The Lost Tomb of Coltzan: Part Five
The next morning, bright and early - and 6 am Neopian Standard Time by her Red Apple Wall Clock - Jynifer awakened to find herself in her own bed once more. No more sleeping on a rough blanket on the desert sand for her! She settled back down into her sheets once more, enjoying the luxury of her temporary home.
She had just drifted back off to sleep, dreaming of a fantastic face-off between Illusen and Jhudora - in which Illusen was winning, of course - when Jaik shook her shoulder roughly. “Get up!!” he called teasingly. “Don’t you remember? We have to go excavate the tomb today with the new archaeologists!”
She had forgotten!! Jynifer quickly slipped into her clothes, grabbed her Daring Adventurer Hat and Explorer Backpack, and dashed to their makeshift kitchen. Jewellya was, surprisingly enough, already awake making Breakfast Croissants. It was odd because she usually slept in, claiming to need her beauty sleep. Then again, Jewellya had had a sort of change of heart. Jynifer had noticed it almost immediately upon returning to the tent the night before. She glared at the croissant Jewellya set before her, then promptly scorched the food with her breath. She grinned, satisfied. That was better. Jewellya cringed at the sight. She hated burnt food, and she got a little bit scared when Jynifer used her flame breath.
Jynifer gulped down her juice and swallowed her croissant whole. She rushed out the door, to discover Ukodus, Jaik, and Aliah - as well as the thirty new archaeologists - slinging their heavy packs onto their shoulders, and some with wheelbarrows. Still others carried only Red Notebooks and Basic Pencils, to take inventory of everything in the tomb. And of course there were the ones with digging tools, to widen the tiny tunnel that the original team was forced to crawl through the first time.
“Hey!” Jynifer called cheerily, eager to start the day. The archaeologists looked up, momentarily startled from their work. “Trying to leave without me, huh?” Jynifer tried her best to look upset and disappointed, but was too giddy to succeed. She ran up to Aliah and Jaik. Ukodus was busy helping the rest of the team pack up the remainders of what they needed to bring.
“Well, today’s the day,” Jynifer commented happily, eyes gleaming brightly. “Today we excavate the treasure and become quickly and obnoxiously famous,” she teased.
“Yeah, well, hopefully today’s the day I decide to stop wearing this ridiculous space suit!” Jaik returned, equally playfully. “I mean, it isn’t like I’m still on Kreludor. I can take it off whenever I want.”
“But you won’t,” Aliah intervened. “It’s a part of who you are. You’ll never give that up.”
He rubbed his head thoughtfully. “You’re probably right. I won’t ever take it off. I actually secretly kind of like it!”
“Hey, let’s go!” a new archaeologist - a Desert Grarrl - called, cutting off anything Aliah or Jynifer may have said in reply. Jaik turned to her and grinned.
“You ready?” he asked, looking just as eager as she felt.
She grinned mischievously in return, then bolted far ahead of him. She turned around and ran backwards, cupping her hands around her mouth and calling as she did, “Way ahead of you!!!”
* * * * * * * * * *
It was a long, hard day, but it was worth it. It only took the archaeology team two hours to return to the mountain, since Jynifer already knew exactly where it was. Once they entered the mountain, however, the digging team came in, and it took them three hours to make a space wide enough for the entire team to stand up in. Luckily, they had set out early, and it didn’t get really hot until about midday. She checked her Jubjub Coconut Watch. 11 am.
When the digging team - Ukodus among them, making himself useful - finished up, they all opened their lunch boxes and sat down to a nice - if rushed out of eagerness - meal of Cheese Sandwiches and Chokato Crisps. Everyone was silent as they ate. There was no need to speak. Each knew what they must do to excavate the massive hoard, and that was sufficient for them.
When everyone had finished eating, Jynifer - who had been done for some time, and had somewhat amused herself by anxiously pacing up and down like a Kougra inside the enormous tunnel - bounced around on the balls of her feet like an insane Blumaroo, eager to excavate the tomb. Aliah and Jaik just grinned. Ukodus didn’t count. He grinned all the time. Slowly but surely, the long line of archaeologists trickled into the tomb. The inventory takers took their notes, nodding and mumbling to themselves at times. The excavators carefully removed the ancient artifacts in their wheelbarrows, and headed toward the entrance of the mountain. Jynifer knew that once they got there, they would transfer the artifacts to a large net, which would be scooped up by muscled Pteri and flown straight over to the museum, as was arranged by the very happy Skeith museum curator.
Five hours later, a happy but noticeably more tired Jynifer continued to oversee the removal of the trove. It was 4 pm and they were down to the last couple of wheelbarrows. As they were removed from the room, she released a long-held sigh of contentment. The only thing that remained in the room was the massive sarcophagus, which Jynifer had haggled with the Skeith curator and he had finally agreed to leave it in the tomb, to rest there in peace.
She strode over to it, stretched out, and touched it, when she was sure the arguing pair of Kacheeks had really left. “Be at peace, Coltzan,” she murmured aloud to the golden casket. “So sorry we took your treasure, but we are going to leave you here to rest, and make sure you’re never disturbed.” She felt a bit foolish speaking to a king whom she had never known, and who had been gone from Neopia at least a thousand years. She ignored the strange glance she knew Jaik was giving her, and the zombie-like expression - which was normal for him, of course - on Ukodus’s face. Somehow she felt a connection to the king, as if she had known him forever, but she couldn’t explain it. Not to anyone, and certainly not to her friends.
