Coltzan IV and the Not-So-Brilliant Bet: Part Five
They all stared at him with beady yellow eyes. A thousand Alams, all chasing him down a long corridor with no end. Coltzan screamed and writhed under the covers until he was startled awake.
He took a few deep breaths and checked his watch. It was four o'clock in the morning, meaning they only had a few hours to pack up, find their way out of the pyramid, and meet Alam's team.
Coltzan's dream had been strangely realistic. Usually his dreams didn't seem to make any sense at all, but this one was peculiarly vivid, and it pierced his mind like a sharp arrow. Coltzan wondered if he were still in the dream. No, that can't be possible... he told himself. Then why did he feel like something was crawling on him...?
Coltzan looked under the covers to see a Scarab scuttling up and down his leg.
The Shoyru kicked back the covers and leapt off the sleeping bag, screaming with fear, only to realise there were more Scarabs. Everywhere.
Swatting them away, Coltzan struggled toward Talina's sleeping bag and shook the Acara awake.
"What is it, Coltzan?" Talina asked sleepily, her eyes foggy and indecisive.
"S-Scarabs! Scarabs!" a voice cried.
Coltzan whirled around to see Milton leaping up and down, trying to dodge the Petpets. He looked as if he were dancing, and Coltzan had to bite his tongue to refrain from laughing.
Talina crawled out of bed and grabbed her backpack. She wildly swung her bag at the Scarabs, trying to keep them away. But it was no use. No matter how much they swatted at the pesky Petpets, they continued to rampage throughout the area.
Coltzan picked a Scarab off his head and set it on the ground. Where did all these Scarabs come from? They couldn't have survived in this pyramid for however many hundreds of years... someone must have let them in. Someone who wanted to win at all costs.
Feeling panicky, Coltzan hollered, "What do we do?"
"I don't know!" answered Talina, panic rising in her voice, too.
Suddenly, Milton ceased "dancing" and grabbed Coltzan's satchel. He began rifling through its contents.
The Tonu held up a leftover Ummagine from the night before triumphantly, and the Scarabs began scampering toward him. He hurled the vegetable across the room so it landed near the hidden tomb door, and the Scarabs began racing toward it.
"Nice thinking, Milton," Coltzan panted.
"No time to lose. They'll eat it quickly and then come back!" Milton cried, stammer-free.
The threesome (and Garrett, who had been cowering in the corner while the Scarabs attacked) scrabbled up the vine ladder hurriedly. Once they made it to the higher floor, Milton pulled out his colossal textbook from his sack.
"I found a map of an average pyramid last night," Milton explained, pointing to a page in his book. "This pyramid may not have the exact same layout, but we can use it as a guide."
"Why didn't you tell us that before?" Coltzan asked, marvelling at the map and at Milton's speech.
The Tonu shrugged.
"We have to hurry!" Talina interrupted.
"Let me see the book," Coltzan requested as they headed down the corridor.
Milton handed him the book and Coltzan grunted. How could such a plucky Tonu carry such a heavy book?
The Shoyru studied the page and noticed a small room at the very top of the pyramid. He stopped suddenly.
Milton turned around and gazed at the room the Shoyru pointed at.
"I don't know. It looks a bit like a lookout room, doesn't it?"
"Alam," Coltzan spat viciously.
"What?" Talina asked.
Before the Shoyru could explain, a shrill voice echoed through the hallways. Alam's voice.
"That's right, it's me! Thought you could beat me, huh? Beat this, Coltzan. Beat THIS!"
A roaring sound penetrated the air, and Coltzan peered down the hallway curiously. He gasped. All of a sudden, a current of churning water crashed into them, sweeping them off their feet. Coltzan struggled and kicked. He could feel the freezing water dragging him farther down into its depths.
He opened his eyes but saw nothing but agitated water swirling around him. He kicked with all his might and managed to take a quick breath of air before being yanked downward again. His shoulder grazed something sharp, and he scrabbled onto it desperately.
Breathing heavily, he realised he was on top of a slab of rock, safe from harm. Talina was a few feet away, swimming toward him desperately.
"Coltzan!" she screamed, but water filled her open mouth, and she began to choke.
Coltzan reached out his yellow paw, and the Acara grabbed onto it, allowing him to pull her onto the rock.
"Are you OK?" he asked.
Without waiting for an answer, he continued, "Where's Garrett? Where's Milton?"
All of a sudden Garrett yipped, and Coltzan noticed a small Anubis trembling on top of his floating satchel. Coltzan searched around desperately. He discovered a stick floating along with the current and snatched it. The Shoyru jammed it through the strap of the satchel and dragged his Petpet to safety.
"There you are, Garrett," Coltzan said reassuringly.
