off into space thoughtfully for a few moments, then unlatched Helyn’s cage, which she had carried in one hand the whole time. She whipped a piece of paper out of her backpack, and began writing furiously with her Water Faerie Pencil. Jaik looked at Aliah, who looked just as confused as he felt, and shrugged. Seemed like that was all he did these days.
Jynifer turned to face her colleagues, as if suddenly aware that she was not the only Neopet there. “I’m writing a message for Jewellya,” she explained, embarrassed that she had left the others out of the plan. “Just letting her know we’re OK, where we are, and an estimated time of when we’ll be back,” she continued smoothly, as if returning from this dangerous expedition were the most obvious thing on Neopia. She tried to blow a stray piece of charcoal-colored hair out of her eyes, but only managed to fry it. She sighed in annoyance.
Two minutes later, Jynifer was finished writing her note, and held the note out for Helyn to take. Helyn slowly clambered out of her cage and took the note in both paws. She looked up at Jynifer, eyes shining.
“Now, take this back to headquarters,” Jynifer explained, voice trembling with fear for the little Angelpuss. “You remember how to get back, right? It’s northeast.” She pointed in the general direction of northeast to illustrate her statement.
Helyn laid a fuzzy white paw on Jynifer’s shaking hand. “Don’t worry,” she replied in a smooth, gentle voice; almost purring. “I know my way home.”
Jynifer nodded quickly, catching herself trembling. She gazed down at her small purple hands, which were still shaking like a leaf when Jhudora walks by, and balled them into fists to prevent them from it. She looked up at the pretty little Angelpuss, who was patiently awaiting her orders, and forced a smile on her behalf.
“OK, Helyn. All you have to do is take this back to headquarters. We’ll be in the mountain by the morning, so be sure she knows that. After delivering the message, just stay there. Inside a mountain is no place for an Angelpuss.”
If Helyn were any other petpet, she probably would’ve been upset or even angry at that last remark. But Helyn was good and kind, and she took her orders without question. “Is that all?” she asked in her quiet, melodious voice, large golden eyes blinking.
“Yes,” Jynifer replied quietly, wishing the amiable petpet didn’t have to go. She fought bravely to stave off the tears that she knew would soon follow. There were so many dangers out there for a little petpet traveling alone!! She swiped at a stray tear rolling down her cheek, but only succeeded in accidentally scratching her face with her untrimmed claws. “Yes, that’s it. Now go, and be safe!”
Helyn snatched up the rolled-up neomail with her diminutive paws, and took to the air much more rapidly than Jynifer had expected, creating a whump sound as she took off. She shielded her eyes from the sun, and watched as Helyn slowly diminished to a speck, and then couldn’t be seen at all. Her eyes began to stream from gazing so long into the scorching desert sky. She slowly turned around, her arms crossed over her chest, reflecting on how wise her decision was to send the little petpet off unaccompanied.
Jaik noticed her preoccupied disposition and strode over to her. “Don’t worry about Helyn,” he remarked, breaking the awkward and heavy silence. “She can look after herself pretty capably if it comes to that.”
And, at last, Jynifer smiled.
To be continued...