She reluctantly released her hand from the smooth gold surface, and turned to face them with a forced smile.
“Well,” she stated, with an air of finality. “I guess that’s it. We did it! We found the fabled treasure, and successfully excavated it. I guess we’d better go now, before the others think we’ve decided to stay with Coltzan and leave without us!” She turned to go, leaving behind the king she felt so connected to. Aliah restrained her by putting a hand on her shoulder. She gently hovered a few inches above Jynifer’s head.
“What is it, Jynifer?” the ever-perceptive Aliah asked. “Something about this place? You’ve been looking very distracted lately, especially this second time here.”
“It’s nothing, ‘liah. Promise,” Jynifer lied. Aliah looked uncertain, but seemed to accept the answer.
“Well, OK then,” she replied. “If you’re sure, then let’s go.”
Jynifer was the last out, following the others into the newly widened tunnel they had tumbled through just the day before. As she grasped the locking bar to close and lock the tomb door forever, she spared a last glance at the sarcophagus she had become so fascinated with. She only spared a few seconds, but it was enough. She smiled to herself with satisfaction, and barred the door, sealing their retreat.
* * * * * * * * * *
Over the next few weeks, Jynifer and her friends became something of celebrities. Everyone in Qasala and its neighboring towns knew them. Then it grew until the entirety of the Lost Desert had heard of them, then word flew around by neomail until nearly everyone in Neopia knew their names! There was at least a dozen people on every continent who knew their names and what they had done.
They each reacted quite differently to all the attention - and eventually the fan club, which, everyone agreed, was quite over-the-top: Ukodus was indifferent and odd, as usual; Aliah was quiet and reserved, and never spoke much about all the attention; Jaik lapped it up like a Kadoatie with Kau Kau Farm Milk; and Jynifer didn’t mind it so much, but also wasn’t quite sure she still deserved it.
As the months passed, they were still famous, but the ridiculous hype died down. The fan club split apart and looked for the next big thing. They were nearly back to their average citizen stature.
They received special awards from the mayor of Qasala, and they gained several measures of respect within the archaeological community. They received the keys to Qasala from the mayor as one of their rewards. But, as the mayor jokingly commented, “Who would want the keys to Qasala? It’s an empty old boring ghost town!”
He wasn’t right for very long.
Within a few weeks, tourists poured into Qasala from all over, until the city had to build more NeoLodges and eateries to keep everyone happy! Tours of the museum were frequent, and the Skeith curator greedily counted his growing piles of Neopoints every night. Soon Neopets wanted tours of the tomb as well, and those became quite popular as well.
And what became of the original team, you may ask? Well, Jewellya ended up managing her own NeoLodge on the site of their old tent. It became the most popular NeoLodge in Qasala. Everyone wanted to drop in and listen to her story of being best friends with the famous archaeologists. Although I don’t recommend going there too often. You may get confused because she changes her story so often to make it more interesting.
Ukodus became the sidekick for a mad scientist, or so I hear. Interesting job for him, yet still not unbelievable. Watch out, creepy Petpet Lab Kookith! I hear he may be after your job soon.
Jaik went back to Kreludor to study the meteor like he always wanted to. He pops in every now and again when he has to come to the Lost Desert, to say hello and swap stories. He always was a restless spirit, and he won’t ever stop until he’s roamed all of Neopia a thousand times over. And he still won’t take off that space suit!
And as for Jynifer? Well, she became a distinguished professor at the Museum of Neopian History in Sakhmet City. She loves her job, and she loves being near to the artifacts she helped to bring to light. Sometimes she wonders what her life would be like if she had never found that ancient scroll. What she would be doing right now. Anyway, on the weekends, she tells her story to large groups of children, so that they may remember and tell their children someday.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Aw come on!”
“Yeah, tell it again!”
“I LOVE the part where Helyn fights that Horus! Tell that again!!”
“No, no,” Jynifer answered, laughing. “If you want to hear it again, then you’ll just have to come back next weekend.”
Groans and protests erupted from her captive audience, which turned into grumbles and reluctant assents. The small group of children picked up whatever they had brought with them, and skipped toward the door.
“Bye Ms. Jynifer!!”
“See you next week!!”
She chuckled to herself disbelievingly. After fifteen years, she still had groups of children who wanted to hear about her great adventure.
She put her hands on her hips and examined the artifacts closely, about to leave for the day, and just inventing an excuse to stay a bit longer.
“They just love that story, don’t they?” a Yurble janitor asked with a grin.
Jynifer adjusted her glasses absently. “Yeah. I just don’t get it. You’d think they’d get bored of it by now.”
“Naw. It’s not a boring story! I mean, I have to endure it every weekend of my life, and I’M not bored of it.”
Jynifer gave an unsure smile, then resumed gazing at the artifacts. “They’re so fascinating,” she murmured to herself quietly. “So many years of hoarding, then thousands of years preserved in a dark, silent tomb.”
She gazed into the grand gallery, now dark from the janitor turning off the lights to close up for the day. She could almost feel Coltzan’s spirit floating around in the dim museum, beckoning her.
She shook off the feeling quickly.
Jynifer always felt good after telling her story, even if it was for the hundredth time. There was something special about knowing that children liked it, and wanted to hear it again and again.
She smiled, grabbing her coat and heading for the door. She took another long look at the museum she loved before turning and heading out the door.
It had been a good day.