The Anubis shivered. Talina's eyes grew wide, and she sobbed,
"Milton can't -- Milton can't swim! He can't--"
Desperation and panic seized his heart as he dove into the hostile waters. He ignored Talina's cries and fought the raging river, screaming Milton's name.
He saw a head bob above the water and then slowly sink to the depths of the river. It grazed the surface and slipped again.
"Hang on!" Coltzan yelped.
Taking what could have been his last breath of air, Coltzan battled the current until he reached the Tonu, who lay at the bottom of Alam's river.
Coltzan heaved Milton on to his back and struggled under the weight. Desperately, he fought for air, his lungs growing drier and weaker every second...
Finally, he and Milton reached the slab of stone where Talina and Garrett sat, wide-eyed and fearful. The Tonu coughed up the horrifying water, and Talina hugged Coltzan.
"Thank you so much," she whispered, her blue eyes all melty and warm.
They waited until the current died down, and the water travelled to other corridors, leaving behind only a few inches of water. They trooped through the halls, following Milton's map (they found Milton's textbook after the waters had settled), until they reached the entrance and stepped out into the sunlight.
Coltzan blinked with surprise as the desert sand soaked up the few inches of water. The sunshine blinded him. He thought he would never see his beautiful desert again... never feel the hot sun on his back, never be blinded by the sand that blew into his eyes.
"We did it!" Coltzan cried triumphantly.
Talina grinned. "We did!"
They all high-fived, and Garrett let out a howl of victory.***
Coltzan took a giant bite from his Sand Pita and smiled to himself. They were at school, sitting outside on one of the picnic benches for lunchtime. All of them were there -- Coltzan, Garlan, Jeremy, Nathan, Marlow, Talina, and even Milton. He still wore sweater vests and carried around books that weighed a ton, but at least he didn't stammer anymore. Talina said she was sure it was because Coltzan had given him confidence. The Shoyru wondered if that really was the case. Milton sure was a lot more confident now.
The Shoyru's mind travelled back to the pyramid they had embarked into. Once they met up with the others, Nathan and Garlan betrayed their "leader" by spilling Alam's dirty secrets. Everyone was shocked, and the Techo stormed away, leaving nothing but a cloud of greed behind.
Once Coltzan arrived at home, his mother asked, "How was the camping trip?"
Stunned, Coltzan's mouth hung open.
His mother continued, "Jeremy and Marlow came by yesterday and said you and the others were on a camping trip... that is true, isn't it, Coltzan?"
Coltzan nodded and relief flooded through him. He felt so grateful to have such amazing friends who would cover for him no matter what.
His mind returned to the present time when Jeremy grumbled,
"Look who it is."
Coltzan turned around to see Alam trudge out of the classroom and take a seat a few tables away. The Neopets who were already seated there stood and left hurriedly, leaving the Techo alone. Sympathy stabbed Coltzan's heart, and he set down his pita.
"Where are you going, Coltzan?" Marlow asked, but Coltzan kept walking until he reached Alam's table.
"What do you want?" the Techo hissed, glaring at his former enemy.
Coltzan took a deep breath. Before the whole pyramid incident, he would have spat a rude retort right in the Techo's smug face, but he didn't want to live in hatred of the Techo. That's not what his ancestors would have done.
"I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come sit with us."
The Techo's eyes grew wide with shock before snapping back to angry slits.
"Why would I want to sit with a bunch of losers?"
Alam grabbed his lunch and plodded off angrily back indoors.
Coltzan sighed, forcing all angry thoughts away, and re-joined his friends. Talina smiled at him appreciatively, and Coltzan smiled back. He took another bite out of his Sand Pita and laughed along with Marlow and Jeremy's jokes.
Milton tapped his shoulder.
"Coltzan, look at this," he said, handing the Shoyru one of his textbooks.
Coltzan's eyes searched the page, and he beamed.
"Tear out the page," Milton suggested kindly.
"Really?" Coltzan asked. Milton liked keeping his books in perfect condition.
The Tonu nodded proudly, and Coltzan tore the page out before handing the book back to his friend.
The bell signalling the end of lunch rang, and they began to pack up their things.
"You coming, Coltzan?" Nathan asked.
"I'll meet you guys in the classroom," Coltzan called back to his friends.
They hurried off toward the building, and Coltzan looked down at the picture, giggling to himself. It was the same exact image they had seen inside the pyramid... the picture that looked exactly like Garrett.
Coltzan carefully folded it and slid it inside his backpack. He walked toward the school, happiness swelling in his chest. Whether it was Garrett's great-great grandfather or not, this Anubis was going to be hung right above his bed, so he would never forget his adventure.
Maybe some day the Shoyru would become King Coltzan IV. But for now, he was perfectly happy being just Coltzan -- the Shoyru with a brave heart, heroic tales to tell, and many more to